Friday, May 6, 2016
Could we please stop...
While we're at it, Jefferson and Jackson wouldn't be Democrats, either. And Teddy Roosevelt wouldn't be a Republican. It's all changed since Mount Rushmore was completed in 1939.
Wouldn't it be better to call the GOP the "party of Reagan" and the Democrats the "party of FDR"?
Let's review the history of political parties in America for just a second.
While George Washington strove to be above "factions," his successor, John Adams, was a Federalist.
The Federalists, whose most famous member was probably Alexander Hamilton, called for a strong national government that promoted economic growth through tariffs and a national bank. Sound a little like modern-day Democrats, don't they?
After Adams, the next six presidents, including Jefferson, Madison and Jackson, were Democratic-Republicans or, simply, Democrats.
Based mainly in the South, the party stood for states' rights and can be summed up in the famous Jefferson quote, "That government is best which governs least." Sound like today's Republicans?
Four of the next five presidents were Whigs, interrupted only by another Democrat, Polk.
Originally known as the National Republican Party, the Whigs emerged as a rival to Jackson's Democratic Party. Led by former Federalists, the new party favored a program of modernization, banking and economic protectionism to stimulate manufacturing, including a higher tariff, as well as public works, especially roads. Sound like today's Democrats?
The Whigs were done in by the question of slavery and the Republican Party supplanted it as the rival to the Democrats.
Besides its opposition to slavery, the Republicans sought to combine Jefferson's ideals of liberty and equality with Henry Clay's program of using an active government to modernize the economy. It supported the building of railroads and canals, as well as high tariffs to protect factory workers and grow industry faster. Sound like today's Democrats?
After Lincoln was assassinated, the picture got a little muddled until the Progressive Movement culminated in the presidencies of Republican Theodore Roosevelt and Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
But the modern era really began with Roosevelt's cousin, Franklin, in 1933. FDR took the libertarian, southern-based Democratic Party in the activist direction it still holds today. And the Republicans, who had previously been the "activist" party, began to resemble libertarians more and more until Reagan took office in 1981. The Gipper cemented this image and grounded the GOP in the south and west.
So, if we were to be honest, Hamilton, Lincoln and both Roosevelts would be modern-day Democrats; while Jefferson, Madison, Jackson and Reagan would be modern-day Republicans. Make sense?
Or, if you prefer:
Republicans (until 1933)
Democrats (from 1933 to the present)
Democrats (until 1933)
Republicans (from 1933 to the present)
Now, I realize this is a highly, highly -- highly -- simplistic treatment of the subject. (It's a blog post, remember? I didn't have time to write a whole book this morning.) But I do think it's a lot more useful than thinking of the Republican Party as the "party of Lincoln." Honest Abe would be horrified by today's racist -- and Jeffersonian -- Republican Party (he hated Jefferson, for a number of reasons), just as Jefferson and Jackson would probably demand their names be removed from the modern-day statist Democratic Party's annual fundraiser.
So let's just call the GOP the "party of Reagan" and the Democrats the "party of FDR" from now on. That's more accurate, isn't it?