Washington (George) got it right

Updated 2:55 PM EDT, Wed October 16, 2013

Story highlights

Robert Alexander: Shenanigans in Congress show wisdom of George Washington

Washington argued that political parties would seek to perpetuate themselves at all costs

Tea party may share concern about debt, but its position endangers U.S. credit, he says

Alexander: Most Americans are in the middle, not sympathetic to ideologues of the two parties

Editor’s Note: Robert Alexander is a professor of political science at Ohio Northern University. His most recent book is “Presidential Electors and the Electoral College.”

CNN —  

The first President of the United States got it right. In his farewell address, George Washington warned of the “continual mischiefs of the spirit of party” making it the “interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.” In other words, he cautioned against the dangers of political parties.

Washington was keenly aware of the destructive nature of political parties and was concerned they would “enfeeble public administration.” With myriad affected agencies and thousands of furloughed federal workers, this is exactly where the country finds itself today.

Washington is not typically held in the same intellectual esteem that some of his counterparts are – Madison, Hamilton and Jefferson come to mind. However, Washington’s farewell address is among the most prescient documents ever penned by a President. In it, he cautioned against the vengeful practices of political parties. To him, parties put their own interests above those of the country.