Our American democratic republic works best when people of differing views are free to debate their ideas to test the strengths and weaknesses of their ideas, and then to find common ground if the debate reaches an impasse. Authoritarian governments want to eliminate differing opinions: left wing dictatorships try to kill off conservatives and independent minded leftists; right wing dictatorships try to kill off all leftists and moderates. Democracies allow divergent political viewpoints to debate each others ideas and to try to persuade the general public to support their proposed solutions to the democracy’s problems. Liberals, conservatives, moderates, democratic socialists, libertarians, anarchists, and other ideologies can contribute their best ideas while acting as a check to each others worst impulses.
An example of three Americans with divergent views who both contributed to this country were Thomas Jefferson and John and Abigail Adams. Though the three were good friends, they had very different political views.
Thomas Jefferson was a Republican who was very wary of power being centralized in the Federal government and believed that power should be diffused in the states. He felt that there was in every nation a natural aristocracy of the most talented men that would naturally rise up in a free society, as opposed to the artificial aristocracy of Europe that was created by primogeniture and was thus corrupt and incompetent.
As opposed to Jefferson, John and Abigail Adams felt that a strong federal government with a strong executive branch was necessary for the American republic. Adams refuted Jefferson’s distinctions between a natural aristocracy and an artificial aristocracy because he believed that the natural aristocracy was just as vulnerable to the human weaknesses of greed and corruption as the artificial aristocracy that Jefferson described. John Adams felt that human nature was such that the utopian vision that Jefferson had for the American republic was not possible in real life, and that checks and balances were necessary to fight the inevitable corruptions that comes with political power.
Towards the last decade of their lives, Adams and Jefferson had a correspondence where they debated their political differences. They both remained close friends in spite of the political differences. They both died on July 4, 1826.