Are Political Parties "The Greatest Political Evil?"
Before John Adams ever became president he wrote, “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 under our Constitution.”
Despite his raised alarm, here we stand in the 21st Century, the republic firmly entrenched into two great parties, the Rs and the Ds, in opposition to each other and, some may argue, creating “the greatest political evil.”
Every two years we get to choose local governmental leaders and decide local issues on a nonpartisan basis, without parties, without candidate labels of R and D, without the antipathy, abusive name-calling and character assassination that has become ubiquitous across the U.S. political spectrum. Here, we vote for mayors, city and town council members, school board members and others based on who they are, what they believe, and their prospects of moving our community forward, maintaining, and ideally advancing, our quality of life.
Although it is, arguably, a blessing to have political parties sit out these elections, it creates a burden on the citizen voter: How to evaluate candidates without the “R” and “D” labels?
It is why, three years ago, some local citizens created the Responsible Cities Political Action Committee whose goal is to educate voters about the candidates and encourage voting in these vital local elections.
Rather than moving left or right politically, the priority of Responsible Cities PAC is moving forward—responsibly. We support candidates who will unite people, work well with the rich diversity and neighborhoods of Bloomington-Normal, advocate for economic growth, and lead social change.
Those of us in Responsible Cities recognize, regrettably, that voter turnout in these important elections is typically embarrassingly weak even as we select the leaders for the government that is closest to us and has the greatest impact on our daily lives and our pocketbooks.
By design, Responsible Cities avoids involvement in any election where candidates are required to declare a party affiliation. The Responsible Cities PAC engages only in nonpartisan local elections.
This year, we invited all candidates running for Bloomington City Council, Normal Town Council, the Unit Five, District 87 and Heartland Community College school boards, and the Normal Library Board to complete a survey and sit for interviews with volunteer committees. The volunteers were Ds, Rs, Independents and politically unaligned individuals whose interest was simply in meeting the candidates, questioning them and, ultimately, recommending the best for election.
Find our endorsements on our website www.ResponsibleCities.com. You can also learn more about our group, including a mission statement that emphasizes the non-partisan nature of our efforts: the goal of electing community leaders who possess a sense of shared responsibility for bettering the community we all know and love.
Sad to say, the McLean County Republican Party has inserted itself into what is supposed to be a nonpartisan election with its partisan recommendation of candidates and, in response, the Democratic governor in Illinois is putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into nonpartisan election races across the state. While all citizens have the right to engage in this public discourse, it is regrettable that politicians and political parties are trying to put their thumbs on the scale of our few remaining truly nonpartisan elections.
I’ll leave to historians and political scientists the determination of whether John Adams was right when he warned 230 years ago that political parties were the “greatest political evil.”
We at Responsible Cities believe the “non” in non-partisan is meaningful and, in the years ahead, hope the Rs and Ds will go back to their more familiar haunts, the primaries and November elections, and leave us to choose our local leaders as this country’s founders envisioned. Please vote.