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Political Parties

Whigging Out?

Henry Olsen offers a thoughtful analysis of the political landscape now before us.  He sees a 25-30 year development of trends in our politics that suggest parallels between today and the collapse of the Whig party in the 1850s.  While Democrats are not without significant problems of their own as a result of these trends, Olsen suggests that Republicans may have more to lose as a result of them and that complacency in the face of these developments is something well beyond stupid and closer to the verge of self-destructive. 

In particular, Olsen notes:

". . . a growing distrust of conservative and liberal ideologies, a growing movement away from the two parties and toward political independence, increases in the racial-minority (which usually means Democratic-voting) share of the population, and a growing inability of the Republican party to bridge the gap between its populist and elite wings."
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Discussions - 1 Comment

Maybe, but most Whig political positions lived on after the demise of the party. That party foundered through waffling on the major political argument of the day. What do we debate that is comparable to slavery? Carl Schurz, in his biography of Henry Clay, cites the popular wit of the day on the passing of that party: "Here lies the Whig party, which died of an effort to swallow the Fugitive Slave Law." I don't know that there is one such issue dividing US politics in quite the same way.

In my composition class on writing arguments the issue of nearly unanimous choice for the course topic was "Government Spending". I note for them the same problem that Olsen mentions; most people are against government spending with exceptions for those things they demand that government must spend money on.

I will also note, however, a number of students who are in favor of democracy through technology. They are suggesting to me the prefer-ability of being able to vote for the man of their choice, roughly like on "American Idol". This reminds me of when Time opened up the voting for "Man of the Century" in 1999 and there was a massive block who voted for Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, from guess where. As I recall, based on the popular vote he should have won.

Pure democracy makes me nervous. However, if there is one civics lesson our schools seem to teach it is that democracy is good. I remember what Buckley said about preferring rule by however many names chosen from a phone book over rule by an elite, but rule by those chosen by the majority of people with access to the Internet (never mind the possibilities of hacker interference) still makes me uneasy.

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