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Hamilton vs. Madison: The Birth of Hyper-Partisanship in the US

US constitutional law scholar Noah Feldman says there are three common propositions that people have when they look at the state of politics in the US:

  1. Partisanship has never been this bad;
  2. It is “geographically spatialized” like never before; and
  3. There is no tool or mechanism to remedy it.

Feldman notes in a TED Talk that despite popular belief, all three of these propositions are wrong. He even explains that partisanship has a birthplace in America: a dispute between Alexander Hamilton and James Madison that would change the face of US politics forever.

It is worth noting that the irony of this is that Hamilton helped Madison work on a constitutional system that Madison believed was “against political parties and made them unnecessary.” Madison and Hamilton wrote the Federalist Papers together, which was the “marketing plan” for their vision of this constitutional system.

So what happened?

Well, the birth moment of hyper-partisanship happened over a dispute the two men had on Hamilton’s vision for the US economy; specifically, the national bank, the “immortal” US debt, and a policy that put priority on trade and manufacturing over agriculture. Things escalated so quickly that two close friends soon became bitter political enemies, and the result was the birth of the country’s first political parties.

Feldman goes deeper into this, as well as the constitutional remedy that exists to temper factionalism. It’s worth watching.

Photo Credit: Natasha Adzic / shutterstock.com