by Amanda Read | February 7th, 2010
Some readers of Sincerely Amanda might remember the satirical literary lashing I gave to third-party candidates, their supporters and any who refused to vote in the 2008 Presidential Election. Well, I called it like I saw it regarding any who turned their noses up at McCain-Palin and consented to letting Obama-Biden stroll into the Executive Branch without a fight, and who said that both tickets were equally liberal. I was so beyond unimpressed, in fact, that I said I would never marry a man who acted that way in the critical 2008 Election (hahaha). I said the rejection of the Two-Party system was contrary to American Government and History. After two semesters of college-level American history and some Government, there is a lot I understand now that I wish I had articulated then. It turns out that I was more accurate than I realized.
Because of the majority-minority structure in the House and Senate, we will probably always have the Republican and Democrat platforms. It is necessary for orderly function. But how did it come to that? Wasn’t the Republican party once an Independent Third Party that jumped out of nowhere and changed the political scene? Not exactly.
As I mentioned in my article over a year ago, the dynamic of the young nation was quite different. There were indeed two established parties, the Whig party and the Democratic party. But the Whig party was disintegrating, and the Democratic party was sharply divided. The rifts had begun at least eight years before 1860, and with Senator Douglas’s introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 (which, on a basis of popular sovereignty, disregarded the anti-slavery boundaries established by the Missouri Compromise), the second-party system flew into a tizzy. Both parties practically split in half over the new bill.
So, some coalitions opposing the bill thought they saw an opening for a new party. The Republicans? No, think again. Can’t think of anybody? It’s because it was a group of anti-immigration, anti-Catholic conspiracy theorists that tried to start an independent third-party to change the country and didn’t get very far. The Know-Nothing party, as it was called, held parties promoting American nativism and included members of the secret fraternal organization, the Order of the Star-Spangled Banner. Members of that organization were instructed to respond, “I know nothing” whenever they were asked about it, hence the funny party label. They later tried to call themselves the American party instead, but for the most part they remained a bunch of nobodies that just couldn’t make the vision work.
Meanwhile, some experienced and prominent political leaders put their support behind a movement that was forming within the dissolving Whig party. Since former Democrats who were interested in joining refused to “march under the Whig banner or even support any candidate for high office who called himself a Whig,” as my history textbook says, the members of the new Free-Soil movement chose the title of Republican. In retrospect, it has since become a very fitting label. It is resurrected from the days of Thomas Jefferson, when the Jeffersonian Republicans supported conservative ideals such as federalism, small government, State’s rights, and investing in America’s natural resources (Jefferson was an agricultural man who loved living off the land!).
By the time of the 1860 Presidential Election, the political establishment was so wacky that there were essentially two different two-party races taking place in the country – one between Lincoln and Douglas in the North, and another between Breckinridge and Bell in the South (Lincoln wasn’t even on the ballot in the Southern States). That bizarrely fractured party-politics scenario allowed the Republican movement to mature into a fully developed political party with a leader already in the White House.
What can we learn from this American history? Well, I don’t believe in trying to water everything down into a man-made formula, because as soon as we think we have everything figured out, we have a tendency to forget to rely on GOD for immediate divine answers and intervention. But it does appear to me that there is a reputable indicator:
In order for a third-party movement to rise to power in a nation whose political core is a second-party system, the third-party must supplant one established party that is dissolving while the other established party is sharply divided, and both established parties are looking increasingly similar.
That was the case with the Republicans taking over the Whig party in the days when the establishment consisted of Whigs and Democrats. The Republican label will probably still have to exist for a good long while for the sake of orderliness, but we can modify it. We’re Conservative Republicans, Constitutional Republicans, and Tea Party Republicans (maybe even Jeffersonian Republicans after all!). Right now, the Republicans are realizing that they will dissolve if they become anymore like the Democrats, and the Democrats are likely to become sharply divided over the Obamacare issue (depending on how low they can go). Though most of us conservatives already knew, it is becoming increasingly obvious that President Obama’s ideology barely even touches the fringe of mainstream American political culture, including that of those who lean to the left. He might have the potential to lead some other country, but America just doesn’t fit him. As the Owenites and followers of Fourier lamented in the 1820s and 1840s, Americans are just too individualistic and independent to adapt to socialism!
So fellow Americans who are Taxed Enough Already, let’s not be a bunch of Know-Nothings. We don’t need to try to build our own independent little fort out in the wilderness with sticks and stones and conspiracy glue. Especially not when there is a Republican mansion being emptied and disordered that we might as well seize.
Ready. Set. Go for it!
“Is it a third-party we need, or a revitalized Republican party?”
- Ronald Reagan