We’ve come 180 since 1880

Democrats becoming Republicans and vice versa

The case for rejecting both the Democrat and Republican parties has never been stronger, and historically speaking identifying with either of the two main parties has never made a whole lot of sense. The two parties have largely exchanged platforms and constituencies in the last 130 years. Mostly we are just confused about who we are because the two parties do not actually stand for anything except power grabbing. It also seems more and more obvious that the two parties are merely telling us what they think their perceived constituencies want to hear. The dog’s tail is wagging the dog, the doghouse, and all the neighborhood dogs and cats as well.

Hello! Wouldn’t it be better to vote for someone who roughly shares our values and beliefs. Instead we are voting for one of the two main party candidates, and we don’t know anything about their values and beliefs. Shamefully, there was no public debate of the issues in the last election. Every time a policy question was asked of either candidate, the answer shifted immediately to an attack on the personal qualities of the opponent.

Early on in the 2016 Presidential cycle we had many viable candidates, but only 23 people made it to the debate stage. Polling and primary voting quickly narrowed down our choices to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. You and I could justifiably be confused as to how these two could be selected.

The ideal Republican and the ideal Democrat do not seem to exist in the political realm. They would almost certainly be people with a lower profile and less name recognition.

According to the narrative the Republican party has been relentlessly pushing, the ideal Republican would be a religious war hero who wants to promote American business by de-regulation and who has a viable plan for eliminating illegal immigration. Donald Trump is not particularly religious. He attended a military school and wore a school uniform but obtained medical deferments from service during the Viet Nam war. He brags about using the tax codes to his advantage; and if he builds a fifty foot wall between Mexico and the United States, Mexican immigrants will still be arriving daily.

According to the narrative the Democrats spin, the ideal Democrat will eliminate inequality by higher wages and higher taxes on the rich. He or she would most likely work with the poor, like Mother Teresa. He or she would not be a wealthy lawyer or politician like Hillary Clinton.

It is my contention that the candidates have never represented the parties and the parties have never represented the candidates. Therefore, the whole system has the distinct odor of a sham.

What follows is a brief history that illustrates the misalignment of political parties, politicians, and voters.

Many historians believe the modern age began around 136 years ago in 1880. For the purposes of this essay, I will call that the beginning of the “old modern” age. Let’s start there.

Here in America, the country was starting to heal from the Civil War and “Reconstruction” of the South was ending. Racism in the South was palpably evident in the methods used by Whites in the Democratic party to disenfranchise Americans of predominantly African descent. The Democratic party in the North was decidedly more diverse and cannot be directly associated with the Racist agenda of the South. Posthumous apologies to the many non-racist members of the Democratic party both North and South at the time. Keep in mind that the Racist agenda was pushed by the Democratic party leadership in the South, so some individuals in the party may deserve to be absolved of guilt.

There was an opposition coalition of Southerners back then. The opposition coalition in the South was made up of poor whites who were negatively affected by poll taxes and deceitful literacy tests, Americans of predominantly African descent, and Southern whites of good conscience. Unfortunately, that coalition was seldom successful in getting better candidates elected.

The beginning of the “new modern” age in America was the Great Depression and President Roosevelt’s liberal/progressive response to it, the New Deal.  Depending on which political narrative you are listening to, President Roosevelt was either the greatest or the worst President ever. In either case, he certainly resurrected and reinvigorated the Democratic party by signaling the beginning of the end of overt racism in the Democratic party. The composition of the overall Democratic party began to shift in favor of Civil Rights and organized labor. During the first half of the twentieth century six million Americans of predominantly African descent left the South. Historians call this the Great Migration.

A Civil Rights plank was added to the Democratic platform in 1948, 68 years ago. It seems fair to me to attribute this shift in political sentiment in part to a moral awakening and in part to strategic political posturing and in part to the necessities imposed by the Depression itself.

Conversely, the 1930’s and 40’s can also be seen as the beginning of a gradual but growing shift of many voters to the Republican party and the Republican party making inroads in the South. It would be an over-simplification to see this continuing trend solely in racial terms. For instance, in the South, particularly in Florida, this trend was boosted by Northern Republicans seeking out sunny retirement spots.

In the 1960’s the change in party demographics in both directions shifted into a higher gear. President Kennedy was leading the Democrat party in the direction of the Civil Rights act and the Voting Rights act of 1964 and 1965 when he was assassinated. At the same time many traditional Democrats began to switch to the Republican party, particularly in the South. Just before the 1964 passage of the Civil Rights legislation, then President Johnson said, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come.” But he won a landslide victory and the voting patterns from previous years was largely reversed and rearranged.

Many analysts believe that President Nixon won in 1972 by successfully avoiding any endorsement of civil rights. The so called “Southern Strategy” may have won Nixon the election, but it highlights my thesis that modern candidates win by not revealing their true feelings on the important issues of the day. 

Donald Trump is not a Populist, but he rode a populist wave into office. Many voters are fed up with having to be so careful about everything we say. On the surface, the current revolution is a revolt against Political Correctness. Below the surface, the revolution is a doomed attempt by some Americans to obfuscate the racial biases that are still driving many American voters after all these years.