View Full Version : Republican Party Could Go the Way of the Whigs

02-28-2012, 06:04 PM
Fractured Republican Party Could Go the Way of the Whigs
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
The Provocation (http://www.theprovocation.net/2012/02/fractured-republican-party-could-go-way.html)

THE NEWS: Rick Santorum is accusing Ron Paul of coordinating with Mitt Romney's campaign by refusing to attack the former Massachusetts governor in debates. Although Paul denies any deal with the front-runner, it's worth noting that he has, indeed, focused his attacks on other GOP rivals while largely giving Romney a pass.

THE PROVOCATION: Whether or not there's any overt collusion between the Romney and Paul camps, the suggestion of it highlights the widening schism within the Republican Party. This isn't just a case of the old-line establishment vs. the Tea Party. It goes deeper than that. It's a fundamental gulf in philosophy that threatens to destroy the party from within.

On one side are economic conservatives whose main focus is business. Social issues aren't nearly as important to them as a business-friendly climate that will allow their large corporate donors to make a handsome profit. This group tends to be more educated and more well-off, financially.

On the other side are the social conservatives who are less educated and therefore have less opportunity (or, in some cases, desire) to climb the corporate ladder. Many of them are resigned to their economic lot in life. When it comes to economic policy, they don't care much about corporate profits. They simply don't want to be taxed or laid off. What they do care about is a social agenda that emphasizes the Christian god, puts the man at the head of the household and fights against progressive ideas such as same-sex marriage.

These two factions entered into an uneasy alliance under Ronald Reagan, who cemented an alliance with Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and Pat Robertson's 700 Club following. The basis for the union was simple: For decades, Southern social conservatives had found themselves disaffected from their traditional home in the Democratic Party, marginalized by Northeast Democrats who focused on the expansion of civil rights. When the Northeast Democrats, led by the Kennedys, brought the weight of their influence to bear in fighting segregation, Dixiecrats felt abandoned. A little more than a decade later, the Reagan Republicans were ready to accept them with open arms.

Philosophically, the newcomers were a good fit with traditional Republicans. Reagan sealed the alliance by focusing on lower taxes (though he in fact raised taxes 11 times during his presidency). The party's corporate sponsors loved this because it enabled them to maximize profits; the newcomers liked it, too, because of their opposition to paying taxes - especially taxes that funded progressive programs they loathed, such as public broadcasting and affirmative action.

Flash forward to the present day, when the Tea Party has attempted to recapture the energy of the initial Reagan coalition.

And failed miserably.

Want evidence? Just listen to the heated rhetoric being employed by Rick Santorum against Mitt Romney - and vice versa. These two men, who are both vying for the mantle of the late Sir Ronald, obviously have little regard for the Gipper's so-called Eleventh Commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican." There's always some negative campaigning during primary season, but this year's campaign has set a new standard. Clearly, the gloves are off. These two men are going at one another with the fury of two estranged spouses at the brink of divorce.

But this isn't just about Santorum and Romney. It goes far deeper than that. As further evidence of the widening gulf within the Republican Party, one need look no further than the campaign itself and how it has developed. The Falwell faction that Reagan grafted into the party is no longer content to simply support the economic conservatives who welcomed them three decades ago. They want to lead, and they've settle for nothing less.

Exhibit A: The Tea Party, which began by emphasizing the common ground between the economic and social factions - a desire for lower taxes (TEA being a supposed acronym for "taxed enough already"). Shortly after its emergence, it was co-opted by the fundamentalist Christian faction, led by people such as Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. In essence, they sacrificed the common ground that had formed the very basis of the alliance on the altar of ideological purity.

What followed was an increasingly desperate and almost comical attempt to find a suitably "pure" candidate to challenge Romney. It's been almost like watching someone rummage through the trash in search of a winning lottery ticket. One by one, items are pulled out and then tossed aside. Trump. Bachmann. Perry. Cain. Gingrich. Santorum is basically their last hope; barring an unexpected "white knight" entry into the race, they're stuck with him. If anyone wonders at the audacity and, some would say, idiocy of his statements, there's a good explanation: <u>This is what happens when you scrape the bottom of the barrel.</u>

You find a guy who lost his last political race by 18 points and is almost certainly unelectable now.

The business wing of the party isn't about to just stand still and allow itself to be conquered by insurgent Tea Partiers. But it's perilously close to losing its grip - not only on the party but on any hope of wielding power in the executive branch. Poll after poll has shown that the nation is economically moderate/conservative and socially moderate/liberal. Evangelical Christians account for just 26% of Americans. The calculus should be simple for the Republicans, especially in challenging economic times: Focus on fiscal conservatism and downplay the social fundamentalism.

But the Tea Partiers aren't allowing them to do that. They're putting social issues at the forefront and ignoring the very issues that would resonate most with voters: jobs, economic stability and fiscal responsibility. Will the neo-Falwellian faction ultimately succeed in co-opting the Republican Party in the same way it took control of the Tea Party?

A lot is riding on the answer to that question. If it does, you can bet the pro-business fiscal conservatives will look for a new alliance that will give them a winning formula. The best option would appear to be the Libertarians, who are highly energized like the Falwellians and whose philosophy of small government actually fits much more neatly with Reagan Republicanism than the fundamentalist ideology does. Businessmen are rarely true believers. They're opportunists who are willing to capitalize (pun intended) on opportunity where it presents itself, not rigid ideologues who make absolute statements and draw unnecessary lines in the sand.

Will the Republican Party as we know it today disintegrate and coalesce anew with a different emphasis - or even a different name? There's certainly precedent for this occurring. The Republican Party, you may recall, didn't even exist until shortly before the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln served in Congress under an entirely different banner - that of the Whig Party.

The Whigs actually dominated presidential politics in the 1840s: Four of the five presidents in the period from 1841 to 1853 were Whigs. But by the mid-1850s, the party had ceased to function as a viable entity, and some of its former members re-emerged under the banner of the nascent Republican Party.

Why did the Whigs fall apart?

They were, like the modern Republicans, an uneasy coalition of pro-business individuals on the one hand and religious revivalists on the other. Then, as now, the division was geographical and social: Northern business interests on the one hand and the Southern, pro-slavery group on the other. Meanwhile, two of its most influential leaders - Henry Clay and Daniel Webster - both died, leaving a void that, in the end, no one could effectively fill. (Clay had served as senator, secretary of state and Speaker of the House; Webster had served in the Senate and also as secretary of state.) With the compromise of 1850, the party split along pro- and anti-slavery lines and was, like Humpty Dumpty, irreparably broken.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Today's Republican Party finds itself divided between a pro-business faction on the one hand and religious revivalists on the other. The latter faction finds most of its strength in the South and, to some extent, the Midwest. It's also dominated by white males. As in the 1850s, the party is bogged down by social issues, in this case contraception, same-sex marriage, military service for women and gays, etc. There's nothing like the overarching issue of slavery, which was an economic as well as a social consideration. Nevertheless, the passions associated with these modern issues are rising and may soon approach those once associated with slavery.

Moreover, the Republican Party leadership - like the Whig Party leadership a century and a half ago - is in shambles. The ideologues are busy rummaging through trash cans in a vain search for purists, attacking anyone who deviates a centimeter from their agenda and extracting absolute pledges from candidates that fall just short of swearing on their mothers' graves. The party's leaders? Apart from Romney, they're a motley crew who would have been benchwarmers (or batboys) for the party in its heydey: Gingrich is a disgraced former House Speaker, Santorum suffered the most humiliating defeat ever by a Republican senator, and Paul is a refugee from another party.

Two of those who sought the Republican nomination are already distancing themselves from the party. Jon Huntsman, a former governor of Utah and ambassador to both China and Singapore, initially endorsed Romney after he received little support and dropped out of the race. More recently, however, he all but called for the formation of a third party: "I see zero evidence of people getting out there and addressing the economic deficit which is a national-security problem, for heaven's sake," he said on MSNBC. "I think we're going to have problems politically until we get some sort of third-party movement or some alternative voice out there that can put forward new ideas."

Meanwhile, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson, who received virtually no attention as a Republican candidate, has left the party and announced that he will seek the Libertarian nomination. This latter move, combined with an implicit Romney-Paul alliance, suggests that Republicans who want to win may be deserting the sinking ship launched by the neo-Falwellians and seeking to create a new base of libertarians and fiscal conservatives.

If they're able to do so, the United States will likely continue to have a viable two-party system, with the majority of voters affiliating with one party or another based on whether they place a higher value on social moderate/liberalism (Democrats) or fiscal moderate/conservatism (Republican/Libertarians). Those mainstream views have long kept the two major parties in balance. But if the minority in the socially conservative base comes to dominate the Republican Party, that party will likely cease to be a viable alternative. And when corporate interests realize it can no longer win, they'll invest their money elsewhere - either in a new party or in efforts to lobby Democrats.

If you're a Democrat, all this can be fun to watch. If you're a Republican, you should be scared to death.

02-29-2012, 02:06 AM
..............If they're able to do so, the United States will likely continue to have a viable two-party system, with the majority of voters affiliating with one party or another based on whether they place a higher value on social moderate/liberalism (Democrats) or fiscal moderate/conservatism (Republican/Libertarians).......................

Yes -- the usofa might continue to hav a viable system -- but the usofa itself will not be viable.

02-29-2012, 06:49 AM
SF ... I pray you are right.

The Whigs were at first the party which staunchly defended the COTUS against the demokrooks agenda of slavery and an imperial presidency.

The Whigs eventually morphed into simply a second statist party, from which those who held true to the ideals of the American republic splintered off to form the republican party.

Sadly, ver time, the republichickens have become the party of leftism ... as opposed to the demokrooks being the party of moonbat crazy leftism ... and the tea party faction is in the process of splintering off and leaving the RINOs to drift away into oblivion.

<span style='font-size: 26pt'>BRAVO!</span>

03-01-2012, 03:54 PM
I'll pray right along with you, but for different reasons. It would be great to see the GOP implode and turned into a fragmented, squabbling, ineffective, and powerless entity. I think it's great that it will be the Tea Party that finally drives a stake into the heart of the GOP. How ironically delicious!

03-01-2012, 04:02 PM
But what about the smelt -- its too late for the whigs, but we kan save the smelt.