Washington, Adams and Our Corrupt Duopoly | Opinion

Most everyone I know is having some level of conversation these days about what's referred to as the two-party duopoly. The fastest growing political demographic is "independent," millions of Americans clear that neither major political party serves the people these days so much as they serve themselves.

Political parties are not mentioned in our Constitution. Both our first and second presidents, George Washington and John Adams, warned us against them.

In his Farewell Address, Washington said, "The spirit of party ... serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection."

Oh, really?

Adams said, "There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil ..."

Those two men, both long dead, gave clearer insight into our current circumstances than do most of our leaders today.

We must start to have a more meaningful discussion about the corruption of our political system—particularly the role of corporate money in feeding that corruption, and the part it plays in the functioning of both our political parties. In that sense, the two parties are not so much a duopoly as a monopoly of corporatist influence. At this point, corporatist influence is a highway to death.

I'm speaking neither hyperbolically nor symbolically. Our energy policies threaten life on Earth, so devastating are they to the well-being of the planet. Our military policies threaten life on Earth, so irresponsibly do they foster continual war in an increasingly nuclear armed world. One party almost excitedly, even sadistically hastens the collapse of our democracy, while the other does too little to stop it. Continuing to put short term profit before the well-being of our people and planet is a political death march for both democracy and possibly for humanity itself.

The sun rises behind the U.S. Capitol
The sun rises behind the U.S. Capitol building. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

When it comes to their adherence to the dictates of the military industrial complex, the parties are basically in lockstep. When it comes to their adherence to dictates of health insurance companies and Big Pharma, plus Big Oil and more, the Republicans represent a total nosedive of our civilization while Democrats represent a managed decline. One party seems to think we can mitigate the damage their policies are causing, at least for the people it serves most. The other party seems to think we can play it both ways, that we have enough time for incremental change. But we do not.

In truth, both parties act like addicts, binging on behavior that many closest to them recognize as detrimental to their survival—and to ours! Tragedy looms if we do not intervene.

The question, of course, is how best to do that. Many people are choosing to work within the two parties, struggling in both cases to get their party's soul back. Others are looking to third party options, which is a tradition that has served America well in the past. Abolition emerged from the Abolitionist Party, women's suffrage emerged from the Women's Party and Social Security emerged from the Socialist Party. Part of the problem we have today is that we're looking to the major parties to generate answers, when in both cases their business model depends on generating the problems. As wonderful as it is to see the Bernie Sanders' of the world fighting like hell to get the Democrats to do the right thing, it's also heartbreaking. Just know we're banging our heads against the wall right there with you, Bernie.

Like an alcoholic family system, we continue to behave insanely. The kids continue to register the insanity but don't really have an outlet through which to express their low level trauma, and everyone continues to act as though things are normal when they most decidedly are not.

Our defense budget is now $780 billion, continuing to fund a forever war machine that has produced spectacular failures—morally, politically and militarily—in Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Build Back Better human infrastructure bill—which is a 10-year plan and so amounts to $350 billion a year—is not considered "economically viable" by even one Republican, or by coal money recipient Senator Joe Manchin or Big Pharma money recipient Senator Kyrsten Sinema. In other words, the kids are starving but there's apparently enough money for the alcoholic mom or dad to buy a Porsche. As long as the Democratic leadership remains committed to saving the filibuster—and won't do the work of pushing through changes on such things as voting rights, labor rights, raising the minimum wage, universal health care, canceling the college loan debt and police reform—then the most Democrats will be able to run on in 2022 is "We tried." And that is getting so tired.

The problem is not with the American people, of that I am absolutely sure. On issue after issue, we're not nearly as divided as we're portrayed in the media. The majority of Americans actually weigh in in support of all the issues mentioned above, their will hampered by two political parties tied more to the will of their corporate donors than to the will of their constituents.

None of this is even hidden anymore, the most corrupt politicians among us responding not so much with, "I didn't do it!" as with, "Yeah, so what of it?" And people are rightfully sickened to see it. The kids in that alcoholic family are not happy, and they haven't been happy for a while. They've started to figure things out and they've become more sophisticated, starting to look at both Mommy and Daddy and thinking, "Both of you are nuts." The question is, are they mature enough now to stage an intervention? Or to leave the house?

One way or the other, our corrupt status quo is going to be disrupted; there's more agitation brewing out there than many of our elite now seem to think. Other than Washington and Adams, the most prescient comment for the times in which we live comes from the late great Bette Davis in All About Eve: "Listen up, everybody. Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

Marianne Williamson is a Newsweek columnist, best-selling author, political activist and spiritual thought leader. She is founder of Project Angel Food and co-founder of the Peace Alliance, and was the first candidate in the 2020 presidential primary to make reparations a pillar of her campaign. She is the author of 13 books, among them Healing the Soul of America and A Politics of Love.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.