The recent moves by the establishment Republican Party are enough to give any true conservative a major case of heartburn, if not feelings of outright disgust, contempt, and abandonment. The GOP seems poised to continue on its well-worn path of political cowardice, backing down at every turn each time Democrats raise a controversial issue.
Now it seems that the new issue is gay marriage and the Republican Party seems over-eager to have that volatile question off the table for 2014 and 2016, and every election after that. Establishment hacks have indicated that the next Republican nominee for President might support gay marriage, much to the chagrin of traditional rank and file conservatives.
And if it’s not gay marriage, then it’s immigration. Republicans seem bent on supporting a plan of amnesty for illegals, the supposed “path to citizenship.” A recent report showed that illegal border crossings have doubled just since talk began on the possibility of amnesty. No one should be shocked at that report.
Many of the most “intellectual” members of the GOP have hailed the merits of taking these two issues off the table so they can’t be used against us in future contests. Principle goes right out the window with this crew.
So the real question is this: if the Republicans are moving toward the Democrats on these issues, why do we need a GOP? Why don’t we just all vote Democrat? In fact, why don’t we just throw in the towel on every issue? Why not let them spend all they want and tax all they want? That would certainly make our political contests much more civil. But parties were formed to support proven political principles and to give the people who held those views a vehicle to promote them. It makes no sense to have two parties with likeminded views on any issue.
A similar situation concerned the original Jeffersonian Democratic Party at the turn of the 20th century. Jefferson’s party had been the purveyors of true conservatism for a century, unabashedly pushing the ideals of limited government, states’ rights, strict construction of the Constitution, low taxes, no public debt, free trade, sound money, and a non-interventionist foreign policy.
The 1896 campaign pitted William Jennings Bryan as the Democratic nominee against Governor William McKinley for the Republicans, then a more progressive party. Bryan, a former two-term congressman from Nebraska, also held some mild progressive views, seeking to use the government to aid the people directly, especially in terms of a cheaper, inflationary currency that would destroy the gold standard.
President Grover Cleveland was retiring from politics and aloof from party business but he loathed Bryan, refusing to support him. He was concerned for the future of his beloved “Democracy,” seeing Bryan as the vehicle to promote progressivism and destroy the party’s conservative principles. From then until his death in 1908, Cleveland wrote letters to friends seeking a defeat of “Bryanism,” ideals he considered a “disastrous heresy,” and a return to true principles. If those Jeffersonian principles died out, then the Republic could very well die out with it, he believed.
After the election, Cleveland wrote his friend, and former Attorney General, Richard Olney. “And the poor old Democratic party! What a spectacle it presents as a tender to Bryanism and nonsense!” The party had a chance to right itself and win back the presidency in 1900, he believed, if Bryan and his followers were purged. It is advice modern conservatives might pay heed. “The Democratic party, if it was only in tolerable condition, could win an easy victory next year; but I am afraid it will never be in winning condition until we have had a regular knock-down fight among ourselves, and succeeded in putting the organization in Democratic hands and reviving Democratic principles in our platform.”
For Cleveland, it was time to throw the leftists out of the party before they took it over and destroyed it. If the party did not soon cleanse itself from the progressive bug that had bitten it, the country would get the same candidates that were on the ballot four years before, representing ideologies that were not that far apart. “Bryanism and McKinleyism! What a choice for a patriotic American!” Cleveland thundered.
Bryan lost the 1900 election to McKinley, just as he had in 1896, and the 1908 election to Taft as well. The “knock down fight” never took place and Bryanism won out in the Democratic Party. Cleveland’s Jeffersonian conservatism was finished, never to re-appear again. And as a result, the Democratic Party has continued its steady progression to the left and is now on the verge of advocating pure socialism, if not outright communism, and is taking the country down with it.
And what do what have on the opposing side? A bunch of Republican cowards too afraid of the media and public opinion polls to stand boldly on principle and fight back. I say it’s time to thrown these rascals out, or form a new party, the consequences be damned!
This column appeared in the Laurel Leader Call (Laurel, MS) on Saturday, April 6, 2013.