Party Politics: An Analysis On Factions In American Government

1366 words - 5 pages

A key issue raised by the Federalists in their campaign for the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and by the Anti-Federalists in their campaign against it, was that of factions. In The Federalist No. 10, “The Utility of the Union as a Safeguard Against Domestic Faction and Insurrection,” James Madison defines the dangers of factions and elaborates on the effectiveness of a large, representative democracy in dealing with them. In Essay No. 3, the Anti-Federalist Cato argues that factions are necessary and we must preserve them in a large government if we are to prevent single individuals from corrupting the system. In modern America, we see the influence of factions – parties – growing daily, instigating rivalries and stalling political progress. Despite strong arguments from the Anti-Federalists, this modern evidence proves that factions do negatively impact the government when they are allowed too much power.
Factions, or parties, are described in The Federalist No. 10 as groups of citizens “united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest.” According to Madison, these human passions divide the public into competing parties that are “much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good.” These parties often negatively impact the rights of other citizens as they pursue their own specialized goals, but it is “the nature of man” to create them. Thus, in order to protect the rights and voices of the people, a successful government must be committed to the regulation of these various factions. A pure (direct) democracy, argues Madison, cannot effectively do this because it offers every citizen a vote in serious public matters, and economic stratification alone prevents this from being fair. Inevitably, either the rich or the poor will be in the majority and will always vote for furthering the goals of their respective socio-economic class. A representative republic is better suited for furthering the interests of the nation as a whole because it is comprised of representatives who will “refine and enlarge the public views” and not likely “sacrifice [justice] to temporary or partial considerations,” as factions are inclined to do. In short, representatives can speak for the people better than the people can themselves because the people are generally too self-interested to understand the interests of the community.
The only danger in this system is that of men of “sinister designs” obtaining seat in the government and betraying the interests of the people. Madison’s solution to this is in the immensity of the proposed Union and it’s population. By increasing the population, the high number of voters and political candidates lessens the likelihood of “unworthy candidates” being elected. Similarly, the large population and vast expanse of territory provide for an extensive variety of interest groups. There is security in this because it lessens the likelihood of “any one party being able...

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