For quite some time our punditry, our "liberal" media, and our talking heads have been professing to us that the level of partisanship that we are seeing now is like nothing we have ever seen before. They are, of course, absolutely wrong on this. That is, from a certain perspective, they are wrong. If you want to parce the the words then yes in our lifetimes this era of partisanship is like nothing we have ever seen. Comparatively, though, it is not the worst we have seen in our history. It's not even the worst that we have seen in the the past hundred years.
The reason that it seems to be at its highest levels is because of the advent of the 24/7 news cycle and punditry shows being on just about every cable news channel. It's easy to point fingers at whose to blame for our current level of partisanship, but that has been done, both on this blog and others, on this website and others.
What I would like to do though is just take you through a bit of history to show that the level we are seeing is not the worst and to show that as bad as it may seem right, this too shall pass.
Let us start right from the beginning. Before the country was even formed we had the partisan fight between the loyalists (to Britain) and the separatists. As the Constitution was being formed we got the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. These groups would stay pretty much the same, the Anti-Federalists became known as the Democrat-Republicans, but were mostly known as the Republicans in the early part of the republic.
Until 1800, the Federalists enjoyed the majority of Congress and the Presidency and were able to craft the federal government in the image they wanted to see it. They built an alliance with Great Britain and formed the first national bank. With the election Thomas Jefferson to the presidency in 1801 the Republicans finally had the power they wanted. What they wanted more than anything was to severe all ties to Britain. By the time the War 0f 1812 came around the Federalists were in steep decline. They had dwindled in the Congress in numbers (controlling 25% of the Senate and 18% of the House). They were absolutely opposed to the War of 1812, though some members did initially vote for the war, but by the time the war actually began to take shape they formed a bloc against the war with some Republicans and blocked many bills that Congress was trying to pass through to support the war.
Interestingly enough, the United States actually lost the War of 1812 on the battlefield. Of the three years that the war was fought America only had one successful year on land (1813) and one on sea (1812). In the middle of the war, Napoleon had been taken out of power and Britain was able to focus all of its attention on the United States. The United States was successful in the treaty negotiations and this is why the War of 1812 is seen as a win for the United States.
Another point that needs to be made is that before the war, the Federalists were strong in the notion that the only way the United States was going to get Britain out of the area was by getting concessions from them. The Republicans pushed for the war. In the end, however, the Federalists were proven correct as the United States won the war by talking rather than fighting.
Before they could put emphasis on that fact, the Republicans touted how they had been right all along. By 1816, the Federalists were a weak party and by 1821 the party no longer existed.
Something that needs to be stated is that during the war the partisanship was so deep between the parties that it has lead some historians to point out that the partisanship seen during the Civil Rights era and the Vietnam War could not even hold a flame to the 1810s. There is something to be said for that.
By 1824 the political party structure had completely collapsed. The Democratic Party formed out of the remnants of the old Democrat-Republican Party.
By the time of the Civil War era, the two major parties were the Democratic Party and the Whig Party. The Whig Party, however, was not a strong political party and soon folded and the Republican Party formed.
The point in looking at the 1810s is to show that there have been partisan eras throughout this country's history. This one is not truly all that bad.
The partisanship though has gotten so deep right now, though, that a new minor party has formed. The TEA Party was formed to voice opposition to the tax policies of the Obama Administration (since, however, taxes have actually gone down under Obama it leaves most political scientists scratching their heads). It is supposed to be a non-partisanship organization. Considering that every TEA candidate that is running for office right now is running as a Republican, for the moment it is easy to fend off that argument.
The effects of the TEA Party have yet to be seen. The midterm election in less than two weeks will go a long way in determining the long lasting effects of the TEA Party. If the Republicans take over both houses of Congress the members of the TEA Party will be a force to be reckoned with for the next few election cycles.
If, however, the Democrats maintain control of Congress it is very likely that by the 2012 election the TEA Party will see the same fate as the Reform Party of the 1990s. Some of the voices will still be there but on the whole the party will have been swallowed up by the Republican Party.
As for the partisan bickering we are seeing today, as history has shown us, this too shall pass.
I encourage everyone that is registered to vote to get out and vote over the next couple of weeks, if your state has early voting, and to be sure and vote on the election day. I do not care who you vote for, just make sure that you are making your voice heard loud and clear by voting for the candidates that you believe will represent you best in their elected office.