The New Whigs
October 16, 2005 3:16 AM   Subscribe

Is the modern GOP a repackaging of the old Whig party? (archive link) The blend of businessmen's aversion to government regulation, down-home cultural populism and Christian moralism that sustains today's Republican Party is a venerable if loosely knit philosophy of government dating back to long before the right-wing upsurge that prepared the way for Reagan's presidency. A few pundits and political insiders have likened the current Republicans to the formidable, corporate-financed political machine behind President William McKinley at the end of the 19th century. The admiration Karl Rove has expressed for the machine strengthens the historical connection. Of course, the Whigs couldn't hold their disparate coalition together in the face of the slavery issue. What might undo the current disparate coalition in the GOP?
posted by caddis (27 comments total)
posted by wakko at 3:23 AM on October 16, 2005

Stagflation. It's just so much fun to say that. Staaagflation.
posted by allen.spaulding at 3:31 AM on October 16, 2005

Interesting article, but it seemed over-compressed. Needed more historical detail to be really convincing.

The Republican party has been under stress since the fall of the USSR. The pro-family, pro-life religious folks have little in common with the deficit hawks and economic libertarians, and neither of those groups has much in common with the Pax Americana World Police guys. It was anti-Communism that held these parts together. Now that battle has been largely won, and the issue is moot.

I honestly think that the only thing that has kept the Republicans in office is the even sorrier state of the Democrats. Witness the results of the last election. And as long as the Democrats keep drifting to the left, farther and farther from the American political center of gravity, that's not going to change.

Unhappy Republicans stay put because there is no good alternative. No, not the Libertarian Party. Not the Greens. Not the Reform Party.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 5:19 AM on October 16, 2005

And as long as the Democrats keep drifting to the left

oh lordy.
posted by 3.2.3 at 5:22 AM on October 16, 2005

What might undo the current disparate coalition in the GOP?
posted by caddis at 6:16 AM EST (2 comments total) [!]

How about skyrocketing energy and healthcare costs, inequitable taxation of the lower middle class and poor, and discretionary spending well beyond the means of the US to continue borrowing from other countries with which we are increasingly hostile (namely China)?
posted by Rothko at 5:26 AM on October 16, 2005

And as long as the Democrats keep drifting to the left

Pass some of that over here, man. If only. The Democratic party I know still mostly supports the war in Iraq, is indifferent to poverty, doesn't give a crap about 11 million Americans without healthcare coverage and talks all the time about family values and God. I guess when you compare that to the hard right shift the GOP has taken over the past twenty years, and that caused you to lose your moorings, it might appear as though the Dems are shifting leftward. But in historical terms, today's Democratic party is to the right of Eisenhower... and possibly Nixon.
posted by psmealey at 5:52 AM on October 16, 2005

And as long as the Democrats keep drifting to the left, farther and farther from the American political center of gravity

yeah, why did they nominate Al Sharpton in '04, for fuck's sake??? the Sharpton/Kucinich ticket they chose didn't stand one fucking chance in hell. they're not a centrist, fiscally conservative party like the GOP!!!

*laughs his ass off*

now, the Republicans in Washington run such a tight, well-controlled operation (the Clinton lynch mob in the Nineties was the perfect rehearsal) that the only wedge issue that has some resonance is... nothing? well, it certainly isn't the budget (Bush happily busted it and I didn't see him lose any votes in 2004, we could practically hear Rove chant "suck on this my dear Republican deficit hawks" after the election). and it isn't the metamorphosis of the Party into a fundy-Protestant-run operation -- how many Republicans withheld their vote for Bush in '04 because of their horror for the anti-gay platform? very, very few -- fag-loving Republicans (like that hippie John McCain, who's also in favor of the mongrelization of the white race, the GOP primaries taught us) are now ineffectual and perfectly disposable -- there are a dozen rabid fundies ready to replace each moderate Republican who doesn't recognize his party anymore

the only significant wedge issue that split the Bush fans (the Democrats were of course unable to grasp the situation) was, sadly, The Passion of the Christ -- ie the clear split between the "the hook-nosed devils killed Jim Caviezel" people and the "wtf?" pro-Israel Republicans (more than a few of whom clearly think that the Book of Genesis is a binding legal document that makes a big fat chunk of the Middle East Jewish land currently occupied by Arab invaders)

the solution? as Rothko points out, bankruptcy. when these pork-barrel happy Republicans who cut taxes (for the rich, of course) while burning billions and billions and billions of dollars manage to eventually bankrupt America, a Democrat will be hired to clean up the tsunami of shit. the way Clinton had to clean up Reagan's and Poppy Bush's deficit mess, only 10,000 worse

Mrs Clinton is going to need a lot of coffee in 2012
posted by matteo at 6:06 AM on October 16, 2005

oh, and Roe could be a factor. when poor John Paul Stevens finally throws in the towel and Chief Justice Roberts happily smothers Roe, with liberty and coathangers for all, we'll see.
when an Alabama grand jury indicts the first woman for murder after she terminates her pregnancy, we'll see. maybe the GOP will pay a price for that at least.
Diebold willing, of course
posted by matteo at 6:10 AM on October 16, 2005

Whigs? The modern GOP is a repackaging of JFK's and LBJ's Democratic Party. The GOP uses the "culture" war in place of the "class" war to divide the electorate into two halves and opposition to abortion in place of civil rights as the moral crusade, but other than that they are indisguishable.

The 1960s Democrats had their communists, the modern GOP has islamo-fascists. (Communism was, at least, real.)

Like the Democrats of the 1960s, the modern GOP purses an expansionist role for government and have driven the nation deep into deficit spending.

Like the Democrats of the 1960s, the modern GOP has entangled America in a unwinnable foreign war against a country who posed no threat whatsoever to America and whose most likely evolution is to spread to neighboring countries.

But most of all, just like JFK and LBJ, the modern GOP uses its control of government to loot the treasury for their friends.

There's your two party democracy: same shit, different names.
posted by three blind mice at 6:14 AM on October 16, 2005

Ironic that Karl was inspired by the "Whig" Party and the focus of the Plame Grand Jury is turning towards the White House Iraq Group...
posted by rzklkng at 7:09 AM on October 16, 2005

And as long as the Democrats keep drifting to the left

I think there's precious little thought out there on the hard left, and a bit of that can provide some mental balance for everyone.

Whether or not a certain political party adopts extreme points into its platform, that's another question, and one which should not probably placed into the realm of instantaneous assumption.
posted by nervousfritz at 7:55 AM on October 16, 2005

The GOP uses the "culture" war in place of the "class" war to divide the electorate into two halves and opposition to abortion in place of civil rights as the moral crusade, but other than that they are indisguishable.

I'm with you on the other stuff (Vietnam benefitted LBJ's benefactors greatly), but drawing and analogy between civil rights and banning abortion falls apart.

In JFK/LBJ's case, pushing for the Civil Rights Act was done largely because it was the right thing to do, despite the fact that they both knew it would be very costly to the Democratic Party ("we've just lost the south for a generation" -LBJ). The abortion thing looks a cynical ploy for the right wingers to lock down Christian fundamentalists into the GOP. It may or may not be viewed on all parts of the Republican part as "the right thing to do", but it sure as hell helps shore up the base.
posted by psmealey at 7:57 AM on October 16, 2005

What might undo the current disparate coalition in the GOP?

posted by felix betachat at 8:37 AM on October 16, 2005

The GOP will keep doing well as long as they can keep enough Americans spouting that "the Democrats are nasty lefties" bullshit.
posted by clevershark at 8:55 AM on October 16, 2005

Dems are nasty Lefties, glomming onto the poor to exploit them.

By the way, looks like the Republicans are pretty much into as much Big Government as the Dems. Except that the Republicans favor the Waqr on Terrorism, including the Iraq War, so they got my vote last time.

And thank you Republican Congress for some very generous spending on bicycle and recreational paths!
posted by ParisParamus at 9:50 AM on October 16, 2005

PP:You mean the War on Terror and the War on Iraq.
posted by srboisvert at 10:12 AM on October 16, 2005

the splitting issue this time around will be the economy and a corporate run society ... eventually the christian right, which is just as economically vunerable as anyone else, will see the corporations do things that they can't support ... the conflict's already there, it just needs to be brought out more

it's likely that the democrats may split over this, too ... or just be as ineffective as they've been recently
posted by pyramid termite at 10:37 AM on October 16, 2005

What might undo the current disparate coalition in the GOP?

At the point when the slush fund of excessive cash goes away.

If it comes via the US Dollar no longer being needed world wide, budget clampdowns, or whatever stops the money spigot, once the pile of money is gone, all you'll be left with is the groups who wants the power.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:44 AM on October 16, 2005

Don't confuse intramural disputes with actual scrimages. The Republicans are control, thankfully, and they can afford to air their differences. You Lefty types were saying the same thing about this time last year...
posted by ParisParamus at 12:03 PM on October 16, 2005

All that's needed to unglue this flotsam that comprises the current GOP is a centrist Democrat who is not absolutely disgusting. That's it. If the Dems could swallow their shrill lefty extremism and draft someone who doesn't do stupid stuff like Kerry did with his whole "military hero" persona, they'd trump a weak GOP candidate like W in a heartbeat.
posted by gregor-e at 12:25 PM on October 16, 2005

posted by ParisParamus at 12:31 PM on October 16, 2005

Or, if the Libertarians would stop coming off like a bunch of major loons, their formula of a socially liberal, fiscally conservative administration could gain a lot of traction.
posted by gregor-e at 12:38 PM on October 16, 2005

Matteo, please don't disparage Justice JR, I looked in his third eye and got a nod.
posted by Mr T at 1:33 PM on October 16, 2005

Did the Whigs seek to impose Mosaic Law ?
posted by troutfishing at 1:52 PM on October 16, 2005

Also, I agree with ParisParamus on the wishful thinking of a few of the replies here.
posted by troutfishing at 1:55 PM on October 16, 2005

There isn't much of a market for "libertarian politics" either within the Republican party or outside of it. The "big business" Republicans come from industries which depend on govenment contracts (big energy, aerospace, major construction) or government bailouts/protection (big steel, airlines, media). I think that too much is made about either party's potential to attract more voters via libertarianism.

Are the Republicans like the modern Whigs? Sure. Just a Whig party without any issue such as slavery to create a vacuum that would otherwise doom them. More accurately, the McKinley-era Republican party could be said to have been the resurrection of the Whig party that has persisted along every since. The demise of the Whig party was an aberration, not a result of inevtiable forces that would always take place.
posted by deanc at 2:03 PM on October 16, 2005

Show me someone who thinks they've met a politician they can trust and I'll show you a fool.

Show me someone who thinks they've met an entire political party they can trust, and I'll show you ParisParamus.
posted by fleacircus at 6:33 PM on October 16, 2005

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