The well-written discussion by Lindy High, bemoaning the current state of relations between the president and the Senate over a Supreme Court nomination, is incorrect on one crucial point. Not only did the founders foresee this situation, they dreaded its coming.
Those who think the two-party system was an invention of the founders are mistaken. In fact, the founders always understood that the great enemy of their work, our Constitution, was parties, or “faction.” They believed the true national interest would be threatened by citizens dividing themselves into warring camps. Complaining about the early U.S. government, James Madison wrote in Federalist 10:
“Complaints are everywhere heard ... that our governments are too unstable, that the public good is disregarded in the conflicts of rival parties, and that measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the force of an interested and overbearing majority.”
Years later in his farewell address to the nation, George Washington warned:
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“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.
“However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion. “
What Washington warned against is what we see happening today.
To answer the assertion that “the people should speak on this appointment,” the correct response is that the people have already spoken by electing a president to a four-year term. If the founders had wanted Supreme Court justices subjected to popular election, they would have made it so.
I am hoping against experience that my two senators will turn away from this dishonorable course that the Senate Republican leadership has set and return to the principle of governance in the interests of the entire nation that guided the creation of our Constitution, not just the parochial interests of their party.
George Moses is a Boise resident, former U.S. military officer and former congressional aide.