What Gary Johnson, Bill Weld and George Washington can teach us about 2016

2016. Wow. What to say?

Personally, I’m not inclined to go out and tie one on on New Year’s Eve, but even if I were, I’d have to pass on doing it this year. I already feel like I have a hangover from 2016. A giant psychic hangover in need of a remedy other than the hair of the dog that bit me.

All over the internet and radio, political commentators are offering up thoughts on the passing year. In keeping with the metaphor, most of my thoughts belong swirling in the toilet bowl on the receiving end of my psychic hangover and aren’t very printable.

Like I’m sick of listening to Democrats analyze the how’s and why’s of so many people voting for President-elect Trump. Maybe 2017 will find them using their time and resources more effectively by analyzing the how’s and why’s so many people utterly rejected Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

And maybe 2017 will find Republicans slowing down their bootlicking long enough to realize that, even if there’s an R next to the winning name, their party was still hijacked by an erratic unknown variable. That erratic unknown variable is about to enter the Oval Office and may want to do un-Republican things like play cuddly with Russia in spite of their interference in our election.

The rest of us need to come to terms with the fact that Russian hacking wasn’t the only thing undermining our democratic process. There’s also the stuff we learned from the hacking about the DNC and the Clinton campaign.

And maybe we average Americans can come to terms with the reality that Wall St, the corporations it represents, and their primary beneficiaries — the ultra rich — seem to keep their grip on our political process and policy no matter who is in power.   Republicans, Democrats, erratic unknown variables —  the interests of their funders come first.

Maintaining crony capitalist structures is taking precedence over maintaining communities. I’m not sure our founding forefathers would approve. In fact, as Gary Johnson and Bill Weld pointed out over the course of their campaign, George Washington and a few others would most likely utter the Revolutionary-era equivalent to “I told you so.”

Johnson and Weld’s desire to draw attention to the corrupt state of our two-party system was a big part of the ticket’s appeal for me.

I checked out the text of the farewell address by George Washington to which Johnson and Weld referred. It was the second time this month that I was blown away by political words from the past ringing problematically true today. I mean there are parts to Washington’s speech that are downright Nostradamus creepy — especially the parts about “the chief of some prevailing faction … turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation” and about party dysfunction making us susceptible to “foreign influence and corruption:”

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it. It 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. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.  George Washington’s Farewell Address 

It’s like 2016 was the culmination of a conscious attempt to achieve an ugly outcome the first President of the United States of America specifically told us to avoid. Washington even explained why to avoid it in great detail, and when Johnson tried to remind us of that, he was mocked for minor media pop quiz gaffes. Thinking about it all gives me a headache.

Like a giant psychic hangover caused by being forced to drink an excessive amount of two-party system rhetoric.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.