To me it’s a little scary that everyone is so locked into political party regardless of what is right or wrong, true or false and moral or immoral. Where have all the nuances gone on what constitutes a Democrat or Republican? I think of myself as being a moderate, whether as a Democrat or Republican (and I’ve been both), but I don’t know where to turn to find a true moderate anymore.
There was a Republican named John McCain who actually talked to Democrats, even agreeing with them on occasion, not so long ago. He believed in compromise and working things out, although he was temporarily derailed when he ran for President and party strategists convinced him that being known as a compromiser and facilitator wouldn’t get him elected. And so he chose a running mate to placate the most conservative wing of his beloved GOP, previously self-proclaimed as the Tea Party, and took to assuming the air of a more strident partisan himself.
That didn’t work out and opened the door for a previous unknown with the implausibly un-American name of Barack Obama and, by extension, a hereto known reality television star and wheeler-dealer named Donald Trump. Mister Trump made his first big gains in the political area by spearheading what came to be known as the “birthing controversy.” He contended that Obama wasn’t even a real American, even though he evidently knew that Hawaii is part of the United States. It rolled across the internet like a tsunami, despite being disproved time and again by documented facts. Like a dog with a juicy bone, Trump wouldn’t let go, and thus the concept of “fake news” came to be.
Even though Obama’s message of hope and unity was heartily disparaged by Republicans at the end of his first term, they chose a candidate bearing a German and thereby un-American nickname of “Mitt,” a derivation of “mit” which means “with.” Thus they walked mit him hand-in-hand toward defeat. I’m thinking almost any nickname, other than Fuhrer or perhaps Vladimir, would be better than going by his real name, “Willard.” (Note: My apologies to all the Willards out there. It was a reach.)
Willard, I mean Mitt, would later step forward and incur the wrath of the party that once entrusted him to bear the party standard as Presidential candidate by, of all things, voting his conscience. It was an example of extreme partisanship that will go down in history alongside such notable events as the invention of the Big Mac and the celebrated American military triumph in Grenada.
It gets even more complicated than that, which is why it is very difficult to explain pithily and precisely why present-day politicians persist in pitiful and pathetic partisanship. I know, whether Democrat or Republican, what you are thinking at this point. How much alliteration is too much?
Even you aren’t a student of history or political science, you are likely to recognize some of the names I’ve dropped in preceding paragraphs to perpetuate my personal position on patronizing partisans… Sorry, I can’t seem to stop. There are just many words that begin with p. Anyway, if most of those names seem unfamiliar to you, read a newspaper once in a while or have somebody read one to you when you are not busy watching reruns of “The Apprentice.”
Today’s Democrats are depicted as far left and socialists, even commies, and the campaigning Democratic presidential candidates aren’t doing much to help change that image as they jostle for position. Contemporary Republicans are seen as archconservatives, so far to the right that we almost expect the American Eagle to be replaced by the Swastika at any time. The President, Mitch McConnell and loyal GOP leaders aren’t doing much to help change that image. I suppose “leaders” is the wrong noun to use here— just as it is for their peers across the aisle (or across the Great Divide as it has come to be)— because it is all about blindly following.
The parties have virtually reversed their roles during the century between the Civil War and Vietnam.
Would Lincoln Have Been a Democrat Today?
For example, most supporters of slavery and secession from the Union in the U.S. Congress at the outbreak of the Civil War were Democrats. After Reconstruction and into the Jim Crow era blacks in the South were essentially disenfranchised by Southern Democrats as citizens and, in many cases, denied voting rights and fair trials. Democrats made sure it stayed that way for decades and ensured that segregation prevailed well into the 1960’s.
Contrarily, upstart Republicans, supplanting the Whigs, were the chief condemners of slavery, many favoring its abolishment altogether. The President who would eventually emancipate the slaves, allowing them to fight for that freedom in the Union Army, and express the need for “charity toward all” was a Republican.
John Wilkes Booth, one-time member of the Know Nothing Party, itself supported by Southern Democrats, assassinated that President. One of the chief goals of the Know Nothings was to restrict immigration into the United States, at the same time supporting slavery, most of whose victims were unwilling immigrants.
In the years following the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the conservative South was voting for Republicans and within three decades the GOP held an overall advantage in voting numbers and office-holders throughout the South.
Democrats became the liberals, supporters of human rights and women’s rights, and a solid majority of blacks are registered Democrats, even though fewer than one in five see themselves as liberals. Republicans wanted abortion outlawed, led by Catholics, many of whom had traditionally been Democrats, and Evangelical Christians
And so it goes.
The problem is that, until now, the Civil War was the worst of times for Americans trying to get along with each other. The capacity to resolve our differences has eroded once again, picking up momentum in the last several decades.
There was always something there to unite us when things looked bleak. Now we’re all struggling to stay afloat in a sea of division.