Thursday, October 17, 2013

A thought about political parties

As I understand it, when the Constitution was written its authors did not think political parties were a good idea, and certainly the Constitution did not provide for political parties, much less a two party system.

The Democratic and Republican parties have been around since long before I was born. It is hard to realize that parties come and go, and change even as they endure. The Federalist, Anti-Federalist, Whig, Native American, Know Nothing and Bull Moose parties come to mind as having had their day and then withered away. The Democratic party was created by Jackson and his associates and the Republican party came to power to prosecute the interests of the northern states, including the promotion of free labor policies. Note that the 19th century Republicans not only led the Union as it won the Civil War, but built the transcontinental railroad, created the land grant colleges and the National Academy of Sciences, and passed the Homestead Acts. Teddy Roosevelt led the progressive movement at the turn of the century.

Following the civil rights legislation in the 1960s and the Republican "southern strategy", there was a radical realignment as white southern Democrats switched to the Republican party. We have seen the Rockefeller Republicans lose influence in the party as George W. and Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and other southern Republicans have become more visible as the spokespersons for the party.

The Tea Party Republicans have a base among white southern Republicans. They also have a base in Republican parties in states with small populations created by Republican Congresses in the second half of the 19th century to help perpetuate Republican control of the Senate and the presidency. The economic problems experienced in the country in the past few years seem to have contributed to the rise of the Tea Party, but there seems to be a complex process involving the role of the Christian right, the financing of political theory and advertising by wealthy conservatives, changing media and changing legal structures that have helped organizers to develop the Tea Party power in politics. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a third party, if a moderate wing of the Republican party splits off, or if some other resolution takes place.

The effort to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act seems like an attempt at nullification with historical precedents. Think of Andrew Jackson threatening to send troops to South Carolina to enforce federal law when that state's legislature tried to nullify a tariff. The Civil War, I suppose, was the most extreme example of an attempt to nullify federal action (that southern states feared might follow Lincoln's election).

There is nothing new under the sun, and the recent events are not worse than some survived by the USA.

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