In his “Farewell Address,” George Washington gave Americans what he called “the disinterested warnings of a parting friend.” As we celebrate Washington’s birthday today, it would be useful for all Americans to remember what he said.

The theme of Washington’s address was national union. He had spent his life creating the United States of America, and he worried that unfounded partisan animosities would unnecessarily divide Americans against each other, tempt them to overturn the Constitution and lead to demagoguery.

Today, we live in a time of rising partisan hostility, increasing anger among those who identify with a political party and a frightening willingness among partisans to use violence to get their way — or secede from the Union. How can Washington’s words help us in this day and age of partisan animosity?

First of all, we should remember Washington’s point that, as Americans, we have far more in common than the leaders of our political parties would like us to believe. Washington warned his fellow citizens against “designing men” who “endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.”

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In contemporary discourse, we call this phenomenon “nutpicking,” whereby partisan media outlets and partisan activists pick out the craziest behavior of those from the opposing political group and pretend that this behavior is representative and characteristic of all “those people” in the other party.

The truth is that most Democrats and Republicans want the same things: Washington referred to these desires as “tranquility at home,” “peace abroad,” “safety,” “prosperity,” and “that very liberty which you so highly prize.” We should follow Washington’s counsel and turn off the hate-mongers on cable news and social media that misrepresent the views of those in the other party. Instead of insulting each other on Twitter or in the comments sections of online newspapers, we should have face-to-face conversations with people who identify with a different party and recognize their humanity.

Second, we should remember Washington’s exhortation to follow the political principles of the United States Constitution and the political outcomes produced by its mechanisms. Washington wrote that the Constitution “has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty.”

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These constitutional principles of freedom include popular sovereignty, federalism, the separation of powers, individual rights and the rule of law. Too many partisans today are willing to justify overturning the outcomes of elections, “canceling” the views of those with whom they disagree, trampling the rule of law, concentrating political power in the presidency and dictating policy to states and localities — as long as it is their side doing the canceling and their party leader doing the dictating. We need to remember Washington’s advice, and example, that we should place the Constitution above parties.

Third, and finally, we should remember Washington’s insight that, while parties are inevitable, the kind of malicious partisanship described above is not. Washington encouraged Americans to restrain the harmful aspects of partisanship that, if left unchecked, can lead to populism, demagoguery, authoritarianism and tyranny:

Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally. This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its roots in the strongest passions of the human mind … The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension … leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction … turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.

Today, we have a nation closely divided between two major parties, and from election to election these parties transfer control of government back and forth. The danger here is that, rather than recognizing the respectability of dissenting partisan views, standing up for the freedom of speech of our partisan opponents, and working with those from the other party on issues where we can find common ground, we ask our party leaders, when temporarily in control of government, to use the levers of power to push our policies down the throats of our opponents.

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This “alternate domination,” sadly, leads to “disorders and miseries,” which, in turn, lead to demagogues who promise to win at all costs and to permanently vanquish the other party. Rather than voting for gladiators who promise to “win,” we should vote for candidates who are honest and wise and who are committed to the constitutional principles of pluralism, individual rights and freedom of speech.

In his farewell address, Washington pointed out to his audience that Americans are better off together. We cannot allow partisan “nutpicking,” partisan justifications of unconstitutional behavior by those in our own party, or desires for partisan domination to divide us into warring camps.

While parties are inevitable, the kind of bad-faith partisanship that characterizes our contemporary political discourse is not. According to Washington, party spirit, in a republic, is “not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”

Verlan Lewis is the Stirling Professor of Constitutional Studies at UVU and author of the new book “The Myth of Left and Right.”