Uncommon Knowledge
The Promise of Party in a Polarized Age

The Promise of Party in a Polarized Age

December 2, 2016

Professor Russell Muirhead argues that to do anything in politics you need a party but just because a party currently rules does not mean it will be successful and continue to rule. He posits that parties need to remember and nurture achievements that they were responsible for creating in the past, so the party can protect and extend those achievements into the future and thus continue to rule. The ultimate goal in elections is to create a constitutional majority and keep that majority for more than one election cycle. Unfortunately, each party has pursued an agenda that is more extreme than what the people want, so the people vote in the opposite party. The Constitution makes no provision for political parties, but Muirhead argues that parties connect average citizens with their elected officials. People feel like someone cares and is fighting for them in their state government and in DC. He further examines the development of political parties from the founding of this country through the era of bipartisanship in the twentieth century. He believes that polarization of American politics today is not necessarily negative if parties work to advance the good of society. Muirhead defends the Electoral College, stating that it answers the fundamental question of who should rule, which is the constitutional majority. The Electoral College is a constitutional majority because it represents an enduring and geographically dispersed population that is larger in space and more enduring in time and thus a more thoughtful, right, and just majority. He argues that the game being played today is Trump versus Madison and that we don’t know which will win. Madison represents the best in us; Trump represents authenticity. The voters hope that President Trump will translate their hopes and grievances into good government. Peter Robinson and Russell Muirhead end the interview by briefly discussing the global project that depends on the success of the United States, with Muirhead arguing that there is no global project without the United States. The fight for justice requires people/citizens who are tough, resilient, and ready to fight the world’s fight for good; that type of character is what we need to model at colleges and universities today.

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