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Is a Trump presidency what George Washington warned us about?

George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1797
George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1797

Washington’s farewell address wasn’t an address, at least not in the modern sense of being a speech. It was written in the form of a letter to “friends and citizens” to clarify, as he approached the end of his second term as president in 1796, that he would “decline being considered” for another term.

(It was much, much later that the Constitution was amended to preclude a president from serving a third term, but Washington’s precedent was so powerful that, although it had no legal force, no incumbent ever sought a third term until Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. On that occasion, FDR refused to clarify — even as the balloting occurred at the Democratic convention in 1940 — whether he would agree to run for a third term, again, partly out of respect for Washington’s precedent.)

Anyway, Washington clearly stated — in the letter to the nation that we call his farewell address, a letter that was published in newspapers around the county — that he would not accept a third term. But he also used the letter to provide some valedictory remarks to the nation, warning against dangers that he feared could endanger the future of the republic. On that list was a warning to the nation against the dangers of excessive partisanship or factionalism.

Factions, he said, lead to partisanship, and then to the running of the government by a party “often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community, that can seize power in a way that overrides … the delegated will of the nation.” This, he warned is “of fatal tendency” to a democracy.

Wrote Washington (or perhaps Alexander Hamilton, who helped him with the writing): “Combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, [but] 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.”

I confess that I decided to reread Washington’s farewell letter yesterday after first reading a long essay in New York magazine by Andrew Sullivan, who was moved to write by a concern that the advent of President Trump might be the kind of event Washington was warning about when he spoke of factionalism/partisanship as a threat to the health of the American constitutional system.

Sullivan’s essay was titled “The Republic Repeals Itself.” Hardly any of it was about Washington’s Farewell Address. Most of it, and I recommend it to you, was speculation about how things might go in the next period when the combination of President Trump and Republicans in control of both houses of Congress takes over in January. He circled his way around to Washington, and the excerpt from the address Sullivan emphasized was this:

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Washington, by the way, was 64 when he retired, lived less than three years after leaving office. If this makes you want to read the whole Washington farewell, it’s available here.

Comments (33)

  1. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 11/15/2016 - 10:59 am.


    That Washington Guy – “He was not my President!”

  2. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 11/15/2016 - 11:37 am.

    One Party Rule

    If you think about it, Washington’s address was to a country which at the time had not yet fully realized the existence of a two party state. The factions he was referring to were the “”Federalists” , supporters of Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams and the “Republicans” or “Antifederalists” followers of Thomas Jefferson. I interpret Washington as disapproving of political parties and encouraging One Party Rule. I think Washington would approve of a Trump Presidency to the extent it represented a return to Washington’s vision of an ideal One Party system.

    The Federalists were really all about One-Party Rule. They passed the first “Alien and Sedition Act” to silence dissent and promised to deport aliens. Even that couldn’t prevent this party from dissolving into subfactions and finally passing into historical oblivion.

  3. Submitted by Justin Adams on 11/15/2016 - 12:45 pm.

    Yay Factions!

    Interesting, I was just re-reading Federalist No. 10 yesterday and hoped our ink-stained wretch would turn his attention to the question of factionalism and its uses / consequences.

    I think that Trump clearly purported to represent the kind of ‘democratic excess’ that our federal system of government was designed to keep in check. What I think is more interesting, though, is the extent to which the two dominant factions in American politics have organized themselves internally in order to defend their parties against just this same kind of excess.

    If I were a Madisonian, I would say that the democratic nomination process successfully defended the party from a candidate that represented the kind of democratic excess that manifests as a danger to property rights. Bernie Sanders is precisely the kind of person that we could imagine Mr. Madison calling not a “fit character.”

    If I were Madison, I would lament that the other dominant faction in American politics did not succeed in safeguarding itself against a candidate who represents the kind of democratic excess that manifests itself as a danger to personal rights. There is evidence that Madison would have particularly been upset of the role the state seems to be prepared to take respecting the freedom of religion. I personally find any claim by Mr. Trump’s about addressing income and wealth distribution inequality for the middle class simply not credible. If they were, I imagine they also might have bothered Mr. Madison greatly.

    I think that the power centers in the GOP faction would have preferred a candidate less offensive to Madison, but that they were unsuccessful in their efforts to derail Mr. Trump.

    I think all in all, Mr. Madison and Mr. Washington would not be so very upset at the state of factionalism in the United States today, which, in my view, is not something for which the founders should be respected

    The two dominant factions consistently do a great job of preventing the will of the majority from infringing on the rights of the economic elite, which is exactly what they wanted. The GOP appears to have under performed in this regard in the current cycle, but appearances can be deceiving — I have a sneaking suspicion the rights of the elites will emerge from this administration unscathed.

  4. Submitted by Mike Downing on 11/15/2016 - 12:50 pm.

    No it is not what George Washington was talking about.

    Trump is simply a natural reaction by rural America and “fly over” America to President Obama’s policies, his weak leadership and his “identity politics” of slicing and dicing the electorate. It should be clear now that President Obama created factions and created a far more divided country than anytime in my lifetime and I’m a retired senior.

    Perhaps George Washington’s admonition was actually aimed at an Obama presidency…

    • Submitted by Bob Petersen on 11/16/2016 - 12:01 pm.

      Very true

      Washington was concerned that the Great American Experiment would continue since the country was still in it’s infancy. There was great concern of a select few would run the country, as was the norm in the rest of the world, and change America back to something more common at that time.

      Then again, it should not be amazing to think that Mr. Black cherry pick something to fit the usual agenda of a president-elect of someone he does not like. The attempt at historical revisionism is sad.

  5. Submitted by John Edwards on 11/15/2016 - 01:51 pm.

    If only

    Eric: If only you had written this column in 2008 we might not be where we are today. If only President Obama had not said Jan. 23, 2009 to Republican whip Eric Cantor: “Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won,” we might not be where we are today.

    Real Clear Politics Executive Editor Tom Bevan, a liberal, nailed it in his column Aug. 13, (link below) when he wrote: If Obama ever had a chance to “un-poison” the well with the GOP, it vanished when the Affordable Care Act became law in early 2010. But imagine how things could have played out differently if Obama in 2009 had taken the advice from himself on Friday. Imagine if the president had chosen to accommodate his political opponents early on, instead of pressing forward with a maximalist “my way or the highway” attitude.

    The Democratic Party began disintegrating the day Obama took office.It is the minimalist operation it is today (only 4 states have a Democratic governor and both legislative houses) because of such arrogance.
    Follow us: @RCP_Articles on Twitter

    • Submitted by Jeffrey Rapp on 11/15/2016 - 02:47 pm.

      Real Clear Politics Executive Editor Tom Bevan, a liberal…NOT!

      Just check out “The Google”

      RCP is founded by two conservatives.

    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 11/15/2016 - 02:52 pm.

      Fascinating revisionist history

      Because on the evening of January 20, 2009, Cantor was one of the attendees of a dinner where their plan to systematically obstruct all of President Obama’s proposals was hatched. Cantor wasn’t putting up any votes for the stimulus regardless of what Obama said on the 23rd, despite the fact that Obama both decreased the size of stimulus and changed its composition to be 1/3 tax cuts in attempts to earn Republican votes.

      And let’s not forget the actual history of the ACA, where President Obama told Speaker Pelosi to sit on the House bill for months in the hope of getting a compromise out of the Senate’s “Gang of Six”.

      (Tom Bevan ain’t a liberal, either.)

  6. Submitted by Jeff Michaels on 11/15/2016 - 02:33 pm.

    Democrats should have avoided partisanship in 2010

    Old George nailed it. Partisanship is not good. Too bad President Obama and fellow Democrats did not heed such advice before they rammed through the so-called Affordable Care Act in 2010 without one Republican vote.

    Interestingly and revealingly, that significant detail continues to be absent from news stories in the establishment media focusing on how Republicans intend change Obamacare. They don’t have to because that mess is a complete Democrat disaster. Republicans should let that fact sink in for a long, long time.

    • Submitted by Kurt Nelson on 11/15/2016 - 02:59 pm.

      Not actually

      so called ACA, it was called the ACA.
      ALways makes me laugh when people talk about the ACA being rammed through. Remember there Jeff, the bill was introduced by the Senate, was debated by both houses, passed both houses, was signed into law by the President, and then survived two constitutional challenges. But I guess in your world, the ACA is still unconstitutional.

      • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/15/2016 - 03:45 pm.


        …and let’s also remember not only that the ACA was passed by both houses of Congress and upheld TWICE by the SCOTUS when Mr. Scalia was still alive, but that the ACA is a REPUBLICAN PLAN, initiated in Massachusetts by Mitt Romney, and introduced in the U.S. Senate only after it had passed something of a “test drive” in Massachusetts to see if it actually worked. Opposition to the ACA was originally much more about Republican despair over losing the ’08 election to a multiracial president than to the plan itself, and in many instances since then, the opposition has been based on little more than blatant racism.

        I continue to find it interesting that vitriol over rising premiums is directed at Obama and the ACA, not at the Republican Governors who chose to make the plan unavailable to their state’s residents for partisan reasons, nor at the insurance companies – for whom the ACA is a guaranteed market – which are actually raising the rates. UnitedHealth has pulled out of some state insurance exchanges, not because the people in those states are suddenly and magically healthy, but because their profit margins were disappearing in those states. Health insurance companies are far more interested in profit than they are in the health of their policyholders – something they have in common with much of American medicine as an institution.

  7. Submitted by John Edwards on 11/15/2016 - 03:43 pm.

    This qualifies as ramming:

    This is how conservative KSFO radio host Brian Sussman described in a June 26 2015 blog the passage of the ACA:

    Obamacare was signed into law in March 2010. If you recall, Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic majority in the House of Representatives was unable to pass their version of a healthcare law. Because all revenue bills have to originate in the House, the Senate found a bill that met those qualifications: HR3590, a military housing bill. They essentially stripped the bill of its original language and turned it into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), aka Obamacare.

    The Senate at that time had 60 Democrats, just enough to pass Obamacare. However after the bill passed the Senate, Democrat Senator Ted Kennedy died. In his place, Massachusetts elected Republican Scott Brown. That meant that if the House made any changes to the bill the Senate wouldn’t have the necessary number of votes to pass the amended bill (because they knew no Republicans would vote for Obamacare).

    So Senate Leader Harry Reid cut a deal with Pelosi: the House would pass the Senate bill without any changes if the Senate agreed to pass a separate bill by the House that made changes to the Senate version of Obamacare. This second bill was called the Reconciliation Act of 2010. So the House passed PPACA, the Senate bill, as well as their Reconciliation Act. At this point PPACA was ready for the President to sign, but the Senate still needed to pass the Reconciliation Act from the House.
    We all were.
    And it got worse.

    Remember that the Senate only had 59 votes to pass the Reconciliation Act since Republican Scott Brown replaced Democrat Ted Kennedy. Therefore in order to pass the Act Senate Democrats decided to change the rules. They declared that they could use the “Reconciliation Rule (this is a different “reconciliation” than the House bill). This rule was only supposed to be used for budget item approvals so that such items could be passed with only 51 votes in the Senate, not the usual 60. Reconciliation was never intended to be used for legislation of the magnitude of Obamacare. But that didn’t stop them.

    So both of the “Acts” were able to pass both houses of Congress and sent to President Obama for his signature without a single Republican vote in favor of the legislation. The American system of governance was shafted. To quote Democrat Rep. Alcee Hastings of the House Rules Committee during the bill process: “We’re making up the rules as we go along.”

    John again: Ironically that change in the rules could easily come back to bite the Democrats as the Republicans use it to repeal and reform ObamaCare. As George, Barack (and perhaps The Donald) would say: what goes round comes round.

    • Submitted by Sean Olsen on 11/15/2016 - 04:33 pm.

      Um, no

      Reconciliation has long been used for more than just budget bills. It’s even been used to pass health care reform in the past — COBRA, for instance, came into existence via a reconciliation bill.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/16/2016 - 04:48 pm.

      All Well and Good

      Remind me where in the Constitution votes from both parties are required in order to pass legislation.

      You might also like to explain why 60 votes are needed to pass a bill even though the Constitution clearly contemplates that a simple majority is ordinarily all that is needed.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/17/2016 - 09:22 am.

        This is based on a strict construction

        of what the Founders were thinking,
        not what they actually wrote.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/17/2016 - 03:39 pm.

          Not Sure I Follow You

          All we can go by is what the Founders wrote. The Founders put nothing in the Constitution about parties.

          The legal maxim “expressio unius est exclusio alterius (the expression of one thing is the exclusion of the other) works here. There are supermajority requirements in the Constitution for conviction on an impeachment, ratification of a treaty, override of a veto, passing a constitutional amendment, restoring rights of rebels to serve in the government, and removal of a President under the 25th Amendment. This operates as a statement that, constitutionally, a simple majority is all that should be required to pass a bill.

          Furthermore, if a supermajority requirement had been contemplated, there would be no need to give the Vice President tie-breaking authority.

  8. Submitted by Kenneth Kjer on 11/15/2016 - 04:33 pm.

    Trumps election

    It became pretty clear to anybody who knew anything about health insurance, knew that the ACA or Obamacare if you want to call it that, would fail and would result in sky-high premiums for people not insured by their employers. It is a fact of life with any type of insurance that experience plays a huge factor in premiums. The Democrats rammed through the ACA and defined how the policies would be written and not one single insurance company had one single instance of previous experience to determine premiums. So guess what happened, the underwriters had to guess and they all guessed wrong and now we have sky-high premiums because the ACA was forced on the people and on health insurance companies. it is no longer the Affordable Care Act, it is the incredibly unaffordable care act. One of the major reasons Trump was elected. There are a number of other reasons also, immigration, terrorism and of the failure of the Democrats to lay out a platform to help the average working person better themselves. They also talked about cutting Social Security when they should have been talking about how to replace the 2.7 trillion that the US Government owes Social Security. That moved many seniors to Trump’s side.

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 11/15/2016 - 08:46 pm.

      Social insurance

      The Democrats “rammed through” the ACA as you say because the Republican Party, temporarily a minority, had already promised to block anything President Obama proposed. In fact, the ACA was the Republican Plan laid out by Gingrich and the Republicans in 1993 when they were trying to stop “Hillarycare.”

      Many of us who were opposed to the ACA were so because it was not “single payer”,i.e. social insurance like Medicare which has worked fine for 65+ people. “Blue dogs” in the Democratic party we were told were opposed to “single payer” or a “public option”, so we needed to be patient. The ACA was a “first step” toward a public option or other social insurance system like Medicare.

      The ACA did nothing to reform the group plan or health insurance industry,which I think is rightfully described as a cartel. It exists legally under the umbrella of state antitrust exemptions for insurance and ERISA, the federal law regulating employer pension and other benefit plans.

      So now you have Trump and Republican Party so concerned about the premium increases. What’s their plan?

    • Submitted by Neal Rovick on 11/16/2016 - 08:22 am.

      The real issue is the cost of health care is rising. The rise in charges by healthcare providers and suppliers rose rapidly before, during and will continue to do so after ACA. You are arguing about who pays for what on the restaurant tab after the meal, but the poblem is that the tab has to paid by someone at the table.

      The only thing that the ACA did was to change who paid for what. The high-cost group of patients were paid for through a high-risk pool heavily subsidized by state governments (and as a subsidy, was always the target of many Republican cost-cutting measures).

      The only death panel in medical care is green–money will determine who lives or dies.

      As for SS and Medicare cuts–you should try to keep up with your Republicans–Ryan is planning to push through Medicare privatization and SS privatization. I’m sure the private insurers and investment houses will take care of you when they have run through your money..

  9. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/15/2016 - 06:30 pm.


    Not to get off point but: Does this mean in order to reduce insurance rates (Repeal the ACA) , the “R’s” will now need to set up death panels to see who can and cannot get coverage for existing conditions?

    To Washington’s point, “parties” perhaps the measure is that “parties” as we know them tend to consolidate power, priorities and issues to the powerful few and become tools of divisiveness. However, they are still required to form a coalition of sorts to affect true action. The colonies entertained the party for independence vs the party to stay with the king. The problem is we can not depend on good moral character and principle based thinking of good men and women to insure the efforts of the parties will be for the countries betterment as a whole.

  10. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 11/16/2016 - 09:59 am.

    The facts of the current insurance market:

    The insurance rates under ACA are set so that the insurance cost for an older person is no more than 3 times that of a younger person. Removing ACA would mean that rates for older people would go up, probably to about 5 times that of a younger person.

    The ACA compliance requirement forced younger, healthier people into the insurance market. Older and less healthy people were generally already in the market. Removing ACA means that the number of people in the market will fall and the proportion of older and less healthy people will increase and they will bear more of the costs.

    Happy now ?

  11. Submitted by Kent Fralish on 11/16/2016 - 11:33 am.

    Term Limits For All

    I believe the outcome of this election was more about how long term politicians have forgotten about “the delegated will of the nation”.
    Term limits for all!

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/16/2016 - 07:24 pm.

      Real elections

      Term limits would discourage competent people from participating in the government.
      What we do need is an end to gerrymandering (nonpolitical redistricting) so that 95% of congersmen (sorry, Pogo) would not be in safe districts that guaranteed their reelection.

  12. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/16/2016 - 11:39 am.

    Back to the rhetorical question

    Is a Trump presidency what George Washington warned us about? Maybe.

    If I recall correctly (and this is strictly from memory, so no guarantees), Madison argued in one of the Federalist Papers (#10?) that factions would have a tendency to self-correct, or at least the influence of one faction would be counterbalanced by one or more other factions. Madison seemed relatively unconcerned about the implied conflict of factional interests, and if my memory is somewhat close to being correct, one might argue that the current partisan gridlock in Congress (and the nation) is a more or less normal development, and Washington’s concern might be somewhat overblown.

    That’s not an argument against Sullivan (or Washington), just an illustration of how thorny the issues they wrestled with at the Constitutional Convention were – and remain.

    I’m not sure a Trump presidency represents the triumph of a particular faction, since Trump has yet to present a coherent policy agenda or philosophy. The only faction that seems dominant in TrumpWorld so far is self-interest. That’s dangerous enough, even without other political overtones.

  13. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 11/16/2016 - 04:36 pm.

    Obviously the Republican-conceived Obamacare (it’s essentially Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan with updates) does not contain ever-increasing health care costs. The insurance companies insist on having a net profit, and they are leaving the marketplace for individual policies because too many seriously ill people are in them, and there’s no way to control drug company shenanigans on prices.

    The only solution is clear: We need single-payer health care. Like Medicare for everyone. But only Hillary Clinton would have moved toward that with tweekings to the ACA.

    Pay no attention to Donald Trump’s words about what “he” will keep; he’s not in charge of this, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are. I’m fairly sure that voters for Trump have not looked carefully at Ryan’s agenda: He plans to do away with Obamacare–which will mean people dying in dark corners of our society, in silent misery, again–but he and the Republicans have nothing sensible or doable to replace it with. Ryan is firm about cutting back Social Security, and Medicare, by privatizing them–just as Republicans intend to privatize our public school systems on the state level. They intend to destroy the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt by obliterating the entire safety net. The Big Money that has funded Republicans across our country is lusting after all the public tax money they’ll get to manage and profit from. In fact, what will be interesting to see is how soon, and how much, mainstream Republicans change any progressive elements of Trump’s often contradictory statements about what “he” would do.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/18/2016 - 10:20 am.

      Only HRC?

      “The only solution is clear: We need single-payer health care. Like Medicare for everyone. But only Hillary Clinton would have moved toward that with tweekings to the ACA.”

      No, Clinton has always dismissed single payer out of hand and only put a public option the table after Sanders drummed up so much support and enthusiasm for his Medical for All proposal. And since single payer was Sander’s actual campaign platform and policy, it’s safe to say that he would have moved towards it had gotten the nomination and won the election.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/18/2016 - 10:11 am.

    Washington’s warning?

    Maybe. But I guarantee you this is the presidency that Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, radical feminists, and other progressives have been warning about for decades. You don’t have to go back 200+ years, you don’t even have to go back two years.

    We could talk about some centuries dead white guys if we want. Frankly I think it would more productive to talk about why mainstream/corporate/whateveryouwanttocallit media have been ignoring, minimizing, and marginalizing the most insightful and knowledgeable political and social observers of our era? NONE of this has come out of nowhere. Progressives have been warning American’s about this political trend for decades. Progressive tried to warn Americans about the dangers of nominating two hugely unpopular and distrusted candidates.

    Instead of listening to progressive or even engaging in a discussion; progressive are just dismissed as unrealistic and naive dreamers or extremist. It’s important to recognize the fact that this response was an INSTITUTIONAL response. The organic response among American’s was enthusiastic and positive.

    Why would we talk about what Washington said 200 years ago instead of talking about what happened last year and why? I mean don’t get me wrong, I like history. But turning this into an historical discourse actually removes us from any meaningful context. Such a discussion seeks to convert a clear and present crises into an historical exploration.

    Whatever Washington may have said 200 years ago it couldn’t possibly be any more insightful or prescient than the writings of Susan Jacoby in: “The Age of American Unreason” or Max Blumenthal’s: “Republican Gomorrah”,Barbara Ehrenreich’s: “Brightsided”, Chomsky and Herman’s: “Manufacturing Consent”, or our own Minnesotan David Noble and his 2002 book: “Death of a Nation: American Culture and the Death of Exceptionalism”. Have you even heard of David Noble? Check him out:

    Maybe it’s time for complacent liberals to get out of their comfort zone with old dead white guys and Thom Friedman. Maybe if they’d done so decades ago we wouldn’t have got Trump in the White House.

  15. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/18/2016 - 12:03 pm.


    I/we had issues in business, hopefully one of us would be smart enough to say: Ok what was the objective again? And hopefully we were honest enough to clarify that objective, work our solutions to solve the objective, regardless of our personal wins or losses.

    My understanding of the American objective is stated in the preamble to the constitution: For the life of me, I don’t see how Trump and the right wing have any intentions what so ever to work at achieving that objective, fact is they are doing everything in my mind to fail at the objective. In short there is no “we the people, in order to form a more perfect union” in either their actions or deeds. So does that make me a screaming or complacent liberal? To Paul’s point, there is nothing new here, from Jesus Christ, to the Greeks to Zinn etc. we have been warned about false prophets. But history is bound to repeat itself because, the false prophets have forever preyed on the fears and weaknesses of the masses, and here we are, it happened again.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/19/2016 - 09:45 am.

      Yes and No

      I can’t disagree with any of Dennis’s points, but I’ve come to the conclusion that biggest problem we face in the United States is liberal complacency, I truly believe that liberal complacency put Donald Trump in the White House.

      For decades democrats and liberals have celebrated the success of their “incrementalism” while major but perfectly manageable problems i.e. Social Security, health care, environmental protection, energy policy, education, have been left on the table decade after decade. The drive for gender and racial equality has not only stalled but in many ways rolled back and when anyone proposes a major initiative we’re warned against abandoning the wisdom of incrementalism. This is all just an excuse for complacent acceptance of the status quo. All these warnings against “radical” change are really just complacent liberal formulas for staying within a familiar comfort zone. History is one of those familiar comfort zones.

      Getting back to Mr. Wagner’s point about the our objective as a nation, the mission of forming a more perfect union requires that we MAKE history, not just study it. Making history is what the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution were all about after all, and they made it big time. Abolitionists, suffragettes, labor unions, civil rights marchers, Stonewall rebellers, environmental activist, feminists, peace activists, etc. one and all MADE our history, they didn’t just study the history of previous generations.

      When liberals rest on the laurels of previous activists and celebrate increments for decades they create openings for guys like Trump. In many ways Trump actually ran on all of the things that liberals have failed to act on for decades. So while the liberal demand for progress isn’t “new”, it only succeeds when when liberals leave their comfort zones and fight for it. We make history, we don’t just watch it on TV. That may not be a “new” thing, but its still a moral priority that we neglect at our own peril.

      • Submitted by Dan Berg on 11/21/2016 - 04:37 pm.

        Biggest issue

        The biggest issue is that big “L” Liberalism requires a constant majority that agrees with all salient policies. Huge diverse populations with divergent interests makes that all but impossible in a democracy. It is always possible for those interested in wilding power to pit various groups against one another in hopes of collecting just enough support them in their efforts. Humans are never satisfied and collectives of people are easily, if unpredictably, manipulated. Decisions based on popularity have only coincidental correlation to those based on well thought out analysis. Centralizing control only makes us more vulnerable to the inevitable times, like with Trump, that someone with no apparent grounding gets hold of the levers of power.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/21/2016 - 06:12 pm.


        The DFL is weighted to the far left and not able to view much from center left to center. Thus us political “Social Liberals Fiscal conservatives” have only a social voice. There is no attraction/understanding in the DFL for actual tax payers that don’t work for the city, county, state, fed etc. Point, these folks don’t know, nor do they seem to want to know what does it take to actually make a dollar in a global competitive environment. Secondly, they do not seem to care how effectively those tax $’s that are paid are used. Thus any progressive of my sort is stuck with, just send me money, we don’t want to hear anything outside the DFL echo chamber. In short, give us your vote and your money, and trust us that we’ll make the best decisions on how to use both of them! So: no sense talking to a closed doors! DFL party wonks or Trump voter, there is no room for conversation.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/22/2016 - 08:48 am.

          Completely mistaken

          First, the “Center” is a mythical location where cultures and societies go to die. As Jim Hightower used to say: “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow lines and dead armadillo’s”. Centrism is the most toxic myth in American politics because it pretends that the best solutions and policies exist in some location on a theoretical spectrum between left and right, liberal or conservative. This is simply mental laziness (or cowardice) pretending to be political wisdom.

          The truth is that there a good ideas, and bad ideas. The best ideas and solutions are those that actually solve problems and move the ball forward, regardless of the their origin on a political spectrum.

          Splitting the difference with half measures or empty gestures just leaves problems on the table for decades, that’s what we’ve been getting from our republican and democratic elite now for decades. At best we get bipartisan stagnation, at worse get magical thinking.

          Anyone who thinks the DFL is “too” far to the left doesn’t really know what liberalism and progressivism are. For decades now we’ve been living in a warped political landscape that pretends Bill Clinton is the liberal’s liberal when in fact he’s a moderate republican.

          As for policies and solution, liberals simply have the best most realistic and effective initiatives but we have no party willing to propose or champion them. The DFL has been functioning as a firewall against liberal policies, dialing them back, or leaving them on the table every time they get chance. The DFL was originally AWOL when the fight against voter ID and the marriage amendment began. Afterwards they pushed back on marriage equality legislation. They dialed back infrastructure spending, light rail funding, tax revenue, etc. all in search of republican support that never materialized and out of fear of “over reaching”, and then the lost anyways. I can’t remember who they endorsed for governor, but it wasn’t Dayton who’s now won twice, and whoever it was they weren’t more liberal than Dayton.

          We need to stop running towards stagnation and mediocrity under the guise of centrism. We need to solve problems and move the ball forward.

          • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 11/22/2016 - 02:50 pm.


            For laying out generalities. (Speaking DFL not Democrat) A specific: where does the $ come from to pay for all those social programs?
            Someone has to conduct a business transaction somewhere.
            Point: the far lefties, at least the ones I have encountered care not what it takes for the business transaction, those that are engaged in business are there to serve those that are not. Back to 2nd point: whether you have a good idea or not (specific agreement to your point) it is unwanted and of no value because of the, less than far left wonk position, just give us your money and go away. Disagree that the party has the best most effective solutions, it counters your own point about, “The truth is that there a good ideas, and bad ideas. The best ideas and solutions are those that actually solve problems and move the ball forward, regardless of the their origin on a political spectrum.” Which, is the fundamental position of non-party wonks, not allowed by party wonks. Sup[ported by the statement “As for policies and solution, liberals simply have the best most realistic and effective initiatives” Uff-da.

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