By: Terry Donnelly
There is historical precedent for the withering away of one political party and the emergence of another.
Early on John Adams was the only Federalist president before the party was lost–George Washington was non-affiliated, but would have been a Federalist if forced to decide. Democratic-Republicans had a good run, electing Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams before fading. Whigs also had four presidents, but weren’t as lucky with their picks as they only elected two, both of whom died in office and were succeeded by vice presidents. William Harrison served 34 days giving way to John Tyler, then Zachary Taylor passed and Millard Fillmore served out his term.
Andrew Jackson was the first Democratic president elected in 1828. With Abraham Lincoln’s election as the first Republican in 1860, we finally settled on the current parties.
Republicans have divided into ultra conservatives offset with a more moderate wing since 1933. Sen. Robert Taft was a leader of the ultra conservative wing leading the fight against FDR’s New Deal. Barry Goldwater was the first ultra conservative nominated in 1964. He lost in a landslide when Lyndon Johnson won over 61% of the popular vote and 44 states to Goldwater’s six.
The 1964 election was a milestone. Republicans first used the Southern Strategy getting white, southerners to vote Republican in protest over Democrats passing the Civil Rights Act. The strategy was successful in that five of Goldwater’s six winning states were from the Confederacy.
Prior, southern states voted Democratic and Republicans were the Party of Lincoln. The successes of the civil rights movement flipped all of that. African Americans began voting for FDR, but became nearly a bloc for Democrats after 1964. The Republican, southern, white vote remains similarly strong.
Since 1968 there have been five Republican presidents. All but one, including the losing candidates, have been from the moderate wing.
Republicans tout Ronald Reagan as a “true conservative”. President Reagan had conservative leanings, but historically was a Democrat. As president, he raised taxes to save the economy from collapse, and worked with Democrats to effect change–something the current voices eschew. Reagan was really a moderate who was a skilled enough politician to do what John McCain and Mitt Romney could not; convince his party that he was more like Barry Goldwater.
The country is becoming more left thinking. Today, there is almost no crusade to get rid of the social programs that have found their way into everyday life. Social security, Medicare, Medicaid, regulations over food and drug production, and much of the social safety net established since FDR are all socialistic programs that have gained nearly universal support.
We hear rumblings of limiting voting rights, making abortion choice completely illegal, deporting millions of illegal immigrants, and there is still strong pushback against expanding Medicare to every citizen. But, those fights, while still passionate issues for some, are getting weaker.
The current temper tantrum the Republican congress is throwing to avoid dealing with a Supreme Court nominee is simply a last ditch effort at relevancy. Minutes after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was reported, elected Republicans started shouting that the president shouldn’t appoint in his last year in office. They added the argument that the people have the right to chime in on who is next seated on the loftiest judicial bench. Well, those arguments are as leaky as a canoe made from chicken wire. History reveals several late term justice nominations and ratifications. The argument about the people speaking is just drivel. President Obama won the last election with 53% of the vote. There is no guarantee that the next president will have such a numbers mandate. Many elections are won with less than 50% of popular vote. In that event, the next president would be nominating the next justice with less voter support than was given to Mr. Obama.
The anti government faction of the Senate may well succeed in blocking any Obama appointee. However, doing so may be the final undoing of the Republican Party as it has functioned since 1933.
I hope the clearer minds and softer voices of the moderate wing can somehow win the day. America works best with two, strong political parties.