Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

In 1854 the Republican Party was founded, its principal policy position being opposition to expansion of slavery through the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Cavendish, History Today, Vol. 54, #7, July 2004. After the Civil War, Republican members of Congress pushed reconstruction of the South and sought to protect the rights of people recently freed from slavery (while at the same time seeking to enrich themselves). When Theodore Roosevelt assumed the office of President after the death of William McKinley, Roosevelt sought to “bust the trusts” - break the power of large corporations. TR viewed inheritance taxes as necessary to prevent greater concentration of money and power in fewer hands. Roosevelt also was concerned about the environment and is credited with creating our system of national parks.
Under President Eisenhower, the United States had a graduated income tax system with rates similar to those Senator Warren calls for today.
In the 1960s, things changed. LBJ followed up on JFK’s initial efforts and successfully pushed passage of several measures that protected civil rights, notably the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. A greater percentage of Republican members of Congress, as compared to Democratic members, voted for these statutes.
In the 20th Century, each major political party developed its own “liberal” and “conservative” wings. With passage of the civil rights measures, and the 1964 election for President, the “conservative” wing of the Republican Party began to separate from the GOP. Richard Nixon is recognized for development of the “Southern strategy,” where formerly reactionary Southerners, who favored secregation amongst other evils, were lured to the GOP. Others say Lee Atwater, an adviser to George H.W. Bush developed that strategy. By the 1980s the Democratic Party no longer could count on the “Solid South” as a go-to block of votes.
In 2010 the “Tea Party” developed as an ill-defined populist force. Its “achievements” consisted of primarying incumbent GOP members of Congress and forcing a reactionary tendency in the party even further to the right. The Tea Party used the structures of State and local governments that gave the two major political parties an advantage to hijack the GOP.
The United States Constitution is a document, the core of which was written over several months during the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia at a convention, the charter for which was limited to making improvements to the Articles of Confederation. The delegates went far beyond their charter. In wholesale fashion they scrapped the Articles, made many compromises, during the evenings after days’ business, to create a government with a stronger central authority.
The Constitution is a document of ironies. Horrible policies have been pursued by members of both major political parties.
The delegates to the 1787 convention were white, male landowners, of whom “at least a third” claimed ownership over other human beings. Stewart, “The Summer of 1787,” 2007, p. 68. Yet the Constitution stated, in its Preamble its purpose, in part, was to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity...” Among the compromises were those that sought to preserve the institution of slavery, whereas the Declaration of Independence, pivotal in the founding of this country, clearly said: “WE hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness...” One scholarly authority notes: “No specific mention of ‘slavery,’ ‘slaves,’ or ‘Negroes’ had been permitted into the final draft of the document.” Ellis, “Founding Brothers,” 2000, p. 84.
The Framers, generally, spoke of “factions”—what today we consider political parties, in negative terms. Madison, in Federalist Paper Number 10, spoke of the evils of “factions”—yet the delegates had begun to line up in what would become the first two “major” political parties, and created a government, through the Constitution, inherently weighted toward a two-party system.
Neither political party is an entity unto itself. Each of the two parties has changed over time. We are not beholden to them simply because of the ways in which they have taken over this system.
I embrace the values of the Republican Party - as it was founded in 1854, furthered through the Civil War, advanced by Theodore Roosevelt, and seen in poicies under Eisenhower and into the 1960s.
Tea Party types and others under the current occupant of the Oval Office are interlopers. It’s time people who hold traditionally Republican beliefs take back the Grand Old Party.

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