The essay can best be summed up as 'the madness of crowds and a Republic's means of dealing with it.' Faction, as it is referred to in the essay, is a highly dangerous force in straight democracy. Mob mentality makes people accept things that on reflection they might find abhorrent, but due to the illusions of acceptability conferred by consensus, said reflection very often simply never occurs.
I know it is generally considered taboo to use this example for anything, but Nazi Germany is a fine example of these sorts of issues. Before a charismatic sociopath came to power, Germans by and large tolerated, if not particularly liked, the assorted peoples persecuted through Hitler's reign. There was resentment for the international treatment post WWI, but they had neither the will nor the power necessary to seek recompense. Forward came a man capable of wielding absolute power in Germany, who played on the fears and resentments of the populace and gave them an outlet for their frustrations, and the vast majority of Germans either participated or accepted this.
I have heard the argument that the actions of the Fuhrer were not reflective of the people. This is absurd. Considering real power to be the ability to enforce your will on your own, he was powerless. The power he wielded came from the consent of the governed, and the might of the military.
Most modern opinion clearly finds Hitler abhorrent, and I would say rightly so. Most every modern German is in agreement.* If a run of the mill German citizen in 1939 were transported to the present, odds are they would not call for the same things they supported in their own time. Mobs are a frighteningly pervasive and persuasive element of society.
The interesting thing that crops up later is the application of faction and mob mentality to the governing body. The proposed solution is simple. The US is big enough that, in theory, there will be enough factions competing that none of them are rendered effective.
The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project,** will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State
Here enters our modern problem. How many true factions exist within congress? While they may subdivide into RINO, Blue Dog, Tea Party, Libertarian, Green, etc, the two broad categories are of course Democrat and Republican. In an increasing percentage of votes, especially on financial matters, the vote distribution is entirely partisan.
The nature of a two party system is dangerous. Both parties now are relatively indistinguishable, and neither serves as an adequate check against the other. Neither has achieved their end goals because the balance of power see-saws back and forth so frequently. When in agreement on an issue, the American people have little option in redress. Take the following.
The apportionment of taxes on the various descriptions of property is an act which seems to require the most exact impartiality; yet there is, perhaps, no legislative act in which greater opportunity and temptation are given to a predominant party to trample on the rules of justice.Taxes are indeed by international standard fairly low. This does not change the fact that they are ridiculously high. Increasingly we see a government bleeding it's constituency dry and offering nothing substantive in return. Both parties are guilty.
The Tea Party seems then the best thing to happen in a long while. While other parties have attempted to break the two party system, none have received the backing and numbers of the Tea Party. The upcoming elections will likely increase the foothold already established. Even if you don't agree with their politics, adding another layer of difficulty and obfuscation to passing a law, not through bureaucratic but diplomatic means, can only be a good thing.
Our government no longer has the benefit of the entire nation at heart. Their methods of social engineering are failing, and taking the country down with them. This should come as no surprise to anyone. The institutions of the constitution so freely ignored today are specifically designed to prevent this.
Of additional gripe, there is an entire faction of huge import no longer represented in congress. The 17th Amendment took the election of Senators from the state governments and handed it to the people. This rendered the two houses largely identical, and increased the potential for popular mob rule to carry law significantly.
One closing point. Kevin Baker points out that this is it. The US is the hill to die on. I don't believe we are quite to the point of open revolt, though it seems not inconceivable within the next 3-5 years. I think we can still make a recovery through the mechanisms in place through the US Constitution. Repeal the 17th Amendment. Elect constitutionalists who will restore the workings of this country to their proper form. Remove the propaganda and indoctrination of public education.*** Do not stand by and watch the country crumble. If revolution comes it means we as an American people have failed as thoroughly as our government has failed us.
*Note that the Most I am referring to in both cases excludes mostly crazy people, neo-nazis, and white supremacists. These factions are not, for the moment, representative of any meaningful group.
**Note how many of these things are being actively supported if not already firmly in place, eg paper money.