Newsline , Society

Dangerous Rise of Factionalism

Posted on Thursday, July 6, 2023
by AMAC, Robert B. Charles

The Founding Fathers feared the rise of dangerous factions more than vigorous disputes between political parties. They feared factionalism almost as much as they feared an all-powerful federal government. A nation divided was as dangerous to itself, and as likely to be dominated, as one poorly led.

In George Washington’s famous Farewell Address, he warned his generation and future ones against the rise of factions: “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.”

The Bill of Rights secured – or attempted to secure – God-given liberties to every individual citizen, from free speech and worship to self-defense, defense against federal government overreach, privacy in their homes and papers, and assurances of fair, equal treatment before the law.

The Ninth and Tenth Amendments preserved for states and “the people” rights not expressly given by ratification or amendment of the Constitution, expressly given to the federal government.

But protecting against debilitating factions, or dissenting groups within dissenting groups, to the point where civic order and agreement on shared democratic and republican principles broke down, was harder. They did not know about communism or socialism, but did know chaos, war, and tyranny.

Balancing individual and state rights against federal prerogatives, and balancing federal actions against each other, assuring checks and balances between executive, legislative, and judicial, was one thing.

But what if factional dissent spread? What if citizens broke into warring groups, gave up the hard work of agreement and self-governance?  What if factions grew, drifting toward ungovernability and chaos?

What if basic belief in the necessity of resolving human differences peaceably, finding points of compromise, working toward agreement – the definition of politics – and majority rule dissolved?

What if forces within or outside society pushed factionalism, seeking to divide the population along countless political and social axes of differentness, aiming to divide, disrupt and then dominate?

What if the underlying principle that permits a democratic society to function, the firm conviction that we cannot all get our way, enjoy the same God-given individual sovereignty, so must respect each other’s rights – collapses?

In short, what if the impulses of a self-governing people, acknowledging the wisdom and sanctity of the Constitution, were replaced by self-interest, self-destructive behavior, incitement, and a culture of angry entitlement, victimhood, perpetual grievance, and destructive faction?

With extraordinary foresight, born of hard times, their close reading of history, and awareness of human nature, our Founders knew this drift was – or could become – a danger to the republic.

Sadly, both major political parties, and peripheral ones, are becoming hotbeds of factionalism, creating spinoffs of angry, finger-pointing demagoguery. They are suffering divisions within divisions, based on willful retreat from any conversation about shared norms, values, history, or the need for political agreement in an imperfect world.

Looking around, the political ocean is less and less two hemispheres of competing ideas about how best to improve our Constitutional republic, or even continents, but a collection of pulverized islands of political belligerence, factions more interested in ideology, score-settling, and power-grabbing, than agreement.

Exactly what the Founders feared, an elevation of personal, cultish, factional interests over the nation, an abandonment of the hard work of learning from the past, protecting the future, and agreeing – is occurring. We are accelerating into the snake pit our Founders foresaw as possible.

So, what is the diagnosis, remedy, and how do we end this slide into self-destructive factionalism?

Diagnosis: Unaccountable, irresponsible, indefensibly self-interested leaders are promoting these factions – in and out of government, sowing and encouraging discord, creating a factionalized society which, by the time we wake up will be so torn that stitching ourselves back together will be hard.

Put differently, self-serving politicians and those who see self-interest in supporting them are whipping people into a froth, betraying the country, history, ideals, and principles that got us here.

Remedy: The answer is simple yet hard to implement. Calm, rational, principled, well-read, and fact based leaders – in every community – need to step up, serve, educate, and gradually recultivate, then reseed respect for the Constitution, our founding principles, form of government, and each other.

How? Again the answer is not brilliance but caring. We need to stop thinking we can destroy, ridicule, lie, shame, blame, punish, spit, curse, cancel, and isolate each other into a nation premised on mutual respect and respect for principles that – yes, for sure – made this nation great.

In sum, the dangerous rise of factionalism can only be defeated by smart, level heads, those who care and dare to understand and communicate with their fellow citizens a tenet: Belief in the magnificence of this nation and what got us here must be modeled, factionalism resisted, in all its ugly forms. That’s it.  

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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4 months ago

It is long past the time the “Silent Majority” stood up and spoke up! We are the MAJORITY and could straighten out this country IF only we stopped “suffering in silence” and spoke up for ourselves and our nation.
Start locally and DEMAND free and fair elections. Replace any politician who goes along with the Marxist ideology and/or allows actions or laws that violate our Constitution. If you do not know your Constitution, find a copy and study it. You cannot protect your rights if you don’t know what they are.
RACISM is NOT systemic! The USA was NOT founded on slavery! The USA has NEVER been about “Empire Building”; that was Queen Victoria! The federal Department of Education was not only unconstitutional, it was one of the biggest mistakes Congress ever made. Education in the USA has been destroyed by the federal take over of our schools and the slow introduction of Marxist ideology into the curriculum. Government, Economics, Civics, American History were, at one time, required courses for a high school diploma. Not anymore. Our children have been purposefully “dumbed down” to serve the state. The U. S. Constitution left education to We the People and to the states. Take back what is yours!

4 months ago

Nice article and very true, RBC. Now, if only the citizens in those areas of the country that have “idiotic” leaders can vote/replace them, the country will continue in its downhill slide into oblivion. With the majority of both coasts being liberal and spreading inward, especially from the west, the conservatives need to establish a frontline and go on the offensive to regain lost areas before it is too late. This can be done and needs to start now while recovery is still possible.

anna hubert
anna hubert
4 months ago

We are deliberately fragmented and tribalized to the breaking point Unity gave us prosperity and made America strong and great If we are to survive we must return to it Become out of many one again

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
4 months ago

You got right to the point for a remedy for this factionalism situation — with what you wrote for a Remedy:”The answer is simple yet hard to implement,calm,rational ,principled, well -read and fact based leaders, – in every community – need to step up , serve, educate, and gradually recultivate, then reseed respect for the Constitution, our founding principles, form of government ,and each other.” That is the correct course — as plotted on the chart — so there is plenty in the way of things that will make course corrections needed , but that is where the American spirit will help, the love of the ideals that are at the foundation of what has held the Nation together since 1776 , through some mighty difficult situations. I have mentioned the 1941 song entitled ” We Did Before — and we can do it again.” in a few other comments during the past few months, it just seems to be appropriate for situations that require encouragement , for calling on that strength of spirit, the stuff of good character, the sense of purpose needed for these endeavors where the good of the Country is in the balance. Having an appreciation for the ideals of Faith, Family and Freedom and the connection with those ideals and what the United States of America stands for, that is the right spirit to have. Good article, Robert , Well Done !

4 months ago

The two sides in this dispute pursue divergent goals. The dems demand more and more socialism and will not stop of their own accord. Its hard to envision a way to compromise with communists. We’re at a point frighteningly similar to the 1850s. Slave states demanded slavery be expanded into newly formed states. They were intransigent. Ive heard reckless talk of secession and civil war which i deem absurd yet im not aware of any way to meet the dems in the middle without losing the bill of rights and the freedoms it enshrines. Conservatives wish to be left alone and dems demand control over everyone. How do you compromise with that?

4 months ago

This county is badly split and chances of healing the divisions are almost none.
I believe there will be shooting civil war not to long after the 24 election.

joe mchugh
joe mchugh
4 months ago

Robert B. Charles denounces factionalism as though it was something to overcome without delving into the cause of that factionalism. “Can’t we all just get along?”
ALL of our present political strife revolves around two theories of organization for our society, namely socialism, and conservatism based on the Constitution of the United States. I can’t think of one societal issue that does not involve these mutually antagonistic concepts.
The reason for our political discord is not amendable. The socialists, (liberals and progressives) appear to be supportive of only one clause in the Constituion, i.e. the government’s prerogative to levy taxes. The Democrat Party has become a front for Marxism.
How in the world would a conservative be expected to care and dare to understand the Marxist agenda of the Democrats? I’m almost sure that the liberals would have us concede that the Law of the Land be scrapped, and then require us to submit to a new constitution modeled after the one of the former U.S.S.R. And yes, that government had a constituion, but it differed somewhat from the American one. The American Constitution protects the people from the excesses of a government that might become abusive to the rights of the people. The constitution of the U.S.S.R. was simply written to protected the Government from the people.
I wish that I could see a way to eliminate our current factionalism short of engaging in a civil war. Alas, the Democrat Party has corrupted the civil act of voting into being a joke. The liberals are inadvertently pushing us into a general upheaval that no sane person wants to see. The clouds on our nation’s horizon are slowly approaching. When this mortal storm breaks over all of our heads no one will have the luxury of sitting on the fence. It’s sad but true, freedom is never free.

4 months ago

If only we could force our politicians to be truthful and honest. How do we do this? Ministry of Truth won’t cut it.

4 months ago

Freedom is not controversial. Promote freedom.

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