Answer of the Week

Every week we answer one question from our readers. Maybe we will pick one of yours next!

This week, the question was about loyalty. Why is it so controversial? Isn’t it a good thing?

Loyalty is an admired quality when it comes to family, friends, and country. However, when it comes to republics like ours, we must resist calls for unwavering loyalty to one politician or one political party. Here is why:

  • In a republic such as ours, elected officials are meant to be accountable to us, the voters. Political loyalty requires the opposite; it demands that we answer to one politician or party.
  • In a republic, leaders should compete to earn our votes. There is an expectation that each party should work hard to win – especially in tight races – by coming up with policies that will earn votes from members of their party and from the other party.  
  • In a republic, voters are expected to be open-minded enough to sometimes give their votes to a different party – when that party has better ideas or leaders.  By contrast, political loyalty denies voters the option to think for themselves.
  • Republics like ours were created to resolve policy disagreements through peaceful contests for the best leaders’ best ideas – through elections and legislative debate.  If we must instead be loyal to our leaders, and if we can’t occasionally shift our votes, then the only way for one side to prevail is through tyranny.
  • The framers deliberately set up a system meant to make tyranny difficult, a constitutional system of divided and shared powers backed by a Bill of Rights.  They did not, however, solve the problem of faction. Nor were they able to protect against the possibility that extreme factionalism (polarization) would motivate some people to try to weaken the system with the hopes of tyrannizing their opposition.
  • In this light, the best ways to keep our republic and its liberty-preserving rights are to be willing to listen to new ideas, think for ourselves, and stop supporting politicians who would rather cheat than compete.  If we can do that, then we are showing loyalty to the spirit of the Constitution and all the sacrifices that went into shaping it – from the framer’s time to ours.

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