When observing the current political drama and trying to come to grips with the status of the two major parties, one should look to our history for both understanding and a possible solution for many of our concerns. What I’m going to write here isn’t anything new to anyone familiar with history and able to understand what happened then and how it relates to us today.
Over 150 years ago the Democratic Party, following the views of Andrew Jackson were the Republican Party we have today. In the mid nineteenth century they were the power brokers of both State and Federal governments. Their power came from the White male rural populace. They believed in State’s Rights over Federal overreach. They believed in the inferiority of non Whites to include Native Americans and the Blacks. Though their numbers were made up of mostly poor and middle-class laborers, they had a certain reverance to the elite, the plantation owners and other wealthy people who financially backed the politicians to ensure government operated in their best interests, even if it harmed the less fortunate members of the party. They were the conservatives of the age.
At the same time there was the Whig Party formed in the 1830’s and grounded in the Federalist movement of Alexander Hamilton. They were the alternative to Andrew Jackson disciples in the Democratic Party. They believed in a stronger Federal influence in government. They were mostly urban and backed small businesses, but also favored government setting the stage for a level playing field. They opposed how the Native Americans were being treated and opposed slavery. They were the Democrats of today.
By the 1850’s despite having four Presidents and support of the growing abolitionist movement the party was in disarray. They had difficulty holding party members together. In national and State elections they were losing despite offering what majority voters favored. They were so poorly organized and had so much difficulty in presenting a message that would reach the poor White rural voters, the party died. Many prominate members left the party. Some joined the Democrats while others joined a new party based on the proposition of a stronger Federal government dedicated to use that power to build infrastructure, invest in technology and keep slavery from expanding. This was the Republican party.
The new Republican party came out with a strong populace message that countered the faux populace leanings of the Democrats. In a short period of time, this party that essentially rose from the ashes of the Whigs began winning seats in Congress, State legislatures, and with Abraham Lincoln, the presidency. The Democrats were none too happy and worked to obstruct the progressive movement of the Republicans. Eventually the conservative, slave loving States of the South under Andrew Jackson like Democratic control, seceded from the Union to begin the Civil War.
Today the Republican Party operates on the same philosophy of the Andrew Jackson Democrats of the nineteenth century. They were strong but lost to the original Republican Party that almost mirrors today’s Democrats, but not quite. Today’s Democrats are more like the Whigs in terms of party structure and messaging. Perhaps it is now time for the best, strongest & dedicated members of today’s Democrats form their own Party, enlist independents and disenfranchised Republicans. Perhaps history could repeat itself while avoiding another Civil War.