Sunday, June 7, 2009
The Republicans and the Whigs.
There is widespread agreement that the Republicans are in trouble in many areas of the country. The lack of representation in the populous Northeast is a popular topic among the TV talkers. Out here on the Pacific coast, the party still exists, but it's having a hard time reaching out of the base of grumpy old white guys. In the California state assembly, the Republican caucus would be all Caucasian if it wasn't for Van Tran, whose family came to the United States from Vietnam. The party is having a hard time in urban and suburban districts outside the deep south of California, down in San Diego and extending up to Orange County.
Some people are wondering if the Republicans are becoming the Whigs, once a major party in this country that vanished as a power before the Civil War. There are even some people resurrecting the Whig Party name in some parts of the country, and using the owl as their logo.
The Republicans may be in trouble, but their problems are very different from the problems that made the Whigs vanish in the 1850's. The Democratic Party of that time was largely pro-slavery, though they had some prominent abolitionists like former president Martin Van Buren. The Whigs decided to purge the abolitionists from their ranks, so there was a major issue where the leaderships of both the Whigs and the Democrats were on the same side. The Republican Party grew on two major issues, opposing what they called the two Babylonian sins, slavery and polygamy. (If you click on the Betty Bowers' video, you'll see that slavery and polygamy were acceptable practices for the Hebrews as well as the so-called pagans. American Christians were no better at reading the Bible in the 19th Century than they are in the 21th Century, but that's a point for another post.)
Whatever problems the Republicans have, and the changing demographics in the country is their largest and most obvious problem, they are not repeating the Whigs' mistake of being too much like the Democrats on the major issues of the day. Looking at the things they believe in, they have a very strong issue in fiscal responsibility, but they have to admit their complicity in the deficits that grew at the federal level under Reagan and both Bushes. Not wanting to pay taxes while demanding to maintain the best trained and most powerful military in the world isn't going to work. They also have the problem that they need a social safety net that will keep old people alive, since that is their most reliable voting bloc.
The Republicans aren't the Whigs. This isn't the 1850's. If the G.O.P. is going to vanish from the national scene, it will not be because they repeated the mistakes of the distant past. They aren't an endangered species just yet, but given the lineup of both elected and unelected pinheads that present themselves as the leaders of the party these days, it's certainly possible they will find new and exciting ways to screw themselves into the ground.