Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Origin of the Two Party System, Pt 2

The 'First Party System' is a term used by political scientists to refer to the politics of the period from 1792 to the 'Era of Good Feeling' during the James Monroe administration. As previously noted in 'The History of the Two Party System, Pt 1', the first true American political parties were Alexander Hamilton's Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans founded by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The Federalist Party was pro-business, pro-bank, and in favor of a strong national government. The Democratic-Republican Party was against taxes and a national banking system and strongly advocated states' rights. The Federalists advocated a rapprochement with Great Britain, the leading economic power of the world, for the trade benefits this would bring the United States. The Democratic-Republicans favored a policy of strict loyalty to the American Revolutionaries' ally, France.

The two parties came into being during George Washington's first term and would fight bitterly throughout Washington's second. While Hamilton's economic policies largely passed as he had envisioned them, the Democratic-Republicans were more successful at building a national party. In the first great partisan election in the United States, Democratic-Republican George Clinton defeated Federalist John Jay for the position of governor of New York. Clinton used the immense political patronage available to the governor of an important state to strengthen the Democratic-Republican party.

The rematch came with Washington's decision not seek a third term as president. Vice President John Adams became the Federalist candidate while party leader Thomas Jefferson would represent the Democratic-Republicans. It should be noted that while the party apparats endorsed these candidates, however, that there was no nominating system as exists today. Other candidates ran for president as well, and most them were Federalists and Democratic-Republicans who served to divide the votes of the party's leading candidates. Candidates during this phase of U.S. history ran as individuals, not as the nominated representatives of a political party.

The Federalists won this first national clash, but the Adams administration would sow the seeds of the Federalists' destruction. The French Revolution was at its height. Many Democratic-Republican leaders saw the revolution in France as a spread of 'American' ideals to its ally and were strongly in favor of the revolutionaries. The leading Federalists, however, saw the French Revolution as a complete social and political breakdown and a threat to other nations. Democratic-Republicans wished to aid the French republic in its clash with Great Britain, while Federalists saw French Republican trade policies as hostile and wished a war with France.

Neither side got their way. John Adams was determined to have peace and to keep the United States neutral in European conflicts. Despite the outbreak of the Quasi-War with France in 1798, Adams firmly resisted declaring war and resolutely pursued a diplomatic solution to the
tensions between the two countries. This angered the dominant Hamilton faction of his own party. When Adams and Jefferson faced each other in a presidential election for the second time in 1800, Hamilton's so-called 'High Federalists' (the hard-core wing of the party) backed vice-presidential candidate Charles C. Pinckney (the hero of the so-called 'XYZ Affair' that led to the Quasi-War and the official Vice-Presidential candidate of the Federalist Party) for the presidency and the divided votes led to Adams' defeat and the fracturing of the Federalist Party.

The Democratic-Republicans were also badly damaged, however. Jefferson ended up in an electoral tie with his Vice-Presidential candidate, Aaron Burr. The decision was sent to the House of Representatives, where disgruntled Federalists who had lost their seats in the election initially began voting for Burr at a rapid clip to block Jefferson from the presidency. Hamilton, who was more afraid of a Burr presidency than even of Jefferson, used his personal influence to rally votes to ensure Jefferson's election. This was merely one sordid chapter in a political feud between Hamilton and Burr that ended with Burr shooting Hamilton dead in a duel in 1804. Hamilton's death was the final nail in the Federalist Party's coffin. Though they limped on as a regional party in New England, the Federalists never again made a serious bid for either congressional or presidential authority and in 1820's presidential election they could not even muster party unity behind a single candidate. As a result, in many states incumbent President James Monroe was the only name on the ballot.

With Monroe's re-election, the Federalist party was officially dead. A new system, however, was already forming within Monroe's own party. It would result in the birth of the Democratic Party and begin a desperate quest for effective and unified opposition to the Democrats.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Why I Respect William F. Buckley

You Live With It

In all the discussion of morality in politics, all the heated argument about what is or isn't 'right' or 'wrong', and (most of all) all of the refusal by those who hold opinions and whose profession it is to share those opinions to depart from the bracket in which they 'belong', William F. Buckley has consistently said what he really felt and believed was right even when other conservatives would take issue with it. I don't agree with his politics, but he's a good and sincere man of intelligence and moral fiber. Read the article, please.

How Much Help Do They Need?

" You don't have to be a Harvard University researcher to figure out that the media is infected with liberal bias — or to realize that some left-wing journalists will use any means necessary to create ideological narratives that fit their worldview. The Rathergate debacle at CBS News involving faked National Guard memos to smear President Bush was an extreme example. But if you look closely, you'll find everyday examples of Serious Journalists manufacturing the news and concocting social crises.
Amazingly, they always manage to make conservatives look racist, intolerant and evil. Funny how that works."

-Michelle Malkin, Punked: Faking the Hate, Manufacturing the News

With all due respect to Ms. Malkin, many modern social conservatives do just fine making themselves look racist and intolerant on their own. Let's also not forget that the 'Rathergate' expose turned out to have been 'managed' itself. Rather's story was legitimate and it was the conservative blogger-journalist 'debunkers' who were making it up as they went along. Yet Fox News (for whom Malkin frequently stints as a talking head when she's not writing) are the only people not to have figured it out and their ignorance has somehow made the rest of the news media mention it only in passing and without the bullet it deserves. Maybe, though, it wasn't to help Fox News save face. Maybe it was to help CBS save face after replacing Dan Rather on the word of bloggers claiming to be journalists.

(As an aside, I am not a journalist. I am a blogger and I write my opinions and items I think of historical interest. Sometimes I get my facts wrong. In Does It Matter Who The Frontrunners Are? I mistakenly noted that Dick Gephardt came in second in Iowa. He came in third, after Kerry and Edwards. The point is, I don't claim to be a journalist. The bloggers who 'debunked' Rather's story on Bush's National Guard service did.)

I digress. The topic is racism and intolerance, not to forget contemporary conservatives. In Equality OR Freedom or Equality AND Freedom? I made reference to an article by Pat Buchanan which first extolled the great personal freedom of the Jim Crow era and then suggested that homosexuality should be a crime rather than a civil rights issue. It doesn't look like he needed a lot of help from me, in the so-referenced article, to look racist and intolerant. Fox News recently ran pieces on 'Girl Power' and 'Religious Intolerance' that were webcast on Yahoo. The 'Girl Power' story was a commercial for the so-called 'Global War on Terror' and the 'Religious Intolerance' story was Sean Hannity condemning Muslim extremists in Sudan for demanding the execution of a British teacher who was convicted of insulting Islam. The problem is that in the United States, the people practicing religious intolerance believe much the same as Mr. Hannity and he doesn't speak out against them.

Ms. Malkin is likely, in a hypothetical argument on the subject, to point out her own racial heritage and the racial heritage of such noteworthy conservative spokespeople as Larry Elder and Alan Keyes. They are embraced by the conservative community and they are obviously non-white. So where is the racism?

The answer to that question is that modern American conservatism is a very special club. Anyone who agrees with the basic thesis is welcome and those who do not are stupid, cowardly, atheistic, or immoral. Those who disapprove of the legislation of fundamentalist Christian values in a pluralistic society are persecuting fundamentalist Christians, or 'elitists' who think they are better than fundamentalist Christians. Those who want to see biology taught in the classroom with scientific accuracy are 'elitists' whose view of education is 'undemocratic.'

We live in a modern, pluralistic society and many modern social conservatives have a problem with that. They see the teaching of accurate science, social tolerance of alternative lifestyles (Say that without smirking if you're anything but heterosexual and vanilla, eh?), and legal legitimacy for abortion as an assault on their beliefs. They really do see themselves as persecuted and as 'losing the culture war.' In their minds, Jim Crow laws banning evangelicals from school drinking fountains are the logical next step after teaching scientifically accurate biology. The institution of Christian marriage really is under attack from the idea of state-sanctioned gay marriage.

I am going to agree with the reactionaries on one important issue: social morality is on the decline and not just in the United States but around the world. Even more, to some extent the reason for that is the secular willingness to reject Christian values. Unfortunately, I disagree wildly with the modern social conservative on the definition of the problem. The Christian values being rejected are brotherly love for mankind, peace, the embrace of fellow human beings regardless of cultural differences (the very first Christians were a polyglot group of Jews, Greek-speaking Middle-Easterners, Greeks, and Romans), and forgiveness. 'Turn the other cheek' and 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' are replaced by sociological moral relativism married to political realism. The real enemy is not gay marriage or the teaching of evolution, the real enemy is Realpolitik. The real enemy is nationalism. The real enemy is the capitalist economic system that allows one part of the world to live in relative wealth and security while the rest lives in poverty and squalor.

In Michelle Malkin's defense, she's right about one thing. Schools should teach math, not 'the concept of math.'