David Stokes

Geraldine Ferraro’s impolitic commentary regarding Barack Obama has been widely covered and discussed.  But in the rush to examine the really juicy part of her monologue, you know – the stuff about race – something else the 72 year old former congresswoman said is being lost.  

Toward the end of her recent, now infamous, interview, one that has apparently cost her that highly coveted role of “Honorary New York Leadership Council Chair”, the woman who broke political ice twenty-four years ago as the Democratic nominee for Vice President, talked about the big bad wolf of PARTISANSHIP. 

I’m referring to the part of Ms. Ferraro’s remarks where she challenged the notion that Mr. Obama is some kind of mythical superhero, who is going to change the rarified air inside the Capital Beltway.  Here’s what she said:

“I was reading an article that said young Republicans are out there campaigning for Obama because they believe he’s going to be able to put an end to partisanship…Anyone that has worked in the Congress knows that for over 200 years this country has had partisanship – that’s the way our country is.”

Her point is being largely overshadowed by the other stuff she said. But it’s infinitely more important because it highlights the real elephant in the room affiliated with the Obama campaign; one that doesn’t have anything to do with the color of his skin, or even the content of his character. It has to do with the extremely unrealistic hopes some people are placing on him and his candidacy.  Sadly, many are setting themselves up for a painful trip to disillusion land, because the hope is really nothing more than hype. Political business as usual is not going to change in America, no matter who is elected. 

Partisanship is here to stay.

Is partisanship a bad thing?  Would we really be better off if every American agreed with every other American about everything? Certainly, most of us grow weary of the politics of destruction and personal attack. But if there is a hunger in this country for some political messiah to come and rescue us from partisanship, then I suggest the nation get in touch with its heritage and see how beneficial constructive, and sometimes even acrimonious, debate has been for our Republic. 

When our nation was young and struggling to find its way, charting new ground, and organizing a system of government unprecedented in human history, it wasn’t without a large measure of partisanship. 

And we should all be thankful for that.

Consider the tale of two Georges.  They were friends and neighbors.  Both were founders of our country.  Both loved the young nation very much.  But they disagreed, and this dispute became so pronounced that their friendship ended.

George Washington and George Mason agreed about a lot. They were on the same page in 1776 when we were declaring our independence from the British crown.  They were comrades and patriots during the Revolutionary War. 

But after the war, and as great minds began to work in that wonderful constitutional laboratory in Philadelphia, the two Georges found themselves on opposite sides of a very important philosophical boulevard.  You see, George Mason refused to sign the new Constitution, and became an outspoken opponent during the ratification process. 

Mason was a partisan. And the nation owes him a debt of gratitude. 

While Publius and company were publishing the Federalist Papers in newspapers of the day, others (some hiding behind pseudonyms) circulated a series of loosely-organized essays and speeches known to us as the Anti-Federalist Papers. This was long before “group-think” made its way into the vernacular. The list of men contributing to this exercise in partisanship included Mr. Mason, Patrick Henry, and George Clinton.  These names are probably not as well known to Americans today as Hamilton, Madison, or Jay, but they certainly acted out of patriotism and made a real difference for individual rights.

At issue was the fact that the Constitution sent to the states for ratification in 1787 did not include a declaration of individual rights. George Mason had a passion for this issue having created the original drafts for the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776, and he pushed for a similar statement in the new Constitution; to no avail.

He left the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia for his home in Fairfax, Virginia, and became a PARTISAN, which is basically defined as: “a fervent, sometimes militant supporter or proponent of a party, cause, faction, person, or idea.” He agitated, criticized, and worked tirelessly AGAINST the new Constitution’s ratification.

The Constitution was ratified, and Mason lost that battle, but he continued his fierce partisanship, until the U.S. Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791.  This very good thing happened BECAUSE of partisanship.  And though George Mason and George Washington would see their friendship suffer, that sometimes intensely personal dispute gave birth to the Bill of Rights, based largely on Mason’s work on the Virginia Declaration of Rights years before. 

The late former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn, used to suggest that if two people agreed on everything you could be sure that only one was doing the thinking. 

Geraldine Ferraro was right - at least about the partisanship thing – it’s naïve to think that any man, or woman, can end partisanship in America.  And, in fact, why would anyone with a brain want that?

To twist the Rodney King-ism a bit I ask: “Can’t we all just NOT get along?”  It’s actually a very good thing that we have partisanship in America.  The real danger to our way of life does not come from political partisanship, but from those who desire a society where an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-encompassing state decides what is best for the rest of us.

Partisans of the nation, Divide! We have nothing to lose but our liberty.  

David Stokes

David R. Stokes is a pastor, broadcaster & best-selling author. His novel, “CAMELOT’S COUSIN” has been acquired in Hollywood and will become a major motion picture starring BLAIR UNDERWOOD. David’s website is www.davidrstokes.com.