Our Nation of Factions

| June 15, 2020

This Independence Day marks the nation’s 244th birthday. On holidays and anniversaries commemorating events or dates of historical significance, it is typical for their celebrants to reflect on all that that history has entailed. On May 8th of this year, the world remembered the sacrifices made by countless millions to ensure the Allied Powers’ victory in Europe 75 years ago. Similarly, as the United States ages another year closer to the 250-year milestone, consider the lasting longevity of freedom in this nation and the structures set in place to help ensure that end.

Obviously, the world has changed drastically since 1776. The past decade will be looked upon as the beginning of the social media age – an age where geographic distance was rendered irrelevant when people across the globe connected with each other from their couches. This 21st-century development that has transformed so much of the way we live our lives and consume news. Through the coronavirus crisis, it has kept us connected when we could not be together and helped inform us during an emergency characterized by the lack of information we had on the virus’s nature. But paired with these positives come some negatives.

There is a mob-like mentality to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, especially within their respective political spheres. These platforms reward and incentivize political outrage and Orwellian groupthink when users are incentivized by likes, shares, and retweets from other users-often total strangers to the author of a given post. Outrage breeds more outrage. Users follow those who they agree with and block those they do not.

Ochlocratic rule – the rule of the mob — was among the greatest fears the constitutional framers had. Social media platforms have the potential to create virtual mobs, demanding immediate action on questions that require careful consideration.

We should be thankful to live in a republic not an ochlocracy where the raw power of a majority dashes the hopes of the minority. The division of powers between a bicameral legislature, an independent judiciary, and a limited executive branch serve to bring balance to our government. This Madisonian model results in a slow-moving governmental system, especially at the federal level that is often frustratingly unproductive, but makes major changes only when derived from broad consensus.

The United States is a diverse nation in that we have a plethora of ideas and interests represented within our borders. The framers had high regard for a nation of factions. James Madison writes in Federalist 51 that “In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature…Whilst all authority in [government] will be derived from and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority.”

The diversity of our ideas is our strength. The vast amount of interests represented in our factions actually ensures that the freedom originally incorporated is well protected.

This does not mean that today’s Americans are stuck in their inherited system, never to make any changes of their own.  Change is possible, but change in difficult. This should both comfort those who are now contented, and inspire those who seek change – for change requires energy and focus.  It requires those who seek change to become what a mob by definition is not – practical in its means, and defined in its goals.

“Is it supposed to be hard to make change? Of course, it is” said Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. “Do we want social consensus and the best ideas? Of course, we do. It is a raucous republic and a battle of ideas is what our founders had in mind.”

Category: Lifestyle

About the Author ()

Email | Website | Nathan Gorman is a third year senior political science major and business administration minor at Towson University. He is an active member of his church, pollyannaish Baltimore Orioles fan, and avid reader.