Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A Centrist Looks at the Parties 1: Republicans

I am a centrist. I pick the party that has the most viable place for centrists. I have voted for and registered as a Republican in the past. Lately, though, I find the Democratic Party is the only viable home for a centrist. The Democratic Party is a bigger tent. The Republican Party is prone to purges designed to drive out the ideologically impure, including centrists who want to work with the other party to govern.

The Republican Party was born of establishment white Protestantism, which remains the core Republican constituency today. I am an establishment white Protestant. Most members of my church, the mainline Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), are Republicans. The great strength of the historic core of the Republican Party has been fiscal responsibility and a strong military to build up good order in society. I believe American politics works best when one party holds up this side of government, in constant dialogue with the party of helping people in need and defending the weak for the compassionate order of society.

Sometimes, though these Republican virtues get pulled, by anger and fear, to a bad extreme. Fiscal responsibility becomes "only spend money on me"; a strong military becomes "use any force on anyone who might threaten me"; build up the good order of society becomes "prevent government". Worse, establishment white Protestantism has a tendency, when fearful, to become an angry nativism that turns harshly against immigrants and imagined conspiracies by foreign ideologies.

The precursor to the Republican Party was the Whig Party. It had the same core and, at its best, the same strengths. The Know Nothing movement tore apart the Whig Party. The Know Nothings lasted only a few years, and produced no legislative achievements. Today the Tea Party movement occupies the same position in relation to the Republican Party. I do not think the Republican Party will be torn apart, as the Whigs were. But I do think that the current nativist tempest will subside, the fear and anger will recede to the wings.

I look forward to the return of the traditional Republican Party as a partner with the Democratic Party in good government.


tbjohnston said...

Interesting post. My recollection from American History (and it's been over 25 years) was that the original planks of the Republican party were for abolition (against slavery) and for monagamy (against polygamy).

Gruntled said...

Yep, I am for both of those. The Republican Party was born in war. Abolition was the first task, which required a strong military which was used well in war (eventually), and even better in peace.

Michael Kruse said...

David Brooks had a piece last fall wherein he wrote:

"In times of crisis, Americans rally around their government, but most of the time they have treated it as a supporting actor in national life. Americans are an unusual people, with less deference to central authority and an unparalleled faith in themselves. They seem to want a government that is helpful but not imperious, strong but subordinate.

Over the years, American voters have reacted against any party that threatens that basic sense of proportion. They have reacted against a liberalism that sought an enlarged and corrosive government and a conservatism that threatened to dismantle the government’s supportive role."

The Republicans lost there way in recent years and punished the them for it the 2008 election. What they did not count on was the leftist radicalism of this president and the congress. Obama has explicitly stated, along with many Democrats, a desire for a second bill of rights. They want positive rights telling what the government is obligated to do for you instead our present proscriptive bill of rights which delineates what government may not do. You have a right to have food, a house, clothing, healthcare, education, etc., provided for you.

The aim here is to bring every sphere of human existence in our society under the direct or indirect management and direction of government. It is imperious and many Americans deeply sense this.

The Republicans are hardly my ideal but the Democrats are anything but centrist.