On this day in 1796, what became known as George Washington’s Farewell Address was first published. It was originally written in 1792, when he was hoping to slip out of office. People often point to his voluntarily stepping down after two terms as being indicative of his greatness. But he never wanted to be president in the first place. People are highly anachronistic about the presidency. President Obama may well be the most powerful man on earth, but George Washington sure wasn’t. Indeed, the Address was originally titled, “The Address of General Washington to the People of the United States on His Declining of the Presidency of the United States.” Being a general was a bigger deal than being president.
The document itself is interesting, because it includes most of the things that conservatives once stood for: federalism, religion, balanced budgets, free trade, and the avoidance of foreign conflicts. That doesn’t much sum up the modern Republican Party, does it? The two big ones that they’ve turned their backs on — federalism and foreign conflicts — were both abandoned for political expediency. Federalism had to go so Republicans could court the bigots in the south. And Foreign conflicts became a great way to keep the nation terrified and electing Republicans. Of course, Republicans are also frauds about the other things. Religion is just a license to hate. Balanced budgets are something that matter when Democrats are in power. And “free trade” is the term they use to skew the economy against workers and toward the rich (for example, free trade for factory workers and protectionism for neurosurgeons).
It really would be wonderful if the United States had a conservative party. There is one — buried inside the Democratic Party. The Republican Party is basically a fascist group — as Steve M called them, a failed state. Whether the American people will ever realize that is open to debate. And I’m not sure a majority of Americans deserve any better.
See also: Thomas Paine’s Letter to George Washington.