Leroy N. Soetoro
2018-07-15 17:09:27 UTC
I was educated a Democrat from my boyhood, a Republican delegate
confided to his colleagues at Iowas constitutional convention in 1857.
Faithfully, I did adhere to that party until I could no longer act with
it. Many things did I condemn ere I left that party, for my love of party
was strong. And when I did, at last, feel compelled to separate from my
old Democratic friends, it was like tearing myself away from old home
As often seems the case today, American politics in the 1850s were nearly
all-consuming and stubbornly tribal. So it was hardand bitterly sofor
hundreds of thousands of Northern Democrats to abandon the political
organization that had long formed the backbone of their civic identity.
Yet they came over the course of a decade to believe that the Jacksonian
Democratic Party had degenerated into something thoroughly autocratic and
corrupt. It had fallen so deeply in the thrall of the Slave Power that it
posed an existential threat to American democracy.
Placing the sanctity of the nation above the narrow bonds of party, these
Democrats joined in common cause with former Whig antagonists in the epic
struggle to save the United States from its own darker instincts.
Today, a small but influential cadre of Republican elected officials,
strategists and policy experts faces a similar choice. Heirs of Ronald
Reagan, they have grown to believe that their party has also degenerated
into something ugly and undemocratichostile to science and fact, rooted
in an angry spirit of racial and ethnic nationalism, enamored of foreign
strongmen and hostile to American institutions, and so fundamentally
estranged from the nations founding values that it poses an existential
threat to American democracy.
During the presidential campaign of 2016, and for the better part of the
past two years, these Never Trumpers could plausibly speak of extracting
their party from the grip of white nationalism and angry populism. Now,
with midterm elections approachingwith broad majorities of the GOP
electorate firmly in the presidents thrall and the Republican Congress
all but fully acquiescent to the White Housesuch talk is fanciful.
Like that Iowa delegate in 1857, todays Never Trumpers face a stark
choice: passively acquiesce to the further ascent of Trumpism, or switch
parties and play a vital part in stopping it.
If they do choose the latter, they might be surprised at the result: Like
the GOPs founding generation, in the process of leaving a party they once
loved, todays Never Trump Republicans might also free themselves from
partisan dogmas that have lost relevance in the current age. At the same
time, they might find Democrats demonstrating a new spirit of flexibility
and accommodationleading to a new unity that could cure the country of
some of its worst ills.
From the late 1820s through the 1840s, Americans split their political
loyalties between two parties, Whigs and Democrats, that disagreed on a
host of economic and political questions including a national banking
system, tariffs, infrastructure spending, monetary policy and workers'
rights. Both parties enjoyed strong bisectional support and, for the most
part, conspired to keep slavery out of the national dialogue.
That changed in 1854 when Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which
organized the Kansas and Nebraska territories in preparation for the
construction of a midwestern link to a planned transcontinental railroad.
At the insistence of Southern Democrats who initially balked at supporting
the bill, Stephen Douglas, chairman of the Committee on Territories and
chief author of the bill, inserted a popular sovereignty provision
allowing the residents of the two territories to decide for themselves
whether to permit slavery. Kansas and Nebraska were part of the Louisiana
Purchase, and as such they fell under the provisions of the Missouri
Compromise, which prohibited slavery above the 3630 parallel. In one
quick motion, Douglas and his Democratic colleagues obliterated a
longstanding arrangement between the North and the South and reintroduced
the slavery question into American politics.
The backlash was swift. The Kansas-Nebraska Act created a deep-seated,
intense, and ineradicable hatred of slavery, observed the editor of the
New York Times. It wasnt just that the ruling Democratic Party had
repealed the Missouri Compromise. It also seemed intent on flouting any
law or tradition that stood in the way of slaverys extension into the
territories. William Pitt Fessenden, a Whig senator from Maine, spoke for
many Northerners when he called the Kansas-Nebraska Act a terrible
outrage. The more I look at it, the more enraged I become. It needs but
little to make me an out & out abolitionist.
The introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Act snapped the cords that bound
many Northern voters to the two political parties and introduced a period
of extreme volatility and excitement. For all intents and purposes, the
Whig Partywhich for reasons unrelated to the slavery issue had been in a
state of slow declineceased to exist, while throughout the North,
Democrats suffered massive defections by both voters and officeholders. At
hundreds of political meetings around the country, antislavery activists
abandoned their political bases for new fusion tickets uniting
antislavery Conscience Whigs and anti-Nebraska Democrats, who opposed
the Whigs on most policy questions but thought slavery was a dangerous
social and political system. In some states, these fusion tickets were
called Anti-Nebraska, Democrat-Republican or Free-Soil. In Ripon,
Wisconsin, on February 28, 1854, several dozen residents of the
surrounding county converged on the towns simple, one-room, wood-frame
schoolhouse to forge a new political party. They called themselves
Republicans, and the name soon stuck.
Former Democrats-turned-Republicans werent disgusted simply by the
imposition of popular sovereignty in territory that should, by their
estimation, have been free. They also watched as their former party
perverted the very idea of free elections and democratic process. In the
Kansas territory, border ruffians, led by Missouris Democratic senator,
David Atchison, moved in and out of Kansas with impunitystuffing ballot
boxes, visiting violence on free state settlers and attempting to tilt the
scales in favor of slavery. You know how to protect your own interests,
Atchison declared. Your rifles will free you from such neighbors. You
will go there, if necessary, with the bayonet and with blood. If we
win, he promised, we can carry slavery to the Pacific Ocean. Although
antislavery voters probably made up a healthy majority of the population,
the slave forces stole a series of territorial elections, leading the Free
Soilers to establish a shadow government in Lawrence, Kansas.
Tensions had already started to boil over when Atchisons ruffians
sacked and pillaged the free-state capital city, destroying the local
Free-Soil newspaper office and laying ruin to the Free State Hotel, which
housed the shadow legislature. Days later, on May 19, 1856, Charles Sumner
rose on the Senate floor to denounce the crime against Kansas. The day
after his speech, as Sumner attended to routine paperwork on the Senate
floor, Congressman Preston Brooks entered the chamber and set upon him
with a metal-tipped cane. The senators desks were bolted to the floor,
making it impossible for Sumner to escape from his seat. Writhing in pain,
he wrenched the desk up with his knees and collapsed on the bloodstained
carpet. His injuries nearly killed him, and it would be four years before
he could return to normal duties in the Capitol. As for Brooks: He enjoyed
the full-throated support of Southern Democrats and the quiet approvalor
at least non-disapprovalof his Northern party brethren who remained
faithful to their party.
The incident soon became known as Bleeding Sumner, and it created a
political firestorm. The symbolic importance of the crime was arresting.
Southern Democrats and their fellow travelers up North were no longer
content to employ violence and terrorism in Kansas. Now they had brought
their war of aggression into the halls of Congress. The South has taken
the oligarchic ground that Slavery ought to exist, irrespective of color,
the New-York Tribune intoned, that Democracy is an illusion and a lie.
In the course of defecting to the new Republican Party, many former
Democrats came to look back with disgust on the ways by which Southern
Democrats had enforced rigid, doctrinaire support for slavery for decades.
Starting in the 1830s, when Congress instituted a gag rule barring
debate or discussion of the peculiar institution, the Democratic majority
blithely tramped over the First Amendment rights of white Northern
congressmen in the defense of chattel slavery
A onetime Democrat from Ohioand future Republican congressmanput the
matter in sharper relief when he complained that we have submitted to
slavery long enough, and must not stand it any longer. I am done
catching negroes for the South. Hannibal Hamlin, a Democratic senator
from Maine, lamented that the old Dem. party is now the party of slavery.
It has no other issue, in fact, and this is the standard on which [it]
measures every thing and every man. Hamlin soon switched parties and
served as vice president in Abraham Lincolns first term.
Its unclear whether the politicians were leading their constituents, or
vice versa. The congressional district in Pennsylvania that antislavery
Democrat David Wilmot and his Democrat-turned-Republican successor,
Galusha Grow, represented had delivered a plurality of 2,500 votes to
Democratic presidential candidate Franklin Pierce in 1852. Four years
later, Republican nominee John C. Fremont won the district with 70 percent
of the vote and a plurality of 9,000. (Grow would go on to serve as House
speaker.) Throughout most of the North and Midwest, Democrats were reduced
to minority status overnight. Defections were so profound in Illinois that
a former Whig observed that the men here who have been regarded as the
elite of the Democratic party are now with us for the Republican ticket.
That roster of Illinois ex-Democrats included Lyman Trumbull, who in early
1855 won just five votes in the legislatures first-round balloting for
the United States Senate. The incumbent Democrat, James Shields, won 41
votes, and Abraham Lincoln, a former Whig turned Republican, led with
45just shy of the 51 votes needed to secure election. Lincoln understood
that Trumbulls holdouts were men who never could vote for a whig. Over
the course of several roll calls, he began bleeding support to Trumbull,
while the Democrats swapped Shields out for the popular incumbent
governor, Joel Matteson. Fearing that some of the anti-Nebraska Democrats
might reunite with their party and send Matteson to the Senate, Lincoln
instructed his Whig supporters to fall in line with Trumbull.
Political accommodation between ex-Whigs and ex-Democrats didnt come
easy. It required men like Lincoln to set aside personal ambition in the
interest of defeating the slave power. It required Whigs to vote for ex-
Democrats, even when the Jacksonians were in the minority. But on balance,
it required considerably more of ex-Democrats.
In 1948, the historian Michael Hasseltine suggested that the Republican
Party was little more than an enlarged Whig party disguised in a new
vocabulary. Thats a vast oversimplification, but its undeniable that
former Whigs outnumbered former Democrats, and that each camp eyed the
other warily. In Connecticut, former Democrats led by Gideon Welles and
John Niles determined to prevent the state Republican organization from
devolving into but another phase of Whiggery. For their part, ex-Whigs
like David Davis of Illinois disdained former Democrats-turned-Republicans
as a perfect oligarchy with a maw ready to swallow everything.
Republicans fundamentally agreed on two things: That slavery must not be
extended into the territories, and that the Democratic Party was a
dangerous, anti-democratic institution that must be ground out throughout
the North. That left much room for disagreement and compromise over the
tariff, monetary policy and the powers of the federal state. Ultimately,
though, the Civil War compelled former Democrats to make the greater
compromise, a point well-illustrated by hundreds of millions of Union
greenbacks issued by Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase and signed by
Francis Spinner, treasurer of the United States. Both were former hard-
The war greatly expanded the federal state in ways that ex-Democrats might
once have found unconscionable. To raise, arm, feed and move the Union
Army, the Republican administration and Congress introduced new taxes,
expanded the federal debt and engaged in inflationary monetary policies
that would have made Andrew Jackson turn in his grave. In the 1870swith
the question of slavery settled and civil rights for freedmen at least
theoretically embedded in the Constitutionsome ex-Democrats returned to
their fold. Many did not. Those who returned to their party were unsettled
not only by the seeming permeance of Whig economic policies that they had
accepted as a wartime expedient, but also by political corruption that
seemed the natural byproduct of the GOPs close relationship with
industrialists and manufacturers who had prospered on government contracts
under the Lincoln, Johnson and Grant administrations.
Ex-Democrats in the 1850s and 1860s didnt have to become Whigs. They were
able to join a new political partyalbeit one dominated by former Whigs.
The shrewdest of todays Never Trump Republicans realize that they face
only one clean choice, and it is, of course, more jarring: Become
Democrats or, like the prominent GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, become
independents and support Democrats. Third parties have rarely taken flight
in American history, and when they have, they rarely stay airborne for
Like the Iowan who felt as though he were tearing [himself] away from old
home associations, Never Trumpers will find it a bitter pill to swallow.
But history offers them some consolation.
In the process of abandoning their party allegiance, most Democrats-
turned-Republicans disenthralled themselves from political prejudices that
no longer made much sense. In Congress, they avidly supported distinctly
Whiggish policies like the Homestead Act, the Land-Grant Agricultural and
Mechanical College Act and the Pacific Railroad Acts, all of which
established a foundation for the countrys post-war economic growth. On
some level, the war catalyzed this political realignment. But something
equally fundamental may also have been at play: Having concluded that
their former Whig enemies shared their fundamental commitment to the good
of the nation, ex-Democrats freed themselves to imagine a larger space for
So too can Never Trumpers and Democrats in 2018 find common cause.
Relative to other center-left political parties in the developed world,
the U.S. Democratic Party is more center than left. Its the only American
political party that has seriously attempted to develop market-based
policies to expand health care access (the Affordable Care Act), address
climate change (cap and trade) or upgrade the nations deficient
infrastructure (an infrastructure bank.
As recently as the 1990s and early 2000sbefore their party devolved into
a spirit of revanchismcenter-right Republicans used to compromise with
center-left Democrats to address systemic challenges like childrens
health care, tax policy and environmental protection. Theres no reason
they cant do so again, within the framework of an enlarged and more
ideologically diverse Democratic Party.
If Never Trumpers are truly alarmed by Democrats recent embrace of
single-payer health care and universal community college, they should
become Democrats and develop market-based solutions to big, systemic
problems. That would also require that Democratic voters understand their
role in forging a new majority: They must pitch a larger tent and
accommodate a broader range of ideas and perspectives. Some of them might
be forced to make sacrifices like Lincolns and step aside in favor of
former Republicans where circumstances demand it.
In the same way that former Democrats in the 1850s had to climb their way
out of an intellectual foxhole, Never Trumpers in 2018 must arrive at some
political accommodationand quickly. Having devoted so many years and
decades to denouncing theoretical and rhetorical incursions on personal
libertyusually in the form of taxes or regulations that Democrats
supportmany Republicans have been slow to recognize the very tangible and
real-world danger of a thuggish central state under their own partys
control: the knock on the door at night, the separation of children and
parents, congressional show trials, the erosion of civil society, the
autocratic leader forcing private companies into submission, the state-run
television station that insists the weather is bright and sunny when
everyone can see that its raining.
This late in the game, you can be Never Trump or Never Democrat. But you
cant be both.
Donald J. Trump, 304 electoral votes to 227, defeated compulsive liar in
denial Hillary Rodham Clinton on December 19th, 2016. The clown car
parade of the democrat party ran out of gas and got run over by a Trump
Congratulations President Trump. Thank you for cleaning up the disaster
of the Obama presidency.
Under Barack Obama's leadership, the United States of America became the
The World According To Garp.
ObamaCare is a total 100% failure and no lie that can be put forth by its
supporters can dispute that.
Obama jobs, the result of ObamaCare. 12-15 working hours a week at minimum
wage, no benefits and the primary revenue stream for ObamaCare. It can't
be funded with money people don't have, yet liberals lie about how great
Obama increased total debt from $10 trillion to $20 trillion in the eight
years he was in office, and sold out heterosexuals for Hollywood queer
liberal democrat donors.