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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Do We Need A New Political Party?

“We have heard of the impious doctrine in the old world that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the new, in another shape - that the solid happiness of the people is to be sacrificed to the views of political institutions of a different form? It is too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object.” James Madison, Federalist No. 45.

Last week, newly elected Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz said a new party has to be started according to a report in The Blaze. On his Monday evening broadcast, Glenn Beck agreed that Democrats and Republicans are essentially the same today, but that even the GOP has lost its principles.

Beck came to Cruz’s defense after the newly elected senator came under fire for remarking that President Obama is the most “radical” president in history.

The real political spectrum, according to Beck, is not about just left and right or Democrat and Republican, but rather about people who value freedom and those who do not. Or, in the more literal sense, a range spanning from anarchy to totalitarianism.

Founders like such as George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison were fearful of political parties. Madison saw the dangers of political parties when he wrote in Federalist 45:

“ the views of political institutions of a different form? It is too early for politicians to presume on our forgetting that the public good, the real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued; and that no form of government whatever has any other value than as it may be fitted for the attainment of this object.”

Since the adoption of the Constitution the United States has had many political parties — some lasting and some irrelevant. Throughout most of its history, American politics have been dominated by a two-party system. However, the United States Constitution has always been silent on the issue of political parties; at the time it was signed in 1787, there were no parties in the nation. Indeed, no nation in the world had voter-based political parties. The need to win popular support in a republic led to the American invention of political parties in the 1790s. Americans were especially innovative in devising new campaign techniques that linked public opinion with public policy through the party

The longest lasting political party is the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party evolved from Anti-Federalist factions that opposed the fiscal policies of Alexander Hamilton in the early 1790s. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison organized these factions into the Democratic-Republican Party. The party favored states' rights and strict adherence to the Constitution; it opposed a national bank and wealthy, moneyed interests. The Democratic-Republican Party ascended to power in the election of 1800.

After the War of 1812, the party's chief rival, the Federalist Party, associated with the disloyalty and parochialism of the Hartford Convention, lost much of the favor it had previously enjoyed, and eventually disbanded in the late 1820s. Democratic-Republicans split over the choice of a successor to President James Monroe, and the party faction that supported many of the old Jeffersonian principles, led by Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, became the Democratic Party.

Along with the Whig Party, the Democratic Party was one of the major political parties in the United States until the Civil War. The Whigs were a commercial party, and usually less popular, if better financed. The Whigs divided over the slavery issue after the Mexican–American War and faded away. In the 1850s, under the stress of the Fugitive Slave Law and the Kansas–Nebraska Act, anti-slavery Democrats left the party. Joining with former members of existing or dwindling parties, the Republican Party emerged.

The Whig Party was a political party active in the early 19th century in the United States. Four presidents of the United States were members of the Whig party. The party was formed in opposition to the policies of President Andrew Jackson and his Democratic Party. In particular, the Whigs supported the supremacy of Congress over the presidency and favored a program of modernization and economic protectionism. This name was chosen to echo the American Whigs of 1776, who fought for independence, and because "Whig" was then a widely recognized label of choice for people who identified as opposing tyranny. The Whig Party counted among its members such national political luminaries as Daniel Webster, William Henry Harrison, and their preeminent leader, Henry Clay of Kentucky. In addition to Harrison, the Whig Party also nominated war hero generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Abraham Lincoln was the chief Whig leader in frontier Illinois.

The American Whigs were modernizers who saw President Andrew Jackson as "a dangerous man on horseback" with a "reactionary opposition" to the forces of social, economic and moral modernization. Most of the founders of the Whig party had supported Jeffersonian democracy and the Democratic-Republican Party. The Republicans who formed the Whig party, led by Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams, drew on a Jeffersonian tradition of compromise and balance in government, national unity, territorial expansion, and support for a national transportation network and domestic manufacturing. Jacksonians looked to Jefferson for opposition to the National Bank and internal improvements and support of egalitarian democracy and state power. Despite the apparent unity of Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans from 1800 to 1824, ultimately the American people preferred partisan opposition to popular political agreement. This was something Madison feared and warned against in his famous essay published in Federalist 10.

The party was ultimately destroyed by the question of whether to allow the expansion of slavery to the territories. With deep fissures in the party on this question, the anti-slavery faction prevented the re-nomination of its own incumbent President Fillmore in the 1852 presidential election; instead, the party nominated General Winfield Scott. Most Whig party leaders thereupon quit politics (as Lincoln did temporarily) or changed parties.

The Republican Party was founded in the Northern states in 1854 by anti-slavery activists, modernizers, ex-Whigs and ex-Free Soilers, the Republican Party quickly became the principal opposition to the dominant Southern Democratic Party and the briefly popular Know Nothing Party. The main cause was opposition to the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise by which slavery was kept out of Kansas. The Northern Republicans saw the expansion of slavery as a great evil. The first public meeting where the name "Republican" was suggested for a new anti-slavery party was held on March 20, 1854 in a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin.

The first official party convention was held on July 6, 1854 in Jackson, Michigan. By 1858, the Republicans dominated nearly all Northern states. The Republican Party first came to power in 1860 with the election of Lincoln to the Presidency and Republicans in control of Congress and again, the Northern states. It oversaw the saving of the union, the end of slavery, and the provision of equal rights to all men in the American Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877.

The Republicans' initial base was in the Northeast and the upper Midwest. With the realignment of parties and voters in the Third Party System, the strong run of John C. Fremont in the 1856 Presidential election demonstrated it dominated most northern states.

Early Republican ideology was reflected in the 1856 slogan "free labor, free land, and free men", which had been coined by Salmon P. Chase, a Senator from Ohio (and future Secretary of the Treasury and Chief Justice of the United States). "Free labor" referred to the Republican opposition to slave labor and belief in independent artisans and businessmen. "Free land" referred to Republican opposition to plantation system whereby slave-owners could buy up all the good farm land, leaving the yeoman independent farmers the leftovers. The Party strived to contain the expansion of slavery, which would cause the collapse of the slave power and the expansion of freedom.

Over the years both parties morphed into something their founders never expected them to be. The Democratic Party morphed from the anti-federalist policies of Andrew Jackson to the progressive policies of the administrative state of Woodrow Wilson to the socialistic policies of the New Deal and finally to the big government nanny state policies of the Great Society. Today the Democratic Party is certainly not the party of Andrew Jackson or Grover Cleveland. It has become the progressive party of Lyndon Johnson and Barak Obama.

Likewise the Republican Party has changed from its roots of liberty and free enterprise. Around the end of the 19th century the Republican Party became controlled by the northeastern, big business factions. This began with William McKinley and spilled over to Theodore Roosevelt and the growth of the Progressive movement in the United States. Though McKinley's administration was cut short with his assassination, his presidency marked the beginning of a period of dominance by the Republican Party that lasted for more than a third of a century. Historians regard McKinley's 1896 victory as a realigning election, in which the political stalemate of the post-Civil War era gave way to the Republican-dominated Fourth Party System, which began with the Progressive Era.

Theodore Roosevelt succeeded McKinley on the latter’s assassination in 1901 and thus began a series of Republican presidents until 1932. There was, however, an 8-year period from 1913 to 1921 when the Democrat Woodrow Wilson occupied the White House. Wilson’s election in 1912 did not represent a shift in political power in the United States, but was due to a split in the Republican Party between the incumbent president William Howard Taft and his third party challenger Theodore Roosevelt. When Roosevelt’s nomination by the northeastern Republican establishment, headed by Taft and Henry Cabot Lodge, Roosevelt bolted the party and founded his Progressive (Bull Moose) Party. The election of 1912 featured four candidates: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft, and the socialist leader Eugene Debs. Wilson received only 41.8% of the vote while Taft and Roosevelt received 27.4% and 23.2% respectively. Debs received 6.0%. This split propelled Wilson to the White House for the next eight years During his eight years Wilson brought forth the growth of the administrative state, tremendous growth in government, participation in the First World War, and the growth of the government elites and masterminds.

By 1920 and in the depths of a mini depression with unemployment at 8.7% and disgust at effects of Wilson’s War the public turned back to the Republican Party and elected the Warren Harding. Harding was a self-made newspaper publisher who served as a member of the Ohio Senate, 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ohio and U.S. Senator. He was the first incumbent United States Senator and the first newspaper publisher to be elected President. He also coined the phrase "Founding Fathers."

Harding was the compromise candidate in the 1920 election, when he promised the nation a return to "normalcy", in the form of a strong economy, independent of foreign influence. He and his running mate, Calvin Coolidge, defeated Democrat and fellow Ohioan James M. Cox in the largest presidential popular vote landslide (60.36% to 34.19%) since popular vote totals were first recorded.

Harding’s administration was filled with crony capitalists and his political friends known as the “Ohio Gang” But the economy grew at a rapid rate through a period known as the “Roaring Twenties.” Following Harding's sudden death of a heart attack in 1923, members of the Ohio Gang were effectively removed from the corridors of power by Harding's Vice President and successor, Calvin Coolidge.

Coolidge restored public confidence in the White House after the scandals of his predecessor's administration, and left office with considerable popularity. As a Coolidge biographer put it, "He embodied the spirit and hopes of the middle class, could interpret their longings and express their opinions. That he did represent the genius of the average is the most convincing proof of his strength." Coolidge praised the achievement of widespread prosperity in 1928, saying: "The requirements of existence have passed beyond the standard of necessity into the region of luxury." Some later criticized Coolidge as part of a general criticism of laissez-faire government. His reputation underwent a renaissance during the Ronald Reagan Administration, but the ultimate assessment of his presidency is still divided between those who approve of his reduction of the size of government programs and those who believe the federal government should be more involved in regulating and controlling the economy.

Coolidge was succeeded by the Republican Herbert Hoover. Hoover, a globally experienced engineer, believed strongly in the Efficiency Movement, which held that the government and the economy were riddled with inefficiency and waste, and could be improved by experts who could identify the problems and solve them. He also believed in the importance of volunteerism and of the role of individuals in society and the economy. When the Wall Street Crash of 1929 struck less than eight months after he took office, Hoover tried to combat the ensuing Great Depression with government enforced efforts, public works projects such as the Hoover Dam, tariffs such as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, an increase in the top tax bracket from 25% to 63% and increases in corporate taxes. These initiatives did not produce economic recovery during his term, but served as the groundwork for various policies incorporated in Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal.

For the next 20 years the White House was occupied by Democrats. This included Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. The election of 1952 brought another Republican, Dwight Eisenhower to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Eisenhower was president during the height of the Cold War. Among his enduring innovations, he launched the Interstate Highway System; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which led to the internet, among many invaluable outputs; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), driving peaceful discovery in space; the establishment of strong science education via the National Defense Education Act; and encouraging peaceful use of nuclear power via amendments to the Atomic Energy Act. He was the first term-limited president in accordance with the 22nd Amendment. Eisenhower's two terms were peaceful ones for the most part and saw considerable economic prosperity except for a sharp recession in 1958–59.

With the election of John Kennedy in 1960 until today the Republican Party has been populated with a mixed bag of politicians while the Democratic Party has moved farther and farther to the left. Republican Presidents such as Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, and his son George W. Bush, while expressing conservative and constitutional ideologies did little to turn back the vision of our Founding Fathers. There was a brief period when Ronald Reagan pulled the government back to this vision of liberty and the respect for private property, but he was thwarted by a Democratic controlled congress.

The administrations of Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and now Barack Obama have pushed the nation so far to the left and the expansion of Wilson’s administrative state. Since Ronald Reagan the Republican Party has followed the Democrats in their desire to gain and retain political power. Today’s Republican Party, with the exception of a few Tea Party members, has done little to return to principals of Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan and constitutional government. In my view his is why the Republicans are losing support among conservatives and conservative leaning independents who comprise the majority of the electorate.

I believe that, as I stated above, with the exception of a few conservative Tea Party supported politicians such as Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul, the Republican Party, like the Whigs, is becoming irrelevant in the eyes of the electorate. Like the Whigs they have become divided over the issue of the size of government, and more importantly what the functions of the federal government should be.

The issue that divided the Whigs and was the catalyst to the formation of the Republican Party was slavery. This was a constitutional issue. Other attempts at forming a third party like the Bull Moose Party were centered on individuals. This time we have another constitutional issue that a new party could be formed on — and that issue is the Debt. We are $16.5 trillion dollars in debt and climbing. We live with a perpetual $1 trillion plus deficit each year, a deficit that requires more borrowing that increases the debt. 87% of Americans believe we have a spending problem. That is a far greater percentage of those anti-slavery groups in 1854. We are on track to the Tytler Cycle that states:

  • From bondage to spiritual faith;
  • From spiritual faith to great courage;
  • From courage to liberty;
  • From liberty to abundance;
  • From abundance to complacency;
  • From complacency to apathy;
  • From apathy to dependence;
  • From dependence back into bondage

Whether or not this cycle was developed by Alexander Fraser Tytler is irrelevant. The cycle is true as Alexis de Tocqueville stated in his book Democracy in America some 178 years ago:

“The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.”

For the past 100 years politicians from both parties have been bribing the electorate with free stuff in order to gain and remain in power.

Since Ronald Reagan the Republican Party has been more concerned with getting elected than adhering to the principals of our Founding Fathers as expressed in our organic laws of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Northwest Ordinance, and the Constitution. They have, like the Whigs, become the party of go along to get along. That’s why many are considered Republicans in Name Only (RHINOs). As demonstrated by the 2012 election they had no real message except jobs. This did not garner a ground swell of support from the constitutional conservatives.

The Republicans may as well stop their soul-searching and look at the reality of the Democrat electorate. In addition to those Republican voters who stayed home on Election Day, the hard-core (so-called) progressives, the inadequate Republican ground game, and those who pay little or no federal tax and are happy to elect those who promise to take larger sums from those who DO pay, there's a more profound and possibly intractable problem. It seems clear that many, many voters — we will never be sure of their numbers — neither hear, nor are interested in hearing, the stance of constitutional conservatives or Republicans. I'm often incredulous at the self-satisfied political ignorance and gullibility of successful, otherwise high-functioning and intellectually curious Democrats. The range and depth of their ignorance regarding easily ascertainable facts is astounding ("No, President Obama has NOT increased the deficit: that's a lie! For your information, President Obama has spent less than any President in history!"); and many, in my experience, cite the New York Times as their irrefutable source of information, with phrases like: "The Times didn't mention it so it can't be true or relevant."

For these people, it really doesn't matter what conservatives or Republicans think or say. They won't hear it! Republican positions are totally lost — unheard and meaningless — to a growing number of the electorate, including huge swaths of highly-educated and effective leaders in society. It would be understating the issue to note that the Republican/conservative "brand" has been sullied — but it begins to convey the nature of the problem. It’s more accurate to say that the Republican/conservative brand has been effectively nullified for many people. For a growing number of voters, it doesn't matter what Republicans say: they have bought into the idea — nurtured by the press, educators at every level, and almost the entire entertainment industry — that Republicans are the "bad guys". Furthermore, and possibly more disturbing, is the fact that this apparently mushrooming group of voters is largely unaware of and unconcerned about their stance.

Imagine trying to discuss the strengths of Judaism with members of the Hitler Youth, or the weaknesses of Mao's Great Leap Forward with a cadre of the Red Guard: would your ideas be heard and rationally considered? Or suppose you were running for office and these youngsters could vote: would they vote for you? When you discovered that you'd lost their vote and consequently an election, would you then ask yourself, for example, whether the ideas or nature of Judaism were at fault for your inability to persuade them?

That's about the level of it with much of the U.S. electorate: they've totally bought into the liberal stance — which these days includes refusing to hear or even consider ideas of the blacklisted opposition — and there's no indication that they'll be coming back to a more rational stance.

To call these people "zealots" would be overstating their political energy, but calling them "partisans" is somehow off point. Many of them, but for their political stance, would be considered bright or knowledgeable, as I'm sure were many of the Hitler Youth, the Red Guard and members of like organizations, who were often specially selected for their academic, athletic and social skills.

When I was young, it was a matter of pride that we'd try to familiarize ourselves with both sides of an argument: my teachers mostly attempted to present alternative views fairly and encouraged us to research opposing political stances independently. To this effect in my twelve grade civics class we would be given topics to research and debate before the class. Now educators at every level mostly seem to expect adherence to the liberal/Democrat position, and both challenge (even threaten) those who disagree, and create an environment where alternative views and their proponents are mocked (or worse).

To Republicans and conservatives, I'd say the same thing to you that I'd say to a Rabbi rejected by the Hitler Youth. If you think that the Democrats heard, digested and rejected your arguments in the last election, you're deluded. Your brand is so soiled that you will not be heard by this generation short of a calamity on the order of the one that befell the Nazis. Your misreading of the times and the situation is startling. You look like bewildered youngsters trying to please a psychotic mother, looking for cues in an electorate and media that derides and, in many cases, despises you. In terms of convincing the electorate of the good sense of your positions, there may not be workable solutions: but take a first step by facing the truth: you have allowed the culture to drift for decades, and one feature of the drift is the acceptability of determined mindlessness including the mindless rejection of you and whatever it is that you proclaim. You still have a substantial choir to whom you preach but probably a larger counter-choir that not only doesn't hear you but aggressively covers its ears when you speak.

Another element that makes the position of Republicans and conservatives almost untenable is the range of techniques for destroying them that are accepted by many Americans and the mainstream press. The most effective and destructive technique is so-called "political correctness", a method of silencing those who disagree with a group or party controlling the political agenda. It's a technique that depends on a constant reinforcing dialogue between the media and compliant citizens. Political correctness is a capital political concept because the participants silently acquiesce to its dictates; it's a self-modulating system where groups of people self-monitor and groom each other into conformity; through unspoken or overt threats of censure, it propagates itself; and, among the willing, it inevitably leads to the control of thought. If we freely restrict our speech to only "allowed" topics, in short order we restrict our thinking as well. In the end there is no more powerful political tool than thought control, which is why mastery and management of information is a central issue in all totalitarian regimes. What has required the overt elimination or forced domination of media outlets in most autocratic regimes has been yielded up easily by our group-think media, who now march along in near lockstep while trumpeting their independence. Political correctness must be a beautiful thing to behold if you're a politician inclined toward domination.

Another technique is the investigation and censure of politicians and groups who don't fit the media or left wing paradigm, while ignoring or manipulating scandalous information on political allies. When potentially damaging information about left wing allies is ignored by the mainstream media, it simply "doesn't exist" to growing numbers of otherwise well-informed acolytes. This is why Sarah Palin is regarded as perhaps the most heinous and hated American politician today to a large portion of the population, while Bill Clinton is lionized and his wife may be the brightest woman in the western world. With enough investigation and diligence, anyone can be destroyed and almost anyone can be elevated. Again, who is destroyed and who idealized is totally within the control of the mainstream media and the left wing. Conservatives and Republicans cannot substantially affect these processes because of the nullification of their brand advanced through the press, the entertainment media and educational institutions.

We are observing the regression of a culture — one that is moving away from sophistication and proudly stepping backward from civilizing attempts. We have seen primitive behavior in our own culture and others. When people look to a label or a skin color as all that need be said about a person; when information from trusted sources of information are grossly biased so only one side is heard or even "exists"; and when physical or administrative violence against people is belittled, laughed at or ignored. It's a cultural regression and, as the unifying, reassuring legal structures and precepts wither, as information sources become untrustworthy, and as physical and administrative violence worsens, it becomes increasingly difficult to reverse.

When the Whigs lost their credibility and influence in 1854 a group of courageous men meet in a schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin to form a new party dedicated to the abolishment of slavery. Six years later the first Republican President was elected and a bloody civil war ensued, but slavery was abolished once and for all. It is going to take a like group of men and women to take a similar action to bring our nation back to the vision of our Founding Fathers. It will be a bloody fight and the people leading that fight will have to be tough-minded and principled. All we need now is a name for this new party. Perhaps Constitutional Party might work.

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