Over most of its history the Republican Party has been essentially a Caucasian male Protestant group. This was the population that originally made up the American colonies and revolted against British in the late 18th Century, setting up the United States initially along the East coast of the American continent.
During the late 19th and early 20th Century there were large migrations from Eastern Europe. Asians, Chinese and Japanese initially could not become citizens of the United States, but their children, who were born in the U.S., were citizens. Earlier there had been a large initially unwelcome migration of Irish Catholics caused by the Great Potato Famine in Ireland. In the early 20th Century laws were passed setting quotas for people coming from different countries. These quota systems are largely with us today.
We never seem to reach the quotas allowable for Western or Northern Europe but for Eastern Europe and other areas of the world like the Middle East and Central and South America there are waiting periods, after one gets in line, that in some instances could take a decade or more.
Since the last 40 years of the 20th Century the demographics of the United States has been changing. Because of assorted wars in which the U.S. has been involved in the post-World War II Period in Asia, in the Middle East, and in other areas, large numbers of these peoples have come to the United States from the rest of the world. These movements, are still continuing. They have and are continuing to change the demographics in the U.S. It is no longer a Wasp nation, a white Anglo-Saxon-Protestant nation. Today there are growing numbers of other ethnic and so-called racial groups. In fact the original Caucasian Protestant population is now a large minority among other large minorities and the Republicans make up about 19% of that population. They are a minority among other minorities.
Generally in the present the Republican Party is made up of mostly the economic upper 1% of the population. These are the wealthy who form the executives of most of the large corporations in the U.S. plus others who have intense wealth. They have largely benefited from Republican leadership in Congress.
There is also a large independent-loving blue collar group who, with the evangelicals form the voting base of the party. There would also be a percentage of white collars members, many of whom see themselves eventually joining the upper 1%.
Unfortunately for a good percentage of the blue collar base, particularly the independent, gun-loving ones, outside of freely owning their weapons, they have gotten nothing from the Republican leadership in Congress, particularly since 2011, when the Republicans assumed leadership in the House of Representatives. These currently are most of the people who support Donald Trump for President.
With the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 advocating popular sovereignty, in which one of the two newly entering states would supposedly be free and the other a slave state, the Whig Party split into two groups: the Conscience Whigs repudiated slavery and the Cotton Whigs were for slavery. The first group joined the Free-Soil Party. They were joined by the American Party and the remnants of the Know-Nothings Party which had become popular for a short period, calling for restrictions on the foreign born.
At this time, 1854, the Republican Party also began. It was able to run its first Presidential Election in 1860, attaining 40% of the popular vote and the election of Abraham Lincoln as President. The majority party, the Democratic Party, had split into two parts, one Northern and one Southern. The Southern section supported slavery and the Northern part tended to be neutral on this issue.
The new Republican Party was a combination of different political groups. They were mainly the Northern and Northwestern Whig Party, the Conscience Whigs. The Southern Whig Party, the Cotton Whigs, ran their own candidate in the South. The Northern Whigs consisted of pro-business supporters who did not agree with the Democrats; abolitionists that strongly opposed slavery; and other small groups like the remnants of the Know Nothing Party.
In essence during 1860, there were two separate elections: one in the North and one in the South. The Northern candidates did not run in the South and the Southern candidates were not on the Northern ballots.
The new Republican Party had grown from the ranks of the Free-Soilers, the Anti-Slavery Whigs, and the Anti-Nebraska Democrats. They were in opposition to the extension of slavery anywhere within the territories of the United States.
Since the majority of the population occupied the North and Northwest the new Republican Party won with 40% of the vote. As we’ve seen none of the political parties were on the ballots in all of the states. There were no Republican votes cast in any of the Southern states. The Southern Democrats had no ballots cast in the newer Northwestern states and in many of the other older Northern states. The other Democrats had no votes cast in the other Southern states. The election was actually two separate elections. When the ballots were counted Lincoln had received 40% of the popular vote. This translated to 180 electoral votes. The other three candidates together had a total of 123 electoral votes.
This was the first Republican National Election. Henceforth it would be them and the Democrats; the other political parties and the issue of slavery would disappear after the Civil War. In 1876, with the election of Republican, Rutherford Hayes as President, the Southern states would lose the Northern army of Reconstruction or occupation and would come back into the Union as independent states and the country would move forward as a single unit. The South reentered the Union as Democratic voting states. Around the middle of the 20th Century with the emergence of the Civil Rights Movement the South would change its political allegiance to the Republican Party. Outside of the slavery issue the Republican Party was always the Party of business and of the well-to-do owning classes, which it is still today. It has always been conservative, against any kind of major change within the society, and conservative in its outlook.
Up until 1964, when Barry Goldwater lost the election to Lyndon B, Johnson, the Republican Party had both liberal and conservative elements, the two political parties tended to be close to one another. After that the Republicans tended to move farther and farther to the right. Even as late as 1977, when Democratic candidate Jimmy Carter became President he was more conservative than a small percentage of the Republicans. In 1974, when Nelson Rockefeller was appointed Vice President by President Gerald Ford, the Republican Vice President was more liberal than the later President, Jimmy Carter.
The two group’s philosophies ran into one another and compromise between the two political parties was relatively simple. But after the Reagan Presidency the majority of the Republicans had moved much farther to the right and the Democrats to the left. The first group became more reactionary and the other more radical. Total philosophical separation had begun to set in. This would continue and increase bringing the country to where it is now, at polarization.
In order to understand the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats one needs to draw a horizontal line across a blank sheet of paper. Mark the center of the line. On the right side of the line would be the Republicans and on the left, the Democrats. As one proceeds to the far left the people become more radical, on the right the further you go they become more reactionary. At either end either end of the line they are extreme. Radical on the left and reactionary on the right.
No so long ago in our history the two lines overlapped. Now they are widely separated. This all began in the 1964 Presidential Election when Barry Goldwater ran against Lyndon B. Johnson and lost by a large amount. Goldwater carried six states and Johnson won 44.
Goldwater had been the leader of the Conservative Movement. During the campaign he alienated the liberal section of the Republican Party. He was an opponent of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, arguing that it took rights away from the states. When Communist China became a member of the United Nations in 1971 he wanted the United States to give-up its membership in that organization. Goldwater criticized Johnson’s Administration for being soft on Communism and failing in Vietnam. During his campaign he wanted a tougher blockade against Cuba and increased military action in Northern Vietnam to cut off supplies from China. He indicated that he might use a nuclear bomb against North Vietnam. On the domestic front Goldwater called for substantial cuts in social programs and he wanted social security to become optional. He believed that the Tennessee Valley Authority should be sold to the private sector. His political slogan was, “In Your Heart, You Know He’s Right”
It was at this time that Ronald Reagan entered politics with his “A Time for Choosing” speech. He would run for the governorship of California two year later, largely on a Goldwater type platform and win.
These doctrines, those of the far right, were worked through the Republican Party until they dominated it. Reagan would be elected President in 1980 and serve until 1988. He would with some modification carry through Goldwater’s philosophy. Currently all the potential Republican Presidential candidates are reflections of Barry Goldwater.
The Republican Party itself as it currently exists reminds me of the old Communist Party. Everyone follows the Party-Line, there is no individuality. I get the impression that the far right controls most, if not all, of the political contributions and they are spent only on proper followers of the party-line.
The Democrats tend to be liberal; the Republicans, conservative. Since the 1932 Presidential Election the Democrats have assumed a responsibility for those who cannot care for themselves while the Republicans hold to a position of individual responsibility.
Since that time many Republican presidents have also had the Democratic concept. Dwight David Eisenhower (1953 – 1961), the first Republican president since Roosevelt’s election in 1932 considered himself a Moderate Republican. As President he built a Federal Highway System across the United States, the Interstate Highway System; continued FDR’s New Deal agencies and expanded Social Security. Nixon (1969- 1974), as the next elected Republican President, experimented with Price and Wage Controls during a period of rapid inflation; was the first chief executive to enforce desegregation in Southern schools; established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Clean Air Act of 1970, and made state run insurance policies available to all with income based premiums and cost sharing.
The next Republican President was Ronald Reagan, who served from 1981 to 1989. He was the first far right Republican to run the United States. Reagan, as we’ve seen, first entered politics in 1964 supporting Barry Goldwater. In 1966 he was elected governor of California. He successfully ran for the presidency in 1980 and served two terms. Reagan applied Supply Side Economics (Reaganomics), a theory developed in the 1970s and disregarded after the Reagan Administration for not really working. It held that economic growth is enhanced by investing in capital and lowering barriers on the production of goods and services; if excess goods were produced, it was believed prices would come down so they could be consumed (sold or supplied). It sounds good but it has never worked.
President Reagan encouraged tax reduction to spur economic growth, control of the money supply to curb inflation, economic deregulation and reduction in government spending, which didn’t happen, as his administration raised the deficit to over a trillion dollars for the first time. He did not believe in government regulation and, among other things, totally deregulated the banking industry. This would slowly lead to the 2008 banking-caused Real Estate Crash and near depression. He fought public sector labor by firing all traffic controllers when they went on strike. He bombed Libya and mined the main harbor of Nicaragua, two countries with whom we were not at war and ended his administration with the illegal Iran-Contra Affair. He was the first of the far right presidents.
The next two Republican Presidents were the Bushes, father and son. While they were not to the far right they were both well to the right of center. (For more comments on the Bush Presidencies read The Weiner Component #125 – The Bush Presidencies.)
Democrats typically support a broad range of social services; many in the area of helping those who cannot, for one reason or another, provide adequately for themselves, making us all our brother’s keepers. Republican policy is based upon self-reliance, more freedom for individuals, and a limited interference by government. People are more responsible for themselves and their families. Among other things they have the freedom to starve.
The Republicans also advocate a dominant foreign policy based upon a strong military. Consequently their conservative far right is pro-religion, anti-bureaucracy, pro-business, pro-military, and pro-personal responsibility. They see big government as wasteful and an obstacle to getting things done. Ultimately they are pro-Darwinistic, believing in survival of the fittest.
Democrats tend to favor an active societal role for government in society and believe that such involvement can improve the quality of all the people’s lives and achieve greater opportunity and equality for all. For example the Affordable Health Care Act can eventually gain health benefits for all. But ultimately to the Republicans it means that it is unfair because they are helping to pay for other people’s medical care.
Republicans favor a more limited role for government and believe that reliance on the private sector can improve economic productivity and achieve the more important goals of freedom and self-reliance. They are still for Supply-Side Economics. To them environmental regulations and discrimination laws (regulations) impede economic growth. They oppose laws that limit pollution because they increase the cost of pollution. Ultimately Republicans lean toward individual freedoms and rights while to Democrats equality and social responsibility are more important.
Interestingly if you’ve read the novels of Paul Ryan’s former mentor, Ann Rand, who as a good Catholic he dropped when it was discovered that she was an atheist. Society is divided into the elite and the mob. The Republicans, especially the leadership and the well to do, are the elite and the Democrats support the masses or the mob. This thinking goes back to Friedrich Nietzsche and the mid-19th Century.
Up until the 2,200 page Federal Government funding bill that was passed at the end of 2015 the Republicans have been dominated by the far right of their political party which saw compromise as having the other side come to their position. The choice here was to pass an actual political compromise or shut down the government. It took nearly a year to effect this compromise. The bill could never have passed without Democratic votes in both Houses of Congress. In order to not shut down the Federal Government the Republicans had to legitimately compromise with the Democrats.
What the country, in disgust, has essentially seen since 2011, when the Republicans took over control of the House of Representatives, was gridlock in Congress. The Affordable Health Care Act, which was initially passed in 2010 by a Democratic Congress, has been voted out of existence by the House 62 times since 2011.
At the end of 2015 there was true compromise, a bill to fund the government and avoid a government shut-down. However, early in 2016 the House passed a bill, which the Senate has passed the prior year, defunding both Affordable Health Care and Planned Parenthood. The Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, announced that even though the bill would be vetoed by the President, it had passed in the Republican dominated Senate earlier in 2015. Even though there were not enough votes to pass it over the veto when it was returned to both Houses of Congress, it was still declared a victory for the Republicans because it showed the American public what will happen in 2017 if they elect a Republican President. He further stated that the House agenda in 2016, all 110 days it would meet, will be to pass bills that the President will veto but will state the Republican position and show the Public what will happen if they elect a Republican President.
None of the Republican group running for the presidency strikes me as being charismatic or capable of leading the nation. What will happen is that the Republican House will function for its three day week, be paid over $140 thousand for the three day weeks it works while attempting to embarrass the President by forcing him to issue constant vetoes. The current one, passed the second week in January 16 will be his tenth veto in seven years. These bills will largely disgust the Democrats and the country at large by accomplishing very little if anything. The Republican Congress will pass well beyond gridlock for the year 2016.
And I wonder if Ryan and the Republicans will feel that all this will happen if Donald Trump becomes their presidential candidate?