Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Time to revive the Democratic-Republican Party?

By Maureen Johnson

This article originally appeared in The Daily Journal.

The Whigs. The Federalists. The Bourbon Democrats. Since ink met parchment to create the Declaration of Independence in 1776, America has seen its fair share of major political parties. Our forefathers warned against the danger of factionalism, recognizing the insidious desire for dominance easily could result in discord if not outright disenfranchisement. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison discussed these views in Federalist Papers Nos. 9 and 10. Yet Madison, along with Thomas Jefferson, went on to form America’s first political party, known as the “Democratic-Republican” or “Anti-Administration” Party. Hamilton took the helm of the competing Federalists. Hence, our two-party system was born.

In the wise words of Abraham Lincoln: “And this too shall pass.”

Many historians view our country as tumbling through five to six distinct eras in our two-party system. Over time, the nomenclature and ideals of major political parties transmogrify. In Lincoln’s day, the Grand Old Party Republicans fought for the rights of African-Americans. Democrats took up that laboring oar for many more minorities no later than the1960s, with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. And GOP’s finest hour soundly was kicked to the curb in 2016 when modern-day alt-right leaders — including David Duke, a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan — gave a thumbs-up to the GOP presidential candidate.

Is it time for a seventh era in our two-party system?

Many moderate Republicans are caught in the middle of a bitter tug-of-war between Democrats and an unrelenting far-right faction of the Republican Party that continues to stoke racism, either to validate prejudice or as a means for political gain. Put simply, Democrats certainly can get along with moderate Republicans, and vice versa. The civil war America faces is not between Democrats and moderate Republicans; rather it is with that small hard-right faction who have an unprecedented but very real stranglehold on how our country is run.

How can it be that 70 to 80 percent of Americans agree on major political planks yet that consensus is all but ignored by those in power? We agree Dreamers are entitled to a path to citizenship, babies should never be stripped from the arms of parents seeking asylum, and affordable healthcare should cover preexisting conditions. There even is general concurrence for basic gun control reform. And a majority of Americans easily would rather spend billions of dollars on meaningful programs, e.g., infrastructure or addressing the opioid crisis, instead of funding a symbolic “wall” that Trump promised would be paid for by an outside source. Even a 5-year-old understands that being asked to pay for a promised gift is a far cry from a promise kept.

Nor can it be doubted Americans believe to our core in the general principles behind democracy, specifically including that brutal dictators should be chastised, not courted or heralded as heroes. Yet despite this national heartbeat that emanates from the very DNA of our American spirit, Trump rebukes our NATO allies and instead paves the way for a new alliance — or even world order — with cruel dictators from Russia and North Korea. Current economic policies — such as the recently imposed trade tariffs — also disserve the majority of Americans, even those in Trump’s own base. For example, not only will the economic tariffs erase the bread-crumb tax cuts tossed to the lower classes, but they may lead to foreclosures and economic ruin for those particularly impacted. Lost businesses and family homes then can be scooped up for pennies on the dollar by opportunistic investors, many of whom have been even further enriched by the very substantial tax cut given to the wealthiest of Americans. If so, Trump’s tariffs will have the aggregate effect of making the rich richer, and the poor, poorer.

On a far different trajectory, bipartisan congressional coalitions — such as the Problem Solvers Caucus — have begun working toward bipartisan solutions. We’ve seen moderate Republicans walk away from far-right candidates tied to white supremacists. Just recently, the chairman of the Virginia GOP quit in the wake of Corey Stewart’s senatorial nomination. Others, such as long-time Republican strategist Steve Schmidt, flatly disavow the current incarnation of the GOP. Still more, such as Senator Orrin Hatch, soundly denounce the trade tariffs. Hatch even issued a statement expressly noting that “[t]ariffs on steel and aluminum imports are a tax hike on Americans and will have damaging consequences for consumers, manufacturers and workers.” If enough moderate-minded Republicans align with moderate Democrats, this coalition could enact legislation that actually reflects majoritarian views.

Time to reset.

Moderate Republicans can wield their substantial power to align with Democrats and right the course. Could a new national party be forged that reflect the values of this combined demographic? Such a party could harken back and claim the handle of the “Democratic-Republicans,” established in 1792. But this humble author can think of a better name. If a true coalition forms, it will be because moderate Republicans caught in the middle choose their country over their party. Why not call it the “American Party”?

Conservative Democrats might well jump ship to a new “American Party.” Remaining Democrats might even rebrand and call themselves the “Progressive Party.” Metamorphosis. The silver lining is that these reborn political parties easily could work together. Interestingly, this is exactly the type of non-partisanship governance our forefathers envisioned. A new two-party system could emphasize little “d” democratic ideals and leadership, patriotism rooted in our historic and very proud quest for equality, and the fundamental precepts of honesty, intellect, and kindness to which both our nation and the world long have aspired. One thing both parties easily would agree upon is that there is no place in America for racism or hate.

Primaries almost are over. Moderate Republicans can take action and reject policies and agenda that stoke racism and /or further the divide between those who are privileged and those who are not. Democrats need to embrace Republicans who have the courage to do so. Why? Because that is what the American people want. If there is one early lesson to be learned from the Trump era, it is that we are sick to our stomachs over politicians who shun our resolves. If “drain the swamp” means anything, it means purging elected officials who are corrupt and/or who spinelessly bend to the will of manipulative party leaders. Instead, elected officials need to be true to our democratic ideals and the collective will of the American people.

No comments: