So I will let John C. Calhoun do it for me.
At this stage, principles and policy would lose all influence in the elections; and cunning, falsehood, deception, slander, fraud, and gross appeals to the appetites of the lowest and most worthless portions of the community, would take the place of sound reason and wise debate. After these have thoroughly debased and corrupted the community, and all the arts and devices of the party have been exhausted, the government would vibrate between the two factions (for such will parties have become) at each successive election. Neither would be able to retain power beyond some fixed term; for those seeking office and patronage would become too numerous to be rewarded by the offices and patronage at the disposal of the government; and these being the sole objects of pursuit, the disappointed would, at the next succeeding elections, throw their weight into the opposite scale, in the hope of better success at the next turn of the wheel. [A Disquisition on Government (1849)]
Calhoun pretty much sums up pretty well what’s happening in the political process, encapsulated in the embarrassing performance tonight of Republican establishment candidates who have fallen prey to tea party candidates representing the most “worthless portions of the community” and who have thoroughly trumped “sound reason and wise debate.” Maybe the only difference between Calhoun’s sentiments and the current state of affairs is that we have inter-party factions (Reps vs. Dems) as well as intra-party (Reps vs. Tea Partiers).
Also, ironically, it might be the intra-party vibrations that will prevent the electorate from committing what will certainly be an unconscionable act in some districts this fall and throw their weight to the “other” party as Calhoun predicted. Although maybe I should be cynical enough to say that we will in fact send Tea Partiers to DC to run the government after all — in which case Calhoun deserves bonus points.
We often dismiss Calhoun as a racist Southern planter supremacist. Maybe he was, but he appears to have had an incredibly prescient view of what happens when the political system becomes dysfunctional.