Having seen how the two-party system - Tory vs. Whig - led to civil war in England, George Washington warned our young nation against the two-party system but was ignored as pro-slavery and anti-slavery parties slid inexorably toward our own tragic civil war.
The issues that divide the parties change over time, but the tendency in the two-party system toward radical division is evident throughout history. Today, as the gap widens between poor and rich, the issue is democracy versus plutocracy.
Citizens United, despite its deceptive moniker, makes it official that one-vote-per-person democracy is moving toward the rule of a few and toward the "two nations" within 19th century England described by Benjamin Disraeli.
Not too long ago there was "not a dime's worth of difference" between our two parties, as George Wallace once so foolishly repined, whereas today there appears to be an insurmountable divide between the party of what used to be called "levelers" and the party of the Koch brothers.
Gridlock in Congress and the rise of the Tea Party are not merely temporary symptoms suggestive of a healthy, functioning democracy; they are symptoms of democracy in crisis and could be the first state on the road toward another civil war.
Extremists on both sides of the aisle are naïve. While those on the extreme left veer toward communistic totalitarianism, those on the extreme right struggle to make the country "free" for Bernie Madoff and the finance mafia. Either extreme would lead to the death of democracy, as that term is understood by moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats alike.
As for the future, we must consult the ghost of still another George - George Orwell - for help in envisioning our destiny under the two-party system. Will it devolve into gang war on a national scale? Or will some outside threat force us to unite once again, as we did under Roosevelt in WWII? None of the prospects offers much hope for peace.