Toxic partisanship and failure of democracy: How political parties became threats to the United States, and why democracy's days are counted
May 18, 2022

As I observe the results of the 2022 primary elections in several
U.S. states, it seems that the Overton Windows continue to move to
both extremes. Not long ago, the Overton Window of the Democrats
and that of the Republicans largely overlapped. Now it seems that
these windows have moved farther apart, with no overlap in the
middle. This trend began during the Obama era, with the beginning
of the Tea Party movement on one side, and the Occupy Wall Street
movement on the other, as they both increasingly demanded more
radical solutions. At first, they were laughed off by the
establishment politicians as fringe elements. Soon, many of their
ideas have become mainstream. Now both sides of the aisle are
digging in their heels and refusing to compromise. Those who do,
such as Liz Cheney and Joe Manchin, are swiftly condemned as
"traitors" -- not to their country but to their party.

For most of the U.S. history, the politics have been dominated by a
bipartisan paradigm. Federalists and Anti-Federalists. Whigs and
Democrats. Republicans and Democrats. The modern concept of
political parties, however, is thought to have originated in Great
Britain. In the Westminster parliamentary systems, the executive
branch is chosen from among the majority and the minority party is
called the "Queen's loyal opposition." In the U.S., the presidency
is semi-directly elected by the voters (technically, elected by the
electors of state electoral colleges) regardless of the
Congressional majority. This sets the government up for
confrontational and adversarial relationship with Congress, if the
party of the president is not in majority in either chamber of
Congress (most of the Obama presidency was marked by the Tea Party
Republican obstructionism).

Etymologically, the English word "party" (and also French "parti"
and Spanish "partido") comes from a 12th century French word for
division and separation ( It
has always been more about division than about unity. Yet, there
was a time when the minority party took its commitment as the
"loyal opposition" very seriously: that their ultimate allegiance
was to the nation, and at the end of the day, both parties were to
act in good faith to promote what they sincerely believed as what's
best for the country and its people. That seems to have gone out of
the door in this century, perhaps since George W. Bush was anointed
president by the Supreme Court after an acrimonious election. Even
the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001 could not keep Americans united for
very long.

Both Republicans and Democrats value political gamesmanship over
good governance. Congress (and increasingly, state legislatures)
has become a field for political football games, with vulnerable
and marginalized people often used as the balls they toss around to
score points and to attack their opponents.

On the one hand, it has been said by the conservatives that the
United States is a republic, in which the constitution protects the
rights of minorities from the wills of the mob. While this sounds
good on its surface, it actually isn't when one considers that by
"minorities" they usually mean "persecuted" rich white Christians.
Time and time again, this "minority" who has outsized power,
influence, and money have overruled the popular sentiments and
broad consensus of the American people.

On the other hand, the left is eager to say that the United States
is a democracy, perhaps one of the world's oldest and
longest-running one. Yet, democracy is only as good as how it
defines what the "demos" of the democracy is, and whether people
can meaningfully participate and influence decisions that
personally matter to them. The "demos" does not include children,
incarcerated people (and in many places, anyone with past criminal
records or ongoing probation), and foreigners (legal or otherwise).
And because of the way how the electoral system is set up, it also
makes it very difficult for the elderly, disabled (physically or
mentally), and people of color to vote. Politicians know that those
who cannot vote are worthless to the political ambitions and
campaign finances, thus those who cannot vote are always the first
to be put on chopping blocks, to be scapegoated, and to be thrown
under the bus. Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of this.

And how good a democracy is, when a small number of powerful
politicians from another state occupy powerful positions in the
halls of power thousands of miles away and make all sorts of
decisions, not for your best interest, but to please their wealthy
campaign donors and to further their ambitions within their
political parties? If you live in Seattle, you don't vote for Mitch
McConnell or Nancy Pelosi, and they don't represent you, but they
get to set all the agenda in Congress.

As the Declaration of Independence (1776) reads,

> Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of
Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of
the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new

When was the last time have you explicitly given a consent to be
governed by them? Sure, we have elections every other year (or more
often), but no voter has been asked to continue this consent or to
abolish the United States of America. Most everyone is born
citizens of the United States and has been governed by it ever
since. The entrenched and corrupt government derives a veneer of
legitimacy from this ritual of "democracy," using it to justify its
violence at home and abroad. At the end of the day, we are all
expendable to them. They will happily maim, torture, and murder
their own citizens in the name of "national security" or "law and
order" or "economic stability" or "property rights" or even "public
health," if doing so serves and preserves their power and moneyed
interests. So much for pro-life. So much for social justice. Their
platitudes are often cruel jokes.

At the very least, political parties have outlived their
usefulness, now it's time to abolish them, especially when
politicians are more loyal to their parties than to their duties to
serve and represent their constituents. If candidates are elected
by their own merits alone, not because of the "D" or "R" after
their names and because of party endorsements, and they are no
longer beholden to party leadership, American politics will be far
less toxic and far less dysfunctional. Likewise, an end to
partisanship in legislative chambers means no political party
(which is technically a private organization unaccountable to the
public) gets to hijack legislative agenda through chairmanship and
committee assignments.

Ultimately, however, we need to deal with the overconcentration of
power into the smaller number of people. Ideally, the most
decisions related to governance ought to be done very close to the
ordinary people, through a decentralized and highly localized
council where everyone can meaningfully get their voices heard
(lookup "subsidiarity"). Furthermore, government does not even have
to be a monopoly (look up "panarchy"). The lack of imagination and
the business-as-usual are destroying the fabric of this nation. We
cannot survive this toxic partisanship much longer. A new paradigm
is long overdue.