Political Parties and the Future of the GOP

When Political Parties are Born

Even before the Constitution, there were Federalist and anti-Federalist factions. In George Washington’s administration, the government was divided between Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians. In his Farewell Address, Washington warned Americans about the danger of factions, but early Americans ignored the administration and rushed to form political parties.

The history of political parties in American history is referred to as political alignments. There are generally four recognized periods of alignment and realignment. The first alignment was a polarization between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, ending with the Era of Good Feelings. The second alignment was between the Democrats and Whigs; in 1852, Lewis Campbell of Ohio declared the end of the Whig Party: “The party is dead—dead—dead!” Out of the vacuum left by the collapse of the Whig Party, in 1854 John C. Fremont created the Grand Old Party dedicated to Federalism and the end of slavery. The party of the third alignment quickly became better known as the Republican Party. By 1932, however, the progressive Republican Party had become the party of laisse fair and small government. Almost incredulously, the fourth alignment occurred when President Franklin D. Roosevelt transformed the Democratic into the party of Federalism and Presidents Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson transformed the old party of the Confederacy into the party of Civil Rights.

He Did! So Can We!

The two enduring questions in the study of political parties in the United States are will there ever be a viable third party, and when will the next realignment occur? The Know Nothings, the Greenbacks, the Populists, and the Progressives have all failed to become permanent fixtures in American political history. One reason is that the two dominant parties have absorbed the issues of successful smaller parties.

Two of the most successful third parties in history, however, were not issued-based as much as personality-based. In 1912, the Cool Moose Party of former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt split enough of the Republican vote that the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, was elected President of the United States. The other significant third-party candidate, Ross Perot, won a significant portion of the popular vote in 1992, but it has never been completely clear whether he took more votes from President George H.W. Bush (R) or Governor Bill Clinton (D).

Popularism versus the Establishment

Both the Republican and Democratic Parties have internal divisions as well as their external struggles with each other. Most often, this is manifested as a battle for the soul of the party between populists and the establishment. The party that becomes more populist is usually the party that is out of power. The populist energy is often then harnessed into an electoral victory, wherein the populist party becomes the establishment and fuels the populist frustrations in the opposition party. Since the end of the Cold War, this dynamic has also been represented in the debate over internationalism as well.

The Fifth Alignment

There are those who believe that the fifth alignment has already occurred, whether it was the Reagan Democrats and the movement of Catholic voters toward the Republican Party or the Clinton electoral victory in 1992 and the Democratic embracing of Wall Street. However, in both of these situations, there was a movement from one pre-existing political party to another. While that is similar to the fourth alignment, the other three alignments occurred with the creation of a new political party ex nihilo.

In 2016, Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina said that Donald Trump should have dropped out of the presidential race and let (then) Governor Mike Pence lead the ticket. Another Republican presidential primary candidate, John Kasich, never endorsed his party’s nominee. In fact, Kasich reportedly voted for John McCain in the presidential election. Both former Republican Presidents Bush reportedly voted for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton. Conservative journalists like George Will and Max Boot have left the Republican Party. Less famous Republicans like Susan Bevan and Susan Cullman have also publicly announced their departure from the Republican Party too.

The Libertarian Party has often thought to be the beneficiary of this fraternal division in the Republican Party. And, yes, Gary Johnson received 4,489,233 total votes (3.27%) of the national vote, coming in third in the election, and set a record for the Libertarian Party’s best performance. The other touted third-party candidate in 2016 was Evan McMullin. McMullin did receive 21.54% of the popular vote in Utah and 6.7% in Idaho. Yet neither candidate received a single vote out the 538 possible in the Electoral College or the necessary 270 votes to become President of the United States.

So, Who and When?

While the Freedom Caucus, Rand Paul (KY), and many so-called conservatives actually espouse a more libertarian philosophy than a traditional Republican platform, these politician and pundits are still affiliated with the Republican Party, not the Libertarian Party. Senator Paul is acutely aware that when his father ran for president as a Libertarian, there was not enough traction for a plausible victory. These Libertarian-Republicans are thus staying within the Republican Party to remake it in their image. With the victory of a populist Republican as President of the United States and the Freedom Caucus hold on the House Republicans, the question still remains: what will John Kasich, George Will, and traditional conservatives do in 2020 and beyond?

If Donald Trump, in fact, runs for president in 2020, there is little doubt that John Kasich will mount a Republican primary challenge. But could Kasich upset a sitting president? The evangelical wing of the Republican Party will support Trump because, among other motivations, the presence of Mike Pence on the party ticket. This is, of course, mere political conjecture. The potential Republican primary battle will be shaped by the outcome of the midterm elections in 2018 as well as the eventual Mueller report. If Trump wins another presidential election, however, many conservatives will likely just wait out the end of Trumpism and hope for a return to conservatism in 2024. After all, Trump neutered the Congressional Republicans by signing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 and nominating Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

So, the fifth alignment will likely not appear anytime soon. There are no term limits on Congress; traditional Republicans will wait out the Trump Presidency, whether Trump is a one-term president or a two-term president. The loudest critics Kasich and Will are still employed, and others like Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Bob Corker (R-TN) are merely shooting backward while riding off into the subset. Perhaps the soon-to-be U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) will battle on the floor of the Senate Chambers for the heart and soul of the Republican Party, but there is not a viable third party on the horizon. Americans may have ignored Washington’s aversion to political parties, but Americans are loath to allow more than two parties or abandon the parties that have governed the United States since 1854.

April 28th ~ A Famous Nazi and a Treaty with Japan

Welcome to This Day in Today,

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!

~April 28~

On this day, April 28, 1908, Oskar Schindler was born in Moravia, in what was called Czechoslovakia for most of Schindler’s life. Schindler (April 28, 1908 – October 9, 1974) was a German industrialist and member of the Nazi Party who is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories, which were located in occupied Poland and the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. His story was told in book Schindler’s Ark (1982). The subsequent film Schindler’s List (1993) showed him as an opportunist initially motivated by profit who then, slowly, came to show his extraordinary initiative, tenacity, and dedication to saving the lives of his Jewish employees.

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On this day, April 28, 1952, the Treaty of San Francisco came into force (after having been signed September 8, 1951). The treaty officially ended World War II (six years after combat!!, but still looking timely compared to the Korea War “treaty” that has yet to be signed more than 60 years later), allocated compensation to Allied civilians and former prisoners of war who had suffered Japanese war crimes, ended the Allies’ military occupation, and return sovereignty to Japan.  It is the first notable treaty to make extensive use of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

By Article 11, Japan accepted the judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and of other Allied War Crimes Courts both within and outside Japan and agreed to carry out the sentences imposed thereby upon Japanese nationals imprisoned in Japan.

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On this day, April 28, 1970, Fort Ninigret was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Fort Ninigret is a historic fort and trading post site at Fort Neck Road in Charlestown, Rhode Island. Most historians believe that the fort was built either by the Dutch West India Company or by Portuguese explorers prior to 1637, in addition to the earlier trading post on nearby Dutch Island. At the 1883 Dedication, it was referred to as “the oldest military post on the Atlantic coast.” Former US President George Herbert Walker Bush aviation trained at Naval Auxiliary Air Station Charlestown (now within Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge) before going to Japan in World War II. More recently, hundreds of children and their families watched the Big Apple Circus perform at Ninigret State Park.

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“The Old State House”

  On this day, April 28, 1970, the Old State House was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Old State House was where, on May 4, 1776, the General Assembly declared its independence renouncing its allegiance to the British crown, and the date is now celebrated as Rhode Island Independence Day. Debates about slavery occurred in the building in the late 18th century. George Washington visited the building in 1781 and 1790. By 1901 the new Rhode Island State House was occupied on Smith Hill and the legislature vacated the Old State House.

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That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!