Factionalism in America

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In discussing the problems surrounding the issue of factionalism in American society, James Madison concluded in Federalist #10, "The inference to which we are brought is that the causes of cannot be removed and that relief is only to be sought in the means of controlling its effects." (Federalist Papers 1999, 75) In many ways, the nature of American politics has revolved around this question since our country's birth. What is the relationship between parties and government? Should the party serve as an intermediary between the populace and government, and how should a government respond to disparate ideas espoused by the factions inherent to a free society. This paper will discuss the political evolution that has revolved around this question, examining different "regimes" and how they attempted to reconcile the relationship between power and the corresponding role of the people. Beginning with the Federalists themselves, we will trace this evolution until we reach the contemporary period, where we find a political climate described as "interest-group liberalism." Eventually this paper will seek to determine which has been the most beneficial, and which is ultimately preferable. Following the failure of the Articles of Confederation, a debate arose discussing how a centralized government ought to be organized. The prevailing opinion ultimately belonged to the Federalists, whose philosophy was famously outlined in The Federalist Papers. Recognizing that in a free nation, man would naturally divide himself into factions, they chose not to remedy this problem by stopping it at its source; instead, they would limit its effects by placing strict structural safeguards within the government's framework. The Federalists defined a facti... ... middle of paper ... ...essives, they still recognized the utility of local government. In that sense, the Wilsonian system was the most integrated. The political parties were broad organizations, spanning from local to national politics and hopefully fostering some sort of interconnectivity. Wilson acknowledged the danger and rigidity of a two-party system, but also realized that parties would balance a government's tendency to accumulate excessive amounts of power. The individual was able to engage himself in politics, but the functionality of the Federal Government was never impeded upon. Somehow, Wilson had nearly resolved the differences that had been plaguing American politics for the preceding century. He was the first president to recognize that he possessed two responsibilities – as a party leader and policy-maker – and that is why his system was so admirable, enduring and emulated.

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