The triumphantly Machiavellian character of America’s current party system has replaced the American founders’ goal of representation in government with a manipulative sham, wherein people vent their feelings in a purely nominal (i.e., in name only) exercise of sovereign power. As America’s premier expert on Machiavelli has succinctly observed, according to the Machiavellian understanding:
“An election is not so much a positive choice … as the purging of resentment against government and the humbling of the few who run for office. As we saw in the contest between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, an election forces the rulers to seek our approval, our vote. It enables us to choose one, and perhaps more important, to deny the other. Partisanship often shows itself less in having your side win than in having the other side lose.
“In this way, an election allows people to think that their government comes from them, when in fact it remains pretty much the same whether it’s Obama or Romney. The particular candidate may win or lose, but the class of ‘politicians’ that we decry, the few who desire to rule, always wins. For their part, the people indulge in the luxury of throwing out the losing candidate, expressing their resentment against being governed, while (almost) incidentally electing the winner, who then governs in their name with their consent.”
“… [T]he class of ‘politicians’ that we decry, the few who desire to rule, always wins.” The Machiavellian paradigm for politics caters to politicians driven by an inordinate desire to rule. But before the advance of dissipation in our times, Americans had enough moral sense to apprehend the danger these politicians may pose to liberty. They insisted, therefore, that such politicians disguise their extraordinary lust for power behind a respectable façade of concern for common decency and the common good (i.e., good understood in terms of the people’s more ordinary ambition to live contentedly, which by its very nature welcomes and requires decent boundaries and limitations). This common-sense insistence does not preclude the triumph of “the few who desire to rule” purely for their own sakes. However, it helps preserve the possibility, otherwise gradually extinguished, of occasional victories for the exceptional few who desire to rule for the sake of the singular good all have in common.
It is the latter who from time to time must be lifted up, by the people themselves, in order articulately to represent the public’s responsibility to curtail and rebuke the ambitious few who have (and always will) seek to usurp the whole power of government for their own self-aggrandizement. These representatives of the responsible people work patiently to countervail the men of destructively selfish ambition, of whom Hamilton wrote (Federalist No. 1) “that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing [as] demagogues and ending [as] tyrants.” In our day, this pattern of destructively selfish ambition accurately portrays the raison d’être of America’s present so-called “two-party” system.
Thanks to the destructive influence of a tendentiously Machiavellian “social science,” the insatiable ambition characteristic of the unruly few has been falsely ascribed to the people as a whole (characterized as a welter of competing “interest groups”). This understanding allows the rapacious few to pretend that they act in service to needy, perpetually discontented masses. They further pretend that these clamoring masses will only be placated by an ever-expanding roster of government services. Such pretenses provide the excuse for an ever-greater concentration of power in the hands of the self-idolizing elitist clique that has usurped America’s political process.
But contrary to these false representations, a significant proportion of the American people would rather be free to take care of themselves and their own. They have no wish to be enslaved by a dictatorial government that promises to take care of them, but in fact cares only to consolidate unchecked power in the hands of a self-serving, elitist few.
Or so they say. Yet many of these same people continue to act as the dupes of the Machiavellian sham party system. They continue passively to accept the false choices it offers, as well as results – in terms of laws and policies – that subvert and destroy the liberty and constitutional self-government of the American people. In terms of politics, they are like people willing to live as serfs and slaves in an established city ruled by tyrants because they are afraid to trek into the political wilderness where they might build a new home in which to dwell again in decent liberty. In the political realm, it seems that, though such people still claim to be Americans, they have let go the American spirit – the heart and faith and courage that filled the wilderness with homes, and farms and cities, however rudely built at first.
They are dissipating their share of sovereignty because they fear to imagine any way of acting as citizens except by means of the Machiavellian party system, though it now works to no other end than to entangle them with the yoke of elitist despotism. This dissipation persists despite the fact that we live in an era replete with hitherto unimaginable means for initiating individual networks of united action. Such means should empower regular folk to mobilize in pursuit of common rights and purposes, instead of cowering behind the pretense that doing so requires money and media resources beyond their reach. But it seems that people are willing to use these new means of grass-roots empowerment to carry on every program of societal action except the one that most directly energizes their constitutionally ordained participation in the gathering of votes that most concretely brings to life the sovereign body of the people.
What spirit was it that allowed America’s pioneers of liberty to leave behind the too often oppressive certainties of established worldly kingdoms? What spirit was it that encouraged them to stay on the tracks of freedom, though they led into the wilderness? It was the Spirit admitted by their faith in God and Jesus Christ, “for where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
It becomes clearer every day that the most destructive weapons deployed against liberty by its enemies are the ones aimed at forcing people to deny, as “law-abiding” citizens, this admission of faith. But the key to defeating those enemies is also ever more apparent. People of faith should boldly proclaim, as citizens, the allegiance that is the root of their political vocation. They should lift up, on the banners round which they rally for political action, a name that includes the Christian logo, and therefore unashamedly proclaims their faithful allegiance to “the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.”