In Federalist #10, The Union as a Safeguard against Domestic Faction and Insurrection, James Madison predicted the development of future hostilities between competing factions existing in the new United States of America. His conclusion was NOT that the causes that created the factions could be eliminated, but that the effects resulting from these factions could be controlled.
Such a situation seems to be common these days – when friends and former friends happen to be of different political persuasions and find themselves in competing factions. The result of the divide is that one or the other (or both) finds it impossible to communicate with the other.
We can all agree that the following two events were tragic. The difference is how each was perceived by the different factions in our political system – Republicans and Democrats.
Back in 2012, members of the Islamic militant group, Ansar al-Sharia, staged a coordinated attack against two United States government facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
- Four Americans were killed.
- Republicans (one of two factions) were incensed.
- In 2014, House Speaker John Boehner, with approval of the House of Representatives (vote 232-186) established a select committee to investigate this incident. The chairman of the committee was Representative Trey Gowdy from South Carolina.
- The committee closed on December 12, 2016, after spending over $3.2 Million and releasing their main report on June 28, 2016.
- The entire Benghazi affair was a major political issue leading up to the 2016 election – with the principal aim of finding blame – admittedly directed at presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
- The final report of the committee did not implicate Secretary Clinton as a matter of fault, but, among other things, focused on her use of a private server for emails.
On January 6, 2021, a mob attacked the US Capitol building and invaded the premises.
- The attack and subsequent rioting were not the result of foreign enemies – these people were not foreign terrorists or members of any foreign Islamic group-. They were clearly Trump supporters and attacked what might be considered as the most revered place in the United States.
- From reports thus far, it appears that significant pre-planning went into this attack on the capitol – perhaps with help from “the inside.” That is still an open question.
- This mob was incited to riot by the rhetoric of Donald J. Trump, family members, and close associates including a Member of Congress.
- Six Americans were killed.
- A significant number of Republicans (7 in the Senate and 138 in the House) supported the challenge to overturn the election.
- Articles of impeachment of President Trump citing “incitement of insurrection” were drawn up by Congress. Congress, led by 218 Democrats and 5 Republicans, voted 223-205 to adopt the article – making Trump the only president in US History to have been impeached twice.
- The Senate trial will most likely take place after the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden.
In Federalist #10, Madison concluded that CONTROL of competing factions was built into the new republic’s large size – that the projected large size of the union would effectively deal with the problem . . . in his words, “the sheer size of the United States and its variety of interests could be made a guarantee of stability and justice under the new constitution.”
Madison also argued that harmful effects of factionalism would be prevented by the quality of elected representatives working toward the public good – but warned against “sinister designs securing the requisite votes to gain power, and then betraying the interests of the people.” He pointed out that the “lack of limits on the number of terms that may be served by representatives in any office, an official’s desire for election and reelection would lead them to act sycophantically toward the majority faction” – contrary to the true interests of the republic.
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The most important issue in this country critical to the survival of our Democratic Republic is how we can effectively CONTROL passions and actions of the two competing factions – Republicans and Democrats.
Certainly, as citizens and fellow Americans, we must be diligent on the QUALITY of individuals elected as representatives – that they lack sinister designs to secure the requisite votes to gain power – then betray the interests of the people.
Perhaps, as Madison suggested, it is time to limit the number of terms that members of the House and Senate can serve. We must find the place where the delicate balance between two needs exists:
- Representatives must be limited to a number of terms to ensure fresh eyes and fresh faces – that “career politicians” are eliminated pursuant to Madison’s argument;
- Representative must be permitted to serve more than one term to ensure that there is retained experience in the Congressional branch of the government.
Let us hope that we, as a people with common goals of peace and happiness in our country, will succeed in finding such a solution.