Updated: Jul 2, 2019
I heard the news today, oh boy! Partisanship is threatening to tear the country apart -- even talk of a new Civil War.
The thing is, the United States was founded on a partisan compromise. The United States has always been a partisan nation and the news that partisanship is leading to the country’s demise is, to use a popular phrase, Fake News.
Other than history geeks like myself, most Americans assume that the country went from being a set of colonies to a democracy overnight. The victory over the British led immediately to the protections given under our Constitution. Many are shocked to learn that we were first governed by a set of laws known as The Articles of Confederation. If the term “confederation” rings a bell it’s because it’s the very set of rules that the breakaway southern states sought to establish during the Civil War.
So what were The Articles of Confederation? They were a set of rules established to create a government that was heavy on the rights of the individual states while a weak centralized federal government had little power. They were ratified in 1781 and weren’t replaced until 1787, when the Constitution was finalized. It was this rift between state’s rights and a strong federal government that was the first partisan disagreement. Those disagreements continue today.
Other disagreements have threatened us throughout our history. Big business versus government oversight, hawks versus doves, social programs versus government overreach and on and on. Partisan bickering is as old as America itself and as American as apple pie. It gives the people a choice. It helps us correct bad decisions and replace ineffective policies.
Over our history, the roles have changed due to a changing political climate. For example, while Republicans can claim that Lincoln ended slavery, it was the Democrats who established the Civil Rights Act. And while the Republicans call themselves the party of fiscal responsibility, it has historically been Republicans who have ruled during our greatest economic calamities.
These are just a few examples of partisan divide, the greatest being the Civil War. Will partisanship again divide us to the brink of war, or will cooler heads prevail?
Only time will tell.
CJ Waldron is a retired English teacher from upstate New York. An adjunct instructor at Horry Georgetown Technical College, he lives in Conway, SC with his wife, Donna.