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Policy of the United States on Opposition - Dictionary of Arguments

Levitsky I 121
Opposition/Policy of the United States/Levitsky/Ziblatt: (...) the idea that political opponents are not enemies is (...) a remarkable and challenging innovation(1). Opposition to the ruling class has almost always been considered treason in history. Even at the time of the founding of the United States, the idea that there could be legitimate opposition parties was still considered heresy. In the early American party struggles, both sides - John Adams' federalists and Thomas Jefferson's republicans - regarded each other as a threat to the Republic.
Federalists: The federalists considered themselves the embodiment of the Constitution; in their view, one could not be against the federalists without being against the entire American project.
Republicans: When Jefferson and Madison began building the Republican Party, the federalists considered them and their supporters traitors and even accused them of an inclination toward revolutionary France, with which the United States was almost at war. The Jeffersonians, for their part, accused the federalists of being tories and of planning
Levitsky I 122
a monarchical restoration supported by the British(3). Both sides hoped to defeat the other,(4) and took measures - such as the laws of 1798 against foreigners and seditions - to punish the political opposition per se.
Party politics: The debate between the parties was so heated that many feared the failure of the young republic. Only gradually and over the course of decades did America's hostile parties come to the hard-won insight that they did not have to be mortal enemies and could take turns in power instead of seeking mutual annihilation(5). This insight forms a decisive foundation of American democracy.


1. Richard Hofstadter, The Idea of a Party System. The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780–1840, Berkeley, Kalifornien, 1969, p. 8.
2. Joseph J. Ellis, American Sphinx. The Character of Thomas Jefferson, New York 1997, p. 122; Gordon S. Wood, The Idea of America. Reflections on the Birth of the United States, New York 2011, p. 114; Hofstadter, The Idea of a Party System. p. 105, 111.
3. Wood, The Idea of America, p. 244 f.; Hofstadter, The Idea of a Party System. p. 94.
4. Wood, The Idea of America, p. 245.
5. Hofstadter, The Idea of a Party System.


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Policy of the United States


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