Opinion

The Question of Factions: A Research Paper

The Constitution begins with a simple but meaningful clause, saying “We the people,” as in the entirety of the country, and ending with “in order to form a more perfect union,” meaning the Founders believed that the Constitution was the solution to creating a perfectly civilized society. The question of factions had been brought up in the colonies, but it had been a very evident problem throughout history. While the Constitution lacks specific references to the spread of factions, there is no shortage of its advocates, who will tell of the advantages of a republican government, even when it comes to limiting the power and dissemination of factions. That is the question presented to us here: does the contagiousness of factions, or otherwise political parties, and the government’s inability (or failure) to contain them, put the American system of government at risk? Truly I tell you, the answer here is no. The spreading of differing factions does not threaten the republic; rather, the regulation of political parties for the benefit of political parties threatens our Constitutional government.

The first point to be made here is an apparent one: factions are, naturally, unavoidable. If all men are given an “equality in their political rights,” it is “erroneous” to assume they will be “perfectly equalized and assimilated in their… opinions” (Madison). However, the governmental structure of the United States has the greatest ability to restrict the power and influence of political factions and parties. Why is this? In Federalist 10, James Madison makes the point that as long as “the reason of man continues [to be] fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed” (Madison). He even goes so far as to compare political passions to individual property, saying that the “diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests” (Madison). It is clear that Madison believes that all Americans are liable to have different opinions, and that results from the difference in property. Therefore, political parties are inevitable, and many of them are bound to be formed. However, there cannot be a restriction on the parties themselves, or the growth thereof, which is represented by the property of free men.

Madison is not advocating for regulation here; he is simply advocating for the Constitution’s ability to solve real-world problems that were being faced at the time. He is also making an argument against direct democracy, listing out reasons why it cannot solve the problem as well as a republic under the drafted Constitution.

Republics can control factions a lot better than any other system can. As explained by professor Charles Cooper, large republics make it more difficult for a majority faction to rule (Cooper). Take the House of Representatives, for example. The majority party in the United States (by population) was the Democratic party. How then did the Republicans hold a 40-seat majority over the Democrats for the first two years of President Trump’s presidency? Madison thoroughly explains why this might occur in Federalist 10, mostly pointing to our constitutional republic as the answer.

The last argument to be made on this matter is this: multiple political parties is preferable to a two-party system. The advantage of the former over the latter is that having more competition in the party system is what America was founded on. Take the last presidential election: many Democrats didn’t like Hillary Clinton, but they agreed with her more than they agreed with Donald Trump, so they voted for Clinton, even though it wasn’t their ideal choice. This situation could’ve been avoided had the Democrats and the Republicans not regulated the creation of other political parties. An example of this is not hard to find. For someone to appear on a ballot for a House district in America, they must first receive thousands of verified signatures from residents in their House district, or an equivalent of five percent of the total votes cast in the previous election. Republicans and Democrats are only required to get half of one percent (Hansen).

Why is this relevant? It is relevant because it is erroneous to believe that you are the only one in America who holds your views. In fact, there are likely thousands of people who think like you in this country.

James Madison realized that since a one-party system was clearly unattainable, it would be preferable to create multiple parties to best neutralize tensions in American politics. “Extend the sphere,” he said, “and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens” (Madison). In short, Madison had the same opinion expressed in this report; that multiple political parties would not only help to further represent America’s interests, but also to better normalize tensions in politics.

The question of political factions has been around for quite some time, and the answer is not regulation, but rather deregulation. With more political factions, we move toward a better represented America. With the two-party system we live in now, we come up short in truly understanding where our citizens stand on the political spectrum. Our country is not being threatened by not being able to control factions currently existing; it is being threatened by the factions regulating themselves, resulting in the suppression of the“diversity of the faculties of men,” and further regulating the property of free men.

Works Cited

Cooper, Charles. Understanding Federalist 10: Analysis and Evaluation. 9 April 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2018. <https://www.whatsoproudlywehail.org/understanding-federalist-10-analysis-evaluation&gt;.

Hansen, Mary. Third Party Candidates Want Rules Eased to Get on Ballot. 30 Nov. 2017. Web. 20 Nov. 2018. <http://www.northernpublicradio.org/post/third-party-candidates-want-rules-eased-get-ballot&gt;.

Madison, James. “Liberal Arts.” 1787. University of Texas. Document. 20 Nov. 2018. <https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/coretexts/_files/resources/texts/c/1787%20Federalist%20No%2010.pdf&gt;.

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