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.

Thank God I’m Not a Republican

Thank God I’m Not a Republican. Boy, I’d really be upset if I was a conservative. After all, it’s been eleven years since the Republican Revolution and the Contract on America. The U.S. House of Representatives has been Republican ever since. The U.S. Senate has been controlled by Republicans for six of the last seven years. In the last seven presidential elections, only one Democrat (Bill Clinton) has won. [And remember pundits claimed that Clinton only won because Ross Perot split the vote three ways and Alan Greenspan “betrayed George HW Bush (President George H.W. Bush, “I appointed him and he disappointed me.”)]. Twenty-eight of the fifty governors are Republican (source: rga.org). Most of the state legislatures are controlled by Republicans (21 GOP, 17 Democratic, 11 split; source: ncsl.org).

And what have they done? The party platform claims that “We oppose abortion…we support the appointment of judges who respect traditional family values and the sanctity of innocent human life. (source: GOP platform, pg84). Meanwhile, George W. Bush has nominated John Roberts who has said in swore testimony before the U.S. Senate the Constitution supports privacy, the key legal concept used to decide and uphold Roe v. Wade. Roberts also unequivocally said “Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land…There is nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent” (source: US Senate testimony).

The bottom line is this: if you want to be a Republican, that’s fine. But don’t delude yourself into thinking that the Republican Party will ever undo Roe v. Wade. They control entire US government from top to bottom and haven’t done a thing. Most importantly, even if you want to stay deluded yourself, stop using guilt, religion and scare tactics to make good people think they have to vote Republican.

Catholicity and Politics

Who “should” Catholics vote for?

Who is a pro-life Catholic to vote for? The Presidential election in 2004 has marred the picture. The media constantly questioned and attacked John Kerry’s voting record and support for abortion. Unfortunately, much of the secular media’s coverage of the life issue has been skewed.. Conservatives constantly decry the “liberal media,” yet it was George Bush who “won” the battle of the media. The pro-life positions of the Catholic Church clearly include much more than abortion: the death-penalty, euthanasia, stem-cell research, hospital life-support devices and the concept of living wills. There is a double standard for Catholics and politics. Democratic politicians, as we have seen, are forced to defend their Catholicity, yet Catholic Republicans who support the death-penalty are given a free pass.

Too many articles about the life issue give misleading or false information. Rhode Island’s own congressional delegation is comprised of three Catholics: two also support abortion and one is “pro-life.” Yes, Rep. James Langevin, is against abortion, but he supports stem-cell research. Such research also runs contrary to the “life platform.” In national politics, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (R) is famously regarded as a devout Catholic; his son is even an ordained priest. Scalia, however, supports the death penalty. So do other “famous” Republicans such as Clarence Thomas, Rick Santorum, Frank Keating, Arnold Swartzeneger, Jeb Bush, and Sam Brownback.

Frank Keating supports the death penalty, but was named Chairman of the Bishop’s committee on pedophilia? Would a Catholic who supported abortion be given such a position?

Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback (member of Opus Dei), who strongly support the death penalty, were given free “face-time” during John Paul II’s funeral and the election of Benedict XVI. Isn’t it curious that they were, but not John Kerry?

Jeb Bush, in a recent interview, was “allowed” to explain how “difficult” it was for him to be Catholic and sign death warrants. Read the article and replace Jeb Bush with John Kerry and death penalty with abortion.

Jeb Bush Given ‘Pause’ When at Odds with Church (Reuters)
By Phil Stewart Sat Apr 23, 3:14 PM ET

Whether it is the war in Iraq or the death penalty, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says he is given “pause” when the policies he and his brother support run against the views of the Roman Catholic Church. Bush, who converted to Catholicism to share the faith of his Mexican-born wife Columba, will lead the U.S. delegation to the inauguration of Pope Benedict on Sunday on
behalf of President Bush.

“I get uneasy when the Vatican writes me letters when a death penalty case is about ready to take place in Florida. I’ll be honest with you, that gives me pause. It makes me pray harder,” Bush told reporters in Rome on Saturday.

“Even though it’s the law of our land and I have a duty to uphold that law, when there is a conflict .. it does give me concern. “But having said that, I think the president’s decision (on Iraq) was the right one,” he added, returning to an original question about Iraq.

Pope John Paul, who died on April 2, sought in vain to avert the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and was a stern and vocal opponent of capital punishment. Jeb Bush considered postponing an execution earlier this month until after John Paul’s funeral on April 8. He decided to proceed after speaking with the victims’ family, and the 47-year-old was killed by lethal injection for the 1999 strangling of a store clerk. He was the 60th person to be put to death since Florida reinstated the death penalty in the 1970s.

President Bush oversaw the most executions of any U.S. governor in modern history when he was governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000. Texas executed 152 people. The Republican party receives strong support from Christian conservatives and is often allied with the Catholic Church on divisive issues like abortion, stem-cell research, gay marriage and euthanasia. “It’s not a question of picking or choosing. I don’t believe it’s related to that … All of us can improve our relationship to God,” said Bush, who will meet the Pope following the ceremony on Sunday.

Like his brother did earlier this month, Gov. Bush spoke about the papacy’s important role in cultivating the “culture of life” and cited the case of Terri Schiavo. The brain-damaged Florida woman died last month after a U.S. state court ordered her feeding tube removed at her husband’s request. The decision drew strong opposition from the Vatican, her parents, Jeb Bush and the U.S. president.

How does it read now?

As a Catholic American, it concerns me that some people lose sight of the big picture in the world: the environment, children’s rights, women’s rights, working conditions, labor rights and peace. All of these are issues of importance to the church. Of course, nothing is as important to church teaching as the centrality of life, but it is wrong to rank the life issues in personal preference and project that opinion on candidates to serve your own agenda.

There are persons, especially members of the clergy, who would tell people that “abortion is the gravest evil.” As leading Democrats have finally stated, of course this country is better off when abortions are rare. Abortion is a sin to Catholics. However, a selective interpretation and preaching of the Church’s teaching is not the act of a Christian –it is the act of political hacks and psychological manipulators. Look at the
website http://www.cfpeople.org/page6.html maintained by Catholic priests who purport to be “pro-life.” Do you see the phrase “death penalty anywhere? Where is the line between “people of faith” and “people of agenda”?

When was the last time any secular publication questioned the Catholicity of a Catholic who supports death-penalty? Catholics should not be guilted into voting for one party or another. Catholics should look at the whole picture and decide for themselves without the manipulation of others.

9/11, Kerr, Clinton, and Saddam

Mr. Stone’s Letter to the Editor on 7/14/03 is an affront to human decency and logic. First of all, I find it despicable to imply that a PJB journalist is an adulterer simple because Mr. Stone disagrees with Mr. Kerr’s opinion (“But I’m sure you… would rather hide in hallway anterooms with young interns.) Unfortunately, it is always easier to argue emotionally rather than logically.

To score emotional points, it’s easy to link pro-Saddam groups with terrorists who “look forward to strapping on 10 pounds dynamite to blow themselves” up (Stone 7/14/03). It would be more difficult to actually study the situation logically and to understand Middle East politics and religion. If one spent the time, one would realize that the pro-Saddam elements of Iraq are wholly secular and even anti-religious. Saddam’s Baath faction was in competition with the fundamentalist elements of Iraqi society prior to the war. Fundamentalist terrorists have always been a threat to Saddam’s Baath establishment. That is precisely one of the reasons that President Bush (41) left Saddam in power in 1991, to play these groups off of each other. If there is any connection between these two segments of Iraqi society, it is because the recent war pushed them together. On their own, they are religious and political opposites.

I am also so tired of right-wing extremists using President Clinton as a scapegoat for every evil in the world (“…the previous administration probably helped usher in 9/11”). Need I remind Mr. Stone that it is the current administration that has been “Stone”-walling the 9/11 Commission?

Of course, whenever logic fails, try to score another emotional point by bringing up Clinton’s adultery when defending the muddied situation in Iraq (“Bill Clinton’s philandering with an intern is so much ‘better’ than sending people off to fight and die.” Again, I am tired of these default attacks on Clinton and, again, I apparently need to point out the facts. While one of the two biggest complaints about Clinton is infidelity, the icon of family-values, President Reagan, “got away” with his out of wedlock affair (Reagan’s daughter Patti was born in 1952; a mere seven months after his marriage to Nancy). The second common complaint against Clinton is that he lied. We could make an endless list of Democratic and Republican presidents who lied, but let us only mention Watergate for this argument.

Bill Clinton’s two offenses are not unique to him, so let us drop the emotional attacks on Clinton and Kerr and attempt to use facts to discuss the current administration’s failings and the current problems in Iraq.

[This was in response to the following:

Regarding We’re in for the fight of our lives, Bob Kerr’s June 18 column: Yes, people are still getting killed in Iraq. Gee, I guess that must mean the liberal slant you want to portray is somehow more worthy of consideration than the Bush administration’s position. Bill Clinton’s lying about his philandering with an intern is so much better than sending people off to fight and die. Wow, what powerful insight! What persuasive logic!

Bob, even you should have enough common sense to admit that there continue to be fanatical members of various Muslim groups who will remain pro-Saddam and anti-Israel and anti-America no matter how much education and acceptance of differences we have. They look forward to strapping on 10 pounds of dynamite to blow themselves and the enemy of Islam into their version of paradise.

Despite liberal protestations to the contrary, the previous administration in Washington probably helped usher in 9/11. Ironically, the notion of a country so morally corrupt that its leader engages in numerous episodes of extramarital sex leads the fanatical Muslim to believe we should all be (at least) castrated.

But I’m sure you and others of your ilk would rather hide in hallway anterooms with young interns, instead of facing the horrors of stopping a mad dictator, his fanatical followers and other terrorists. Perhaps you think some form of appeasement would bring us peace.