The Positive and Negative Sides of the Gridlock and Extreme Partisanship in Congress in James Madisons Federalist 10

Last Updated: 13 Mar 2023
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Federalist 10: The Case for Gridlock James Madison argues in Federalist 10 that a powerful federal government prevents the majority rule problem of direct democracy. Madison argues that "factions" would inevitably gain majority rule and minority groups suffers as a result. To counteract factions and the majority rule problem, a strong republic forces these factions to rule as a component of the federal government, alongside many other factions from different parts of the country. Instead of these factions becoming dictatorships in which they can rule whichever way they want through majority rule, they would have to work with various other factions in order to pass legislation as part of a representative federal government. Madison begins Federalist 10 by defining factions and how they are a threat to democracy. These factions are "a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens..."

A majority faction could begin ruling as they possess the majority of the votes and this would inevitably lead to the disenfranchisement and potential discrimination of minority groups. One way to eliminate the problem of factions is to suppress civil liberties and force everyone to agree on everything. Madison saw the obvious problems with that and offered another solution. This solution was the argument for a strong federal government in which representatives from all parts of the country would be forced to work and legislate alongside each other, which would not only create a sense of unity as a republic, but also to limit the powers of individuals representing their factions or constituents. One would argue that how does giving more power to a centralized federal government counteract a more localized version of a centralized power at the state level?. Madison argued that by creating a representative republic, the federal leaders and representatives would be chosen and voted on from a larger pool of people.

A representative would be chosen by a larger constituency, leading to better qualified candidates. It also disperses power where a representative from a textile manufacturing state like Massachusetts has to work with a representative from an agricultural state like South Carolina. The representative from Massachusetts cannot simply pass any law he wants and would need to garner enough votes from other representatives that may not share the same interests as he does. This counteracts the majority rule problem at the local levels where most of the representatives share the same interests and vote accordingly, which inevitably will be deleterious to minority groups that do not share the interests of the majority rulers. The gridlock and extreme partisanship in Congress today is rightfully criticized. Not being able to work across party lines and the inability to compromise is rightfully viewed as a massive failure on the parts of our elected leaders.

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The one positive that comes out of the gridlock in government is that it proves that the representative government formed by the founding fathers is in fact working. Factions exist today as they did during the founding of this country, but the republic has largely limited their powers by placing them in the framework of a federal republic where the power of individual factions are limited by competing factions. The people of California have differing interests to those in lowa and they have differing interests to those in North Carolina, and so on and so forth. James Madison knew that many different factions existed and used that fact to advocate for a federal republic that would limit the powers of factions.

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The Positive and Negative Sides of the Gridlock and Extreme Partisanship in Congress in James Madisons Federalist 10. (2023, Mar 13). Retrieved from

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