Cheap Seats Online 2015 Part B
Division - 10/28/15
By Rich Trzupek
So what are we to make of the growing, increasingly obvious divisions in the Republican Party? Democrats, and a number of Republicans, see the coming demise of the GOP. I beg to differ.
History tells us that competing ideas and ideals are not necessarily a bad thing. Consider, for example, the fate of the Whig party in nineteenth century America. The Whigs became hopelessly divided over the signature issue of the day: slavery. That ultimately led to the demise of the Whigs, only to be replaced by the Republican Party that would dominate the rest of the century firmly grounded on its anti-slavery foundation.
Similarly, the Republican Party of the nineteenth century was divided into two factions: the radicals who preached absolute equality among the races and severe punishment for the racist nobility of the south; vs the moderates who advocated more of a Jim Crow system among the races and much more gentle punishment for the leaders of the rebellion.
Lincoln steered a middle ground between the two factions, one which neither found acceptable, but that the electorate ultimately came to appreciate. After his assassination, his successors would attempt to travel the same road, to varying degrees of success. None-the-less, the fact that Lincoln steered his party in the right direction to begin with meant that it would studiously avoid the racist, destructive ideas of its chief competing party at the time.
Yet, while diverse opinions often help define a party, that’s not always the case. In the early 1960’s, Lyndon Johnson led a legislative effort to ensure equal rights among all races. That effort split his party in two. One faction, based in the north and west, supported that idea. Another faction, that had become dependent on the southern white vote, actively and sometimes violently, opposed it.
Republicans pretty much stayed on the sidelines, largely voting in favor of civil rights legislation. Not because, for the most part, Republicans at the time viewed the world through an any more or less racist lens than their Democrat counterparts, but because there was no value at all in the GOP opposing Johnson’s proposals.
So, here we are in 2015 with pretty much two Republican parties and one Democrat. The basic division is between the ideal of small government (Republican) and that of big government (Democrat). You’re not going to find much meaningful disagreement within either party when considering this ideal.
Divergence, on the Republican side, occurs when one considers social issues like abortion and gay marriage; and the degree to which America should be involved in foreign disputes. There is, for any practical purpose, no discussion about the merits of social positions among Democrats. If you’re against abortion, gay marriage and a host of other social issues, you are not welcome under what they claim to be “the big tent”.
Democrats are a bit more inclusive when it comes to foreign policy. If Hillary isn’t exactly a hawk, her record defines her as at least an annoying woodpecker. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is as fervent an Islamic appeaser as Rand Paul is among the GOP contenders.
What happens now? No telling. But, don’t assume that chaos among either party will result in conquest. In a free society, the truth eventually catches up with the wishes of those competing for power. We’ll know who wins this particular contest in the next year or so.