In class the other day a group of my students were quizzing each other over the early history of political parties in the United States – how the feud between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson split the Democratic-Republican Party, how the Whigs died out to the upstart Liberty-turned-Free Soil-turned-Republican Party, and even the contributions of the Anti-Masons.
One of them asked me why there was so much turmoil, variation, and change in the two major parties in early American history, but pretty much static control of the system by our two current parties since Jackson and Lincoln. There are plenty of decent answers, but the discussion itself prompts another intriguing question: is there any possibility of the Republican/Democrat stranglehold on political power collapsing any time soon?
For many of us that would be a dream come true. Ian Tuttle observed months ago that,
“If you believe character is an indispensable element of political leadership, there is no party for you in American politics.”
He’s exactly right. Any party that nominates either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump has no claim on dignity, character, or integrity. But we could easily add to his observation that if you believe that limited government, the rule of law, and Constitutional fidelity are indispensable elements of American governance, there is no party for you either.
That’s what led to the emergence of the #NeverTrump movement during the Republican primary, and then led to the slew of Democrat voters staying home in the general. The embarrassment average Americans feel being associated with either of these two corrupt political entities grows exponentially each day.
Jonah Goldberg summarizes the scene bluntly:
The GOP is running as smoothly as a dry Slip ’N Slide made from sandpaper. That the party is as dysfunctional as the human resources department at the Weinstein Company stems from a host of ideological, political, and structural problems that are only compounded by the fact that the president grabs the public’s attention like a spider monkey running through a church with a lit stick of dynamite.
The Democratic party, meanwhile, has gotten drunk on the spectacle. And as with many a drunk, it’s grown oblivious to its own decrepitude. Like a bitter lush sitting in his own filth amid a sea of empty bottles, moldering pizza boxes, and fried chicken bones, it shouts at the TV and boasts how it could do better.
And of course they couldn’t. The Democrat Party’s luminary appears to be a hypocritically affluent old socialist from Vermont who exhibits a frighteningly shallow understanding of policy that he has supposedly been studying for 50 years. That isn’t going to sell rational voters even if they are fed up with the broken promises and populist nonsense of Republicans.
As Goldberg puts it,
Right now, the best argument Republicans have is “we’re not Democrats,” and the best argument Democrats have is “we’re not Republicans.” Like two punch drunk pugilists leaning on each other in the twelfth round, if one falls, the other may well fall too.
Please God, may it ever be so.