GOP = Whigs?

Filmorem Millard Fillmore was the last Whig president.  He succeeded Zachary Taylor upon Taylor’s unexpected death.  There were a few more Whig candidates for president after Fillmore, but the game was really over for the Whigs.  The party broke up over the internal "contradictions" of its Northern and Southern factions.  Complicating the situation was the competition provided by the "Know Nothing" nativists, the "Free Soilers,’ the "Anti-Masonic" party, and the small abolitionist movement.

David Frum is a Canadian born neocon who wrote speeches for "W" for a few years and now has taken root at the American Enterprise Institute.  He is a utopian in political thought who has consistently supported an aggressive pursuit of democratic westernization in foreign policy but has never shown much interest (so far as I know) in American domestic affairs.  A few years back, he wrote a book entitled "The End of Evil" with Richard Perle (you remember him). Got the picture?

In the article linked to below, Frum repudiates the strategy of the disastrous McCain campaign.  In doing so he also implicitly repudiates the coalition of forces that has made up the present composition of the Republican Party.  In recent years the GOP has become a party in which a right wing foreign policy elite has manipulated the voting power of a "base" increasingly made up of small town, rural, white, faith driven activists oriented towards "issues of conscience" such as; abortion, gay marriage, gun control, etc. 

The problem with that coalition is that the activists and the neocons do not make up a winning majority on a national basis and the mass of supporters of this coalition are only that, supporters.  They are not activists.  There are other potential priorities for them.

The country has now come on hard times.  The economy, the foreign policy mess into which the neocons led the public, the real estate losses of ordinary Americans, the growing hatred of the Wall Street "Masters of the Universe" (perceived as Republican insiders); all these factors are destroying the aggregation of numbers that has led to Republican victories for decades.

The neocon and nativist/rural factions of the Republican Party may be too deeply entrenched in power to be removed from control.  This may mean that the Republican Party itself is not salvageable. 

It will be a good idea to look very closely at the the "internals" of the coming election results.

The time may be coming when the centrist parts of both parties have more in common than they have with the existing party structures.  pl

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34 Responses to GOP = Whigs?

  1. Mad Dogs says:

    Pat, like you I was pondering the fate of the Republicans. I had posted this over at Emptywheel’s place just yesterday:

    Depending both on just how badly the Republican party loses during this election as well as the depths of political wilderness they find themselves in during the next Congress, I would not be surprised at all if a real schism occurs in their ranks.
    One that that literally splits the party into two.
    A “crazy” rump, which retains the official name of Republican party, populated by fire and brimstone fundie social conservatives, anti-immigrant klansmen and last-legs imperialist neocons.
    The other “New Republican Party” will be comprised of “sane” old-style Rockefeller adherents, pay-go fiscal conservatives and neo-isolationists.
    For those who’d laugh, a reminder that many such formal splits have occurred in our 200+ year history. Federalists, Whigs, Bull Moose progressives, and many, many more.

  2. David W. says:

    Frum is living in utopia, because it is the only place left for the discredited philosophy he represents. He and the rest of the ‘perfumed punditocracy’ of the right (David Brooks, Bill Kristol, etc) are rudderless because events on the ground have caught up and outdistanced their kool-aid laced predictions the past 8 years.
    If McCain’s campaign were true-to-life, instead of Joe the Plumber, he’d be featuring people like Frum. Indeed, when pundits talk fearfully about the ‘end of our way of life,’ they are talking K Street, not Main Street. Frum even discloses his fears of life under an unjust Obama regime. From the article:
    Unchecked, this angry new wing of the Democratic Party will seek to stifle opposition by changing the rules of the political game. Some will want to silence conservative talk radio by tightening regulation of the airwaves via the misleadingly named “fairness doctrine”; others may seek to police the activities of right-leaning think tanks by a stricter interpretation of what is tax-deductible and what is not.
    Despite the plum media space handed to these courtesans, they are becoming enfeebled before our very eyes. Frum tried his schtick on the Rachel Maddow show the other night, and he looked like what he and his fellow travelers are; cynical, beaten and tired, because they can’t beat anybody with the old schtick anymore.

  3. Lysander says:

    Perhaps I’m super naive but I continue to hope and pray that from the ashes a new GOP might emerge. A classic conservative Ron Paul style party that is a defender of civil liberties and minimalist foreign policy, an opponent of bankster corporatism and Federal reserve money manipulation.
    Sounds implausible but I continue to hope. Maye after the election Ron Paul will be able to point to what’s left of the leadership and tell them their current coalition is a looser. A new one is needed.
    To that end I’m watching BJ Lawson’s campaign for congress in North Carolina. My hope is that he will be the only Republican to win, thus illustrating the point.
    Well, here’s to hoping.

  4. John Hammer says:

    Now that neocons have sucked the life out of the Republican party, they will need to seek out a new “host”. Their next move will be to hijack well meaning initiatives such as R2P. To paraphrase The Who, let’s don’t get fooled again.

  5. Matthew says:

    Col: This was the most interesting quote from the Frum article:
    “Unchecked, this angry new wing of the Democratic Party will seek to stifle opposition by changing the rules of the political game. Some will want to silence conservative talk radio by tightening regulation of the airwaves via the misleadingly named “fairness doctrine”; others may seek to police the activities of right-leaning think tanks by a stricter interpretation of what is tax-deductible and what is not.”
    He seems to fear liberals adopting a Wingnut Methodology. Is that a Frum-dean Slip?

  6. Curious says:

    This week’s column by Frank Rich, titled “In Defense of White Americans,” is a satisfying one for me to read. I’ll elaborate after the jump, but want to start with his conclusion:
    [Conservative warriors like George Allen, John McCain, and Sarah Palin] see all Americans as only white or black, as either us or them. The dirty little secret of such divisive politicians has always been that their rage toward the Others is exceeded only by their cynical conviction that Real Americans are a benighted bunch of easily manipulated bigots. This seems to be the election year when voters in most of our myriad Americas are figuring that out.
    PS. now, does anybody see the original approach to Iraq problem? (sunni-Shia?) It undoes a nation like nothing.
    Even in the US. little race talk can shear the politics like hot acid.

  7. greg0 says:

    While the Republican brand is deservedly getting damaged this year, the party apparatus is simply too big and valuable. There’s lots of talk now about where the Rs are going next. And it would be much easier to rebuild the party than start from scratch.
    Certain disgruntled factions will go to other parties. The logical alternatives that come to mind are the Libertarians and the Constitution Party. If the Democratic majority becomes the new favorite of business, there will be a lot more disgruntled factions of all sorts in the near future.
    Who will be the future leaders of a new Republican party?

  8. Grimgrin says:

    “Chutzpah: The quality that allows a man on trial for killing his parents to beg for mercy on the grounds that he is an orphan.”
    “…the political culture of the Democratic Party has changed over the past decade. There’s a fierce new anger among many liberal Democrats, a more militant style and an angry intolerance of dissent and criticism

    Unchecked, this angry new wing of the Democratic Party will seek to stifle opposition by changing the rules of the political game. ”
    I will say this for David Frum, he and other movement conservatives have no shortage of chutzpah. Having spent the last 10 to 15 years stifling dissent, stoking the anger of their base and trying to rewrite the rules of the game, the Republicans are now somewhat pathetically coming to the realization that Rove’s “Permanent Republican Majority” was a pipedream, and that the tactics they perfected can very easily be used against them. Too late chums, too late.

  9. Andy says:

    The GoP will change and live on. Both parties are too entrenched in American political life for one to die off completely.
    Conservatives of all stripes are already looking at rebuilding the conservative movement. Whatever form that rebuilding eventually takes will form the intellectual basis of a refurbished GoP. I hope the GoP becomes a big-tent conservative party again – the only thing worse than the current two-party duopoly would be the ascendance of a single party controlling the levers of power for a prolonged period.

  10. Bill W, NH, USA says:

    There’s Ron Paul, a man the Republicans just had to shut up. As it turns out, he was the one who was right all along and may have been able to beat Obama in the election. Very early polls indicated he could have beat HRC in the ’08 election.

  11. fred says:

    Ron Paul? The guy who wants to have Washington legislate who is or is not a citizen? You would do well to actually read his policy proposals.

  12. Steve says:

    Thanks, colonel, for the provocative post.
    However, I’m not sure what exactly you mean when you refer to the “centrist” wings of the democrats and republicans as somehow more closely representing the electorate’s views on policy. If by the centrist wing of the democrats you are referring to the likes of the DNC, I disagree.
    In poll after poll, and generally by fairly large margins, the electorate has expressed a preference for universal healthcare even if taxes are raised to pay for it, an increased measure of progressivity in our tax structure, a date certain for an Iraqi withdrawal, increased protection for organized labor, etc.
    If those policies are considered “left”, then I would say that the “leftist” wing of the democrats more clearly represents the public than the DLC “centrists”, and obviously moreso than whatever mythical moderate/centrist republicans exist.

  13. Ormolov says:

    We all have Virginia to thank for this.
    If George Allen had been re-elected, he would have been in place to accept the mantle Bush passed. The current Administration would have transferred themselves almost seamlessly forward. He was a Rove candidate, a Cheney candidate, and a Frum candidate. With a healthy serving of NFL hoo-rah and jingoistic ranting, they would have stolen another election and gone along on their merry ways.
    The guy who was called a ‘macaca’ and filmed it should be given the Nobel Peace Prize. Thanks, Virginia. Although the Republican Party may have self-destructed at some point in the future, only your mid-term Senate election allowed it to happen now, when we need it the most.

  14. Hard to measure change during the midst of a long-term realignment of parties. Elections like it or not are usually won by coalitions. Internal inconsistencies (cognitive dissonance) seems to be plaguing both Republicans and DEMS. My guess is whomever wins a week from Tuesday will only be able to govern by forging completely new coalitions. The old labels will be a hindrance not a help. after all William Grieder pointed out in his book “Who Will Tell the People” that really only one party inside the beltway. Incumbent party. Here’s to voting the INs OUT!

  15. JT Davis says:

    The time may be coming when the centrist parts of both parties have more in common than they have with the existing party structures. pl
    Interesting post, Pat, on a fascinating and little understood phenomenon. But I think it has always been like that since our first election when the framers original intent went wrong. It is almost paradoxical and somewhat counterintuitive but that partially explains why people can perceive that there isn’t a “dime’s worth of difference” between the parties, as Gov. Wallace once said, yet these two parties appear to polarize the country. If we go all the way back to the Founding era, we find that the original intent of the Framers was to avoid the factionalism of the many political parties that they saw tearing Europe apart. Our two party system was a result of the Law of Unintended Consequences that arose spontaneously from our single member district plurality, “winner take all” electoral system. They envisioned no political parties at all. The best laid plans and all that…
    Some argue we might all be better served by revisiting that and perhaps realizing that the Framers intent, though well meaning, was ill advised, and perhaps we should consider the benefits, as well as the drawbacks, of a system that encourages more parties, and proportional representation like they have in Europe and other countries, rather than two ossified political machines that limit participation and produce such bizarre and polarized results. Some links for those who may not be familiar with Duverger and his Law.
    In political science, Duverger’s law is a principle which asserts that a plurality rule election system tends to favor a two-party system.
    The discovery of this tendency is attributed to Maurice Duverger, a French sociologist who observed the effect and recorded it in several papers published in the 1950s and 1960s. In the course of further research, other political scientists began calling the effect a “law” or principle. Duverger’s law suggests a nexus or synthesis between a party system and an electoral system: a proportional representation (PR) system creates the electoral conditions necessary to foster party development while a plurality system marginalizes many smaller political parties…

    For those interested in a more thorough examination and explanation, I suggest this book by political scientist Steven Hill:
    Fixing Elections: The Failure of America’s Winner-Take-All Politics
    That’s the link to Amazon but there is a website for the book which is out in paperback:
    With all due respect, Bill W., Obama was going to trounce anyone who ran against him, including Ron Paul. We live in an interesting time, and to those who wonder, the constitution is mute on how states may or may not conduct elections. Changing (doing away with the Electoral College and choosing the president by the popular vote) would require amending the constitution but proportional representation that encourages multiparty participation in the process is possible if the people choose to go that route in their local and state politics.

  16. bstr says:

    Dear Sir, as usual you have something to say that creates thought on the part of others. David W.’s comment on Frum’s current home address, priceless. One thing that is certain to catch your readership’s eyes is the “backing away” from the Alaskan Queen. The GOP chiefs can read the signs as well as those who post here. The idea that Pallin could become the face of the Party and that their most radical element would form a “new” GOP around her must frighten them as much as it repels them.

  17. Margaret Steinfels says:

    Unintended Consequence Front
    David Frum’s predictions about the angry Democrats is self-serving neo-con harumphing.
    The more likely outcome given past history: the new “Democrats” in Congress from formerly Republican districts (to say nothing of the pro-lifers described in Sunday’s NYtimes–gasp!)are giving the Dems the kind of variety that has been missing, and that has kept them from winning. This is not going to be an “angry” party, though it may become by 2010 a party at war with itself.
    In the meantime, let’s see if the Repubs make an honest assessment of their dismal failures and eight years of dismal performance. They don’t deserve more time to ruin the country.
    Sorry, feeling a little partisan after watching John McCain on “Meet the Press,” show why he doesn’t deserve to win.

  18. Graywolf says:

    Is your bitterness and hatred so deep for the Bushies (who I regard as incompetent fools) to wish to replace them with the possibility of a Supreme Court of Ruth Bader Ginsberg clones, unions granted absolute power, tax “cuts” for people who don’t pay taxes and a foreign policy driven by the rallying cry of “bend over”?

  19. g. powell says:

    Does anyone have a clue to what the new political debate will be about in this country after liberal v. conservative? I don’t.
    It seems that heavy govt intervention in the economy is now seen as necessary. No one suggests we should just sit by a watch a depression unfold.
    I think the need for an economic stimulus package will also become obvious. Corps will no longer be interested in providing healthcare, so the govt will step in.
    On foreign policy, everyone sensible agrees that the U.S. will need to take a much more modest approach.
    So the details of policies will be debated, but not the overall approach. There will be kooks on either side of the aisle, but I don’t think they’ll matter much. We will be governed by the left-center for a while, with not that much ideological fury from either side.
    On the other hand, there is always a bipolar political structure in this country. I just don’t know what the poles will be. So what will a new right party or reborn GOP be?

  20. Cieran says:

    Is your bitterness and hatred so deep… “?
    Sounds like a bad case of psychological projection to me! Calling Dr. Freud!!

  21. Curious says:

    My quickie take:
    – GOP has succession problem. The remaining party elders have all been discredited. (or simply too old to run next election) There is no credible middle player (governor, long time senators) The rest are too young/inexperience to enter national game.
    – GOP is not the party of national security, foreign policy or hands off economy. Bush ruins all that. (It’s pretty much neocon/evangelical/plutocrats/kleptocrat)
    -GOP bases are too outside the moderate to win big elections. So they have to find new way to hold down the crazies while going moderate. Without expensive Foxnews/AM radio, the public will quickly drift away.
    – Public knows that all current Bush problem is “policy” problem. Not natural disaster or mistake by one or two persons. It is a product of deliberate series of steps over long period of time. It will take a long time to win back people who lost their job and savings.
    – Republican money machine advantage is broken. Via internet and small money Democrats find their populist root and stop the drift toward GOP style corporate-lobbyist nexus.
    – If Democrats win filibuster proof senate, GOP K-street project will pretty much ends in pathetic whimpers (or maybe not)
    – the up coming corruption investigation alone will eliminate 1/3 of GOP technicians and players. Those are difficult to replace.

  22. bubba says:

    I’ve long thought that it is sometimes helpful to look at American politics in terms of a parliamentary system. I mean this only with regard to what we here call “interest groups”.
    Imagine if each major faction were its own party. Each of our two parties can be seen as coalitions of smaller parties–ie, interest groups. It is interesting to watch the factional balance of power swing as a party responds to stress. What we have in this current cycle with the Republicans is essentially a group of parties refusing to form a coalition and therefore they cannot govern.

  23. kao-hsien-chih says:

    JT Davis,
    Quite frankly, Duverger’s Law, even in single-member, plurality elections, is a bunk. When the Progressive Conservatives in Canada broke, it really did break into several pieces–and the pieces could never be put back together. Since then, Canada hasn’t had a real two-party system since (although that did yield a minority conservative government under Harper and a bunch of parties that couldn’t get along with each other). It is possible, if enough current Republican backers decide that they don’t want to put up with the present form of the party, it is well within the realm of possibilities that the present GOP coalition could splinter into multiple pieces permanently.
    And no, I don’t like that notion one bit–that’s how Chile wound up first with Allende, then with Pinochet.

  24. ked says:

    “Is your bitterness and hatred so deep…”
    No, not at all – I simply refuse to reward incompetence (& greedy plutocrats, scheming ideologists & nutcase end-of-worlders, etc). Someone’s got to do the quality control around here.
    It seems a pragmatic consensus HAS emerged (+ youthful exuberance & the historically disenfranchised) – “let’s screw things up in a new direction!” Works for me.

  25. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Factions from the Whig Party formed part of the base of the new Republican Party. The Whig Party traditionally supported a strong American economic system and national infrastructure development.
    Can the Republican Party save itself and excrete Neocons and Fundis? Will it? To salvage itself, will it move toward a Main Street Republicanism of the Eisenhower type, with a little Bob Taft in there?
    Or will it just be the party/toy of Irving (Kristol), and Gertrude (Himmelfarb, Irving’s wife), and Norman (Podhoretz), and Midge (Decter, Norman’s wife), and their kids, relatives, friends, and flunkies like Cheney and Rummy?
    Foreign Policy?
    “The well-advertised differences between John McCain and Barack Obama on the war in Iraq may obscure a consequential similarity between their hawkish views on the use of American military force in other places.”
    1. The Imperial Faction took over the Republican Party with the Neocons and Fundis and “New Right” (to which even Goldwater objected). The Bush Dynasty played along in 1988, 1992 (failed), 2000, 2004. George Sr. cut the deals with the Fundis in 1988. JEB BUSH signed the original Neocon PNAC manifesto, don’t forget. (So did Richard Armitage, for those with short memories). Brother “W” implemented it.
    2. The Imperial Faction is quite well entrenched in the Democratic Party also with the Lieberman/Neocon crowd, (Neocons started in the Democratic Party as Truman Cold War Zionists), “Liberal Imperialists” and others.
    Bush’s foreign interventions were billed as supporting “transformation”and “democracy.” Obama’s are going to be billed as supporting “human rights” and “democracy” if not “transformation” also. Thus, the Imperial faction pulls the strings in BOTH parties.

  26. Shrike58 says:

    I’ve been wondering when this moment of the contradictions of the GOP catching up with it would occur for twenty years.
    That said, the social dynamic of so much of the GOP, being the last home for the resentful and fearful really works against it in terms or creating working coalitions when there is no great enemy.
    The best long-term bet would be if Huckabee could rise about his provincialism and create a party of believers in the wider sense, in that all would be welcome if committed to building a decent and modest society. Whether the GOP can get its collective mind around abandoning the race-baiting that this would entail is another question.

  27. Cold War Zoomie says:

    Maybe they will evolve into a US version of this?
    The GOP will survive. My prediction is they will return to whichever set of “roots” they decide are best suited for winning elections. There are plenty of different iterations to chose from.
    Both parties morph and evolve over decades, but the names remain the same.

  28. looseleaf says:

    This reminds us that the “Deep South” has so far tended to resist homogenization into the national pattern. These tensions have repeatedly given the national parties major indigestion. Sectionalism has been one of the fundamental issues from the beginning of our national history (see, for example, the three-fifths rule). The extent to which this sectional issue is also bound up in racial questions is partly what makes the current election campaign so fraught with anxieties for many people, I think, whether or not one is optimistic or pessimistic about transformational changes.

  29. Burgette Mobley says:

    Greywolf says the rallying cry of the Dems will be “bend over!”
    Don’t know about the rest of you, but I feel like I’ve spent the last 8 years firmly clutching my ankles.

  30. bstr says:

    Dear Sir, for the GOP to survive intact they need a leadership that can use a fine blade to shave off the splinters. They need a face for that leadership that promises “return.” One element held in common by most of the Republican base and the party leadership is the idea of American Triumphalism via values. The face of Gov. Palin might do for the more radical among the GOP base, but fails, at this juncture, to engage enough of the GOP leadership to be practical. The Gov. of California, while not eligible for the position of President, has the appeal and talent to offer a centrist strategy to be built around his own ideas of “return.” In my opinion such positioning would offer cover for the rehab. of both Jeb Bush and the Huckster. Can they do it in four years?

  31. Paul says:

    Frum should have quit when he was ahead: when he allegedly coined the phrase “Axis of Evil”.
    Everything he worries about is what was served to the American people for 8 years: single party dominance. He must think that the past years have been just marvelous. The abandonment of American values was led by a handful, starting with the Vice President with the assistance of organizations like the AEI. Bush is just too stupid for any kind of original thought. Abetted by supine Republicans in the House and Senate, the Republican administration conjured a losing program. I don’t think Frum was part of that leadership clique because he is forever makes circular arguments.
    Not to be outdone by the aforementioned clique, McCain promises to carry-on with the same programs and has attached his future to the likes of Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber. How stupid is that?
    According to Frum, anything said on MSNBC is crass and just a shade away from treason; it must therefore be true that Fox and others are the bastions of balanced and fair news. He was handed his summer-weight jockstrap by Rachel Maddow a few days ago because he did not approve of her attitude and words.
    Frum is the kind of guy who claims to understand “conservatism”. The crap that has been dumped on us for eight years and the shit-flinging campaign of John McCain is not conservatism. Frum should visit a monastery or cloister if he want to experience “conservatism”.

  32. alnval says:

    Col. Lang:
    If the Republican Party is going to be viable it needs to figure out how it is going to attract a base of supporters who are not driven by religious ideology and which is also large enough to win elections at a state and national level. As William Weld reminded us this morning on Morning Joe, this argument has been roiling around in the Republican Party since at least the “big tent” convention of 1992. Weld implied that to ensure a viable Republican Party it must adopt a conservative political philosophy that requires the government to stay out of both our bedrooms and pocketbooks.
    Given that the Republicans seem unable to give up the benefits seemingly associated with having a political base made up of 16 million Southern Baptists whose interests since the mid 1970s have been more and more focussed on controlling what happens in our bedrooms and not our pocketbooks, it becomes harder and harder to ignore the possibility that someone is going to have to leave the Republican Party if pocket book issues are going to be addressed at a national level independent of sectarian values. The political attractiveness of both Ross Perot and Ron Paul give credence to this argument as does the likely loss of of both executive and legislative branches to the Democrats in this November 4th election.
    It they are to survive, the Republicans must have some way of responding to national issues whether foreign or domestic by offering rational alternatives to those proffered by the Democrats. They cannot do this if their alternatives continue to be tied to the constraining irrational arguments that flow from the religious beliefs of their existing political base.
    The way I see it, the Republicans have two choices. Either they can take back their party by mobilizing what used to be called Goldwater and/or Rockefeller republicans, or, they can let the social conservatives play in their own sand box while they build another.
    The social/religious conservatives are not going to go away. In fact, there are suggestions that their success in imposing their religious values on the body politic may be encouraging other religious groups to think that they might be able to do the same.

  33. Got A Watch says:

    As a Canadian, I must say our entire nation is diminished every time David Frum opens his mouth.
    The man is probably one of the stupidest people to ever come out of this country, and I have no idea why anyone listens to anything he says on any topic.
    Why do American right-wing media outlets give this idiot a second of time?
    I cannot fathom this, reading his words or listening to him in an interview, it is obvious to me he is absolutely detached from reality.
    He is dangerous becuase he wants to translate his paranoid neo-con fantasies into real life, and is give a public platform to promote his delusional views.
    Just ignore him. By discussing his words you give him a credence he does not deserve.
    Maybe if you complain to DHS he is a threat to American national security, he could be deported back to Canada. We don’t really want him back here, but he would be safely ignored at least.

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