People, especially those elected to office, have little or no idea how political parties work.

They are clueless. I have thought that for years. But over the past 32 months, with the bizarre behaviors seen on both sides of the aisle since the election of President Donald Trump, I am sure of it.

I am not just talking about people serving in federal offices, I mean those at the state and local levels, too.

Here’s an example. N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoes the state budget coming from the General Assembly because it values corporate tax breaks over classrooms, he says. That’s Democrat political-speak that insinuates Republicans, who run both legislative houses in Raleigh, care more about cutting their big-business friends some tax slack than they care about educating children. More on that in just a moment. Some Republicans, on the other hand, such as House Majority Leader John Bell (R-10), go about trying to shame Democrats, in this case state Rep. Raymond Smith (D-21) into overriding the governor’s budget veto by saying that Smith does not support local, Wayne County projects if he doesn’t get on board with Republicans and vote against Cooper’s veto.

First, Republicans care about how we educate children. To say anything less is irresponsible. 

Second, Cooper wants Medicaid expansion, which offers the publicly funded health plan to uninsured adults and children whose incomes are at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. North Carolina is one of 17 states that has yet to authorize Medicaid expansion, a part of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

Democrats, for the most part, wholly support the ACA and would like to see the entire nation on a government single-payer form of health insurance. Republicans oppose Medicaid expansion, as Democrats propose it, because they see it as a tax burden, and … well … they simply do not like the Democrat Obamacare.

This gets me to the crux of my commentary. Elected officials have long forgotten the purpose of political parties — primarily in the U.S., Democrats and Republicans — or maybe they simply don’t know the reason why they came into existence.

The U.S. Constitution carries no mention of political parties. The Founding Fathers did not want the division that parties create to infiltrate the government. But they knew that thought was like using bubble gum to stop a growing crack in a dam: it was all wet and useless from the beginning. The creation and ratification of the Constitution brought about two political factions: Federalists, who desired a strong national government with the president holding greater power than Congress, and Anti-Federalists, who supported stronger states and the legislative branch (Congress) over the executive branch (the president).

These were the young country’s first political parties. And these two factions were arguing about the foundation of the whole American experiment. Whoa! That’s mind-blowing. The outcome of the U.S. existence relied on the work, and compromise, of these two political parties. To then diminish that, over the last 200 years, to two groups bickering over taxes being a bit too high or someone getting something they don’t deserve is ridiculous. But that’s where the political parties have brought us.

James Madison and other Founding Fathers knew parties would grow from the new government, but that elected officials and people in power would have to come together and compromise on matters if anything were to get done in the new United States. It’s too bad elected leaders don’t understand that.

Bottom line, the government will forever have factions. But the leaders must seek impartiality in their decision making to support justice and the public good. That’s what Madison would say. Well, he did say that in his essay Federalist Papers No. 10.

So, it’s OK to use political parties to get elected and move ahead with a specific agenda. But at all times the parties must seek to place the public good above all else and not spend so much time calling each other out.

Rather, what we are forced to live with is a constant game of one-upmanship. Many times, this need to win at all costs leads to division, derision and deceit. That’s what we see in this squabble over the state budget. Division: One side is unwilling to accept the others’ position (cutting corporate tax vs. Medicaid expansion). Derision: Leaders making outlandish statements about each other (does not support education vs. doesn’t care about local projects). And the deceit that comes from one party not being truthful about the other simply to score points with constituents.

Hopefully, by the time this column prints, a compromise is made, and the state has a budget. If not, then Madison’s prognostication from more than two centuries ago may prove right: “The instability, injustice, and confusion, introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished.”

I am not ready to say goodbye to the American experiment. Are you? Let’s hope our elected leaders are not ready for it either.

Contact Duke Conover at dconover@newsargus.com or at 919-739-7840.