Since the inception of the U. S. government there have been many different ideas on how to handle a variety of events, laws, and decisions that affect any country. To make these decisions the people of the United States and their elected officials have had two main opinions on the role that government should play in every day affairs. The two prevalent thoughts have been either to give more power to the federal government to make decisions for the people or to leave the majority of power in the hands of the people to make decisions for themselves.
This idea of a split between state and federal power was a new political concept called popular sovereignty, which was a political concept put in place in the frameworks of early American government. These two thought processes split the founders of the U. S. constitution who had already divided into two main camps with different visions for the new nation. Alexander Hamilton formed the first political party in the United States in 1789 whose main goals were to establish a strong central government, called the Federalist Party.
Composed of many politicians who had similar views to Hamilton, the Federalist Party able to organize themselves to more effectively put their visions for the country to the test. Organizing a group that would assist each other in achieving similar goals was a smart idea, but this party formation led to the formation of the Anti-Federalists, a counter party that had different ideas on how the government should be run. After over two hundred years of an effective government being in place, there are still very similar topics being argued over and these arguments are still being fought among two main political parties.
The cultural trend of views on governments role in society is still one of the most widely covered issues today and that is seen in the polarization of political parties. After being warned of the repercussions that political parties pose on the efficiency of the U. S. government both in the Federalist 10 papers and George Washington’s farewell address, the divisive nature of political parties has continued to split the people of the United States.
The formation of the first two political parties in the United States was similar to the modern American political party system in their split views on Federalism’s role in government, but different in how polarized the two belief systems today. Even though there has been a lot of progress in the fulfillment of government roles in society there still is a lot of back and forth between politicians today who disagree on whether the states or the Federal government should be in control of certain laws. For example, recently there has been a massive change in public education which has previously been an issue controlled by each state.
Previously states would decide how to fund the schools, the goals of each grade, and the learning standards that every school would try to meet by taking standardized tests to evaluate faculty performance. Deciding that education should be more universal throughout America, Common Core State Standards begun to be implemented around 2010 and this was one national standard that all states are expected to meet. The use of Federal power in public education was a controversial decision for many in politics.
The fear of moves to increase the scope of “power” in the federal government felt by Republicans today is reflected on a quote regarding Common Core education by Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, he states, “We won’t let the federal government take over Louisiana’s education standards” (Layton). Jindal’s quote is very reflective of how many Republicans today view having too strong of a central government, the United States is such a diverse and massive country that many believe the best interests of each state should be left up to themselves.
This argument is countered by the view that having 50 different systems could lead to inequality and a lack of universal structure for the government. This type of disagreement on use of Federal power in every day policy is not a modern dilemma and has been tirelessly argued since the Constitution was written. Although this argument started much before the formation of official parties, the Federalists and Anti-Federalists were among the first to pick sides on the power of states vs. the power of a centralized government.
Anti-Federalists were in favor of giving more power to the state government in fear of a large “monarchy like” federal government and opposed the many measures that Federalists took to strengthen the Federal government. Today the split in political ideologies is just as evident, the Republican Party, whose official party stance is to favor state rights in and the Democratic party, who favors more Federalized powers. This split is seen clearly through the division caused by a Federalized common core standard and is evident again in the views of each party in the stances they took on this issue.
Many republicans in power today fear a centralized power as did the anti-federalists because they believe too strong of a Federal government would lead to a change in the function of the American government. Even though American politics have had over two hundred years to agree over the role Federalism should play, there are still many who disagree on how large of a role it should take and that is still one of the deciding factors when picking party lines. One large problem with having two main political parties controlling the political system of a country is that the lack of variety brings two groups to a head on every issue they disagree.
Decades of disagreements, political tension, and a history of opposition have come to ahead in recent years to have one of the least cooperative federal governments in American history. Currently in American politics there is a lack of political overlap between the two parties and that has led to a lack of cooperation by two ideologically opposite parties. Even though the first two political parties were very opposed in their political beliefs, they managed to set their differences aside and move forward with a variety of compromises for the benefit of the country.
Those who favored a strong central government had their policies implemented in the foundational outlines of the constitution while those who believed in more individual and state rights had their voice heard in the bill of rights. Another example of cooperation between party lines by the Federalists and Anti-Federalists occurred in the Great Compromise of 1787. This compromise was led by small state leaders who wanted equal representation in Congress, but was opposed by many of Federalists such as Alexander Hamilton.
A compromise that both parties agreed to was a bicameral legislation, which had two houses of Congress. One that protected the sovereignty of small states with equal representatives called the Senate and the other called the House of Representatives, helped protect the interests of states of larger populations with more political voices for their states. Both parties cooperation helped find a political outline that America has followed for over two hundred years. That type of cooperation, which occurred with just as many disagreements between politicians, is something that is uncommon today.
Unlike politics in America during the 1700s, the two current rivaling political parties today have become so polarized that both struggle to implement the ideas of each party. There is a huge divide in party politics was best displayed during the U. S. government shutdown in 2013 when the Democratic controlled Senate proposed a resolution for the U. S. budget to be extended, but was rejected by the Republican controlled House of Representatives due to disagreements on key issues (Crocker).
This rejection and failure to come up with a quick resolution lead eighty thousand employees to not be able to work during the days of the shutdown, slowed the U. S. economy significantly, and shut down major U. S. monuments. After all of these repercussions and an increased outcry from the public who were the victims of these disagreements, Congress then voted to extend the debt ceiling for a thirteenth time (Crocker). Democratic President Barack Obama said this about the government shutdown,” This is only going to happen when
Republicans realize they don’t get to hold the entire economy hostage over ideological demands” (Washington Post Transcript). Again another divisive quote that displays the lack of cooperation and animosity that the two parties had for each other who both blamed each other for the shutdown itself. Animosity and disagreements over political ideologies is a typical result of most political forms of government and has occurred throughout American political history.
Unfortunately, this is one of the few times that fundamental disagreements in policy beliefs has led to the temporary collapse of the U. S. government at the expense of the people. American politics today and in the early stages of U. S. independence in the late 1700s are still similar in their arguments over federalism’s role in society, but has changed in politicians’ ability to cooperate through fundamental disagreements for the common good due to the polarization of politics today. Mark Twain once stated,” a favorite theory of mine—to wit, that no occurrence is sole and solitary, but is merely a repetition of a thing which has happened before, and perhaps often.
This quote represents the belief that history repeats itself in different ways and that every event is a different occurrence of an event that has already happened. If one were to look at the course of American political history, they could see clear similarities between events that happened over 200 years later. Although there are slight differences many politicians today struggle to overcome the same difficulties that challenged the framers of the U. S. constitution over 200 years ago.