"You just have to ask yourself how we, as a party, got to this point, where we have a leadership which is going to ram down the throats of our party the biggest budget buster in the history of the Congress under Republican leadership."--Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Every half century or so, they switch sides. Time was, the Republicans were the liberals, willing to risk even civil war to fight for the American dream of a people created equal. In the 1860’s, the GOP created a national banking system, expanded taxation (including creating the first income tax), a huge national debt and giving away public lands for private use. It was a breathtaking expansion of government power, to which the Democrats reacted as intransigent conservatives, willing to destroy the country to preserve an economic system that was not only doomed, but damnable.
Then they switched places. The Republicans, entrenched in power, elected William McKinley and the Republicans we used to know were born: the defenders of free enterprise (though not free markets—the world was still round), resistant to interference in foreign wars and suspicious of internal organizations like the League of Nations. When the luck ran out, with the Great Depression, they developed the modern conservative theories of free markets and their relationship to personal freedom, balanced budgets, smaller government, and an embrace of socially conservative religious voters (who were once the most loyal Democrats). Meantime, the Democrats had created the New Deal and the Great Society and were busy trying to shed themselves of their conservative, racist, religious past.
Have they switched places again? Have the Democrats begun to embrace traditionally conservative positions, like budgetary sanity and international isolationism? Have they begun to restore their ancient alliances with religious conservatives? It sure seems to be so. The wave of new Democrats are budget hawks, military isolationists, devout conservative religionists (who include the first congressional Muslim) and suspicious of the cancerous growth of government that the neo-conservative Republicans have created.
If the Democrats really are creating a new “conservatism,” as opposed to the Republicans’ throwback to 1860’s style radicalism, it could mean a decades long dominance of U.S. political power. The Republicans will be forced to keep differentiating themselves from their opponents and will emerge as defenders of a new “liberalism.” For those who care little about party affiliation and more about the creation of just and sustainable social order, it’s hard to know which party we’ll be voting for in the next couple of cycles.
Where’s Ross Perot when you need him?