People are (Political) Party Animals

rainbow-kaleidoscope-2.jpgPolitical parties are in constant flux because people are political-economic beasts, seemingly genetically encoded to seek advantageous allies in their “pursuit of happiness.”  The combinations are endless. Our powers of social intuition seem highly evolved toward political-economic ends. Our brains may have evolved to handle the constantly changing possibilities of social cooperation.

The equilibrium of political-economics is momentary, like that of prices within economics.  Our economic tendencies toward cycles of boom and bust, are mirrored by our political tendencies, with often more deeply disastrous results in the political realm since destructive force is a factor in political economics.

“For Republicans, Fears of a Lasting Split as Class Divisions Erupt” was the headline on a front-page story in the New York Times, January 10.  The report was based on the expressed feelings of “more than 50 Republican leaders, activists, donors and voters from both elite circles and grass roots.”  

Reports like this one give us another twist of the Kaleidoscope - producing a colorful pattern within an infinite range of possibilities.  It is hard to gage the significance of the feelings reported.  Looking back at the Republican Party from Eisenhower to the present day (imagine how many “likes” Ike might have earned in social media), the Party’s history is one of fierce battles and schisms over many of the same beliefs and constituencies that the report cites.

Factions will continue to exist within the Republican Party and in opposition to it.  Innovative competitors could replace either parties or both.  Our founding fathers did not anticipate permanent, institutionalized parties and certainly not the quasi-governmental Parties created by Progressive era reforms.  They were afraid of peoples’ factional tendencies, particularly along class lines, and sought to weaken the potential harm factions could cause with various balances of power.  But the practical visionaries that forged our system understood human nature enough to expect that alliances of interest would be an ever-present dynamic in political affairs.  Parties are seldom stable for long despite our natural tendency to view them as fixed phenomenon.


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