Today’s GOP is no longer ‘grand,’ but clearly old. Old whites. Whigs come to mind both figuratively and literally. Could today’s Republican Party be on the same road to extinction as the Whig Party of long ago? Many will ask, ‘What Whig Party?’ Exactly the point.
The last Whig president was Millard Fillmore. That ought to say something about the party. To be fair, though, statesmen such as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were from the Whig Party before its demise. Like today’s GOP, the Whigs faced a serious and divisive problem in the years before their collapse- slavery. Clearly the statesmen of the party were much against that stain on our history. Not surprisingly, many were from the North. The penultimate dissolution of the party was over the Kansas-Nebraska Act which opened those territories to slavery. Northern Whigs vehemently opposed that decision while southern Whigs supported it.
To my generation this sounds like deja vu all over again. Or, rather reverse deja vu, if you follow. Today’s modern Democratic Party suffered such a split in the late 1960’s when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. In fact,while the ink was still wet, Johnson quipped, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican party for a long time to come.” After the signing, many southern Democrats left the party and joined the GOP.
Like Lincoln, many of the former northern Whigs joined the Republican Party. Of course that Republican Party was not in any way a mirror of today’s GOP! As we all know, many of the disgruntled, segregationist Democrats flipped to the Republican Party after the civil rights legislation. These were the same people who led the filibuster against the Civil Rights Act in 1964: Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond were two of the best-known of these new Republicans.
The absence of African Americans, Latinos and Asians in today’s Republican Party point out just how white that party has become. The Presidential Elections of 2008 and 2012 point out two things about this party. First, the party is generally located in the Confederate South and, two, it lost significantly in both elections. Rather than it being a ‘national party,’ it has become localized, thus assuring it of a continual loss of the White House. It will, however, maintain a strong presence in the House due to gerrymandering of local congressional districts. However, northern GOP House seats are most vulnerable and may be easily picked up by the Democratic Party. The hubbub and the politicizing of the relief package for victims of the Northeast hurricane may have soured northern Republicans. The obstruction was led by southern conservatives in the GOP. Whether northerners [north-easterners] wish to continue to identify with the southern GOP is uncertain.
Thus the Whig dilemma here in the 21st century. Whigs who did not join Lincoln’s Republican Party formed Third Parties who, rather than being FOR some ideology were grouped AGAINST an ideology- the Opposition Parties. It seems to me that today’s GOP has become another, modern Opposition Party. Such a coalition rarely has succeeded for long in American politics.
Since the second Inauguration of President Obama, the Republican Party had attempted to regroup and re-define itself. Strangely some of the leaders suggested that there needs no realignment of ideals, only a new way to sell itself. One likened it to shining shoes. [I’ll let that reference pass without comment]. Others are suggesting change, such as enticing Hispanics into the party by ‘softening’ its rhetoric on immigration. Softening?
Personally I hope that today’s Republican Party goes the way of the Whigs. Only with such a drastic end result will there emerge thoughtful elders who can reassemble a political party which offers a choice to The People- all of the people of our nation.
addendum: UptheFlag made a comment about this article that appeared in the local Mississippi newspaper:
I think it fits perfectly with the theme of the post above in that it gives us insight into why the GOP is stagnating and festering.