|15A039 A Tale of Two Parties by Jim Davies, 6/19/2015
Regular readers of this ZGBlog know far better than to have any truck with the voting process, and we know well enough that if elections made any difference, they would be illegal. In a fine recent essay Paul Rosenberg advised "please do NOT support a candidate" but since during the next year and a half over a hundred million of our neighbors will disregard that, a little background knowledge may be useful.
With certain minimum-age limits, any American can run for election, without needing support from a political "party." Apologists for the system boast of this characteristic, all the while working hard to ensure it never succeeds. In 1998 in the final stages of my interest in the political process I did this myself, as candidate for Governor of New Hampshire; most of the web site is still up. It's the best platform I've ever seen. I spent not a single dime promoting the candidacy and relied only upon voters seeing its scintillating brilliance and writing in my name on voting day. I believe that three people actually did so. I was not among them.
To attract a much larger number, money and support (ie, a party) is required, and unless yours is labeled R or D, your name will probably not be on the ballot. That's the bit that offers the voter a menu of names. (S)he can still write in any name not on the ballot, but that requires thought and planning and some understanding, and as the power brokers are well aware, the ordinary voter has none of those qualities so very few do. Now, to qualify for such ballot access, your party has to have a record of some minimal performance in earlier elections (impossible, if new) or else a petition with several tens of thousands of voter signatures, which have to be collected by hand at substantial expense. That cost nicely absorbs all the money you might be able to raise, so you've none left to compete with the megabuck promo campaigns by the R&D Party, so you finish up as a footnote. It's a clever scheme, for maintaining a duopoly without appearing to maintain a duopoly.
Here's a short history of those two parties, for which so many will soon be voting.
The Democrats had an auspicious beginning,with Thomas Jefferson, no less, as founder. Prior to 1861 they were champions of limited government and "States' Rights" vis a vis the central government. By no means to be compared to the standard of zero government (the State governments had and have no true rights at all, any more than the FedGov) but very much to be preferred to anything visible today.
Then following defeat of the South in 1865 the Democrats held a lock on Southern votes for a century, because the destruction of its economy combined with the opening of the flood gates of job-seekers resulting from emancipation meant that working-class whites were suddenly impoverished; there was a large surplus of labor, and Democrats worked hard to exclude blacks from that labor pool and to raise the bar on voting qualifications so that their discriminatory laws, which turned freed blacks into second-class citizens, could not readily be overturned. All that prevailed until the 1960s, and built up a huge dam of resentment, some of which remains today.
In its third incarnation, Democrats flipped once again to become the champions of the poor, black and downtrodden, even after having been he primary down-treaders; they latched on to the fact that the prosperity of the 1950s had lost them much of their white support to the Republicans and so reversed their appeal. In the 1960s and -70s there was still a residue of white supremacist feeling among them and L B Johnson represented it and was on the Kennedy ticket in 1960 as a "balance," so that it would appeal to both the old and new versions of the Party. By a very narrow squeak, it won. Three years later the tensions had become worse and, with the complicity and perhaps the leadership of LBJ, Kennedy was assassinated. LBJ then also "flipped", reinventing himself as a Warrior on Poverty, but continued the gung-ho Vietnam war policy that JFK had interrupted, until he could no longer prevail over popular resistance. Since his day, Democrats have been wall-to-wall socialists of varying intensity, steadily increasing the reach of the State.
Democrats are responsible for starting all the biggest wars of the last century; WW-I, with 120,000 US deaths; WW-II with about half a million, and Korea and Vietnam with over 50,000 each. Not one of those conflicts involved defense of the USA against an aggressor.
The Republican Party arose from groups thirsty for taxpayer money to be directed toward the building of infrastructure during the first half of the 19th Century, and so never had a heritage of free-market or small-government ideals. In that era these were known as "improvements" for the rapidly-expanding country, and builders (to their eternal shame) chose not just to compete for capital in the open market but to obtain it by theft, using political power. This was, as Thomas DiLorenzo made abundantly clear in The Real Lincoln, the primary purpose of the War to Prevent Secession. Republicans represented Northern manufacturing interests greedy for protectionist tariffs (which benefited them but hurt their customers in the South) and for taxpayer funding for "public works" like railroads.
At the cost of slaughtering 1.7% of the population and ruining the South's economy and society, these tax-feeding Republicans got their way, and promptly subjected the South to the disaster euphemized as "Reconstruction."
By 1900, Republican appetite for conquest and grandeur was personified in Teddy Roosevelt, who first disposed of the remnant of the Spanish Empire and started an American one - something never contemplated even in the Constitution. It's not clear to me whether he spoke softly, but he surely carried a big stick.
Curiously, that assertiveness and bullying brought on a reaction among some Republicans that took shape as the non-interventionist "old right" movement, that opposed foreign intervention and formed the one element in RP history that is at all commendable. It failed to stop Democrat presidents waging vast and needless wars in 1916 and again in 1940, but not for want of trying; its last gasp came with Robert A Taft, whose bid for the White House lost to Dewey, who lost to the atom-bomber Truman, who led America into Korea.
During the last half century Republicans have sometimes talked a good talk, but never walked a good walk. When in power they have never demolished the socialist programs enacted by Democrats, at most just slowing their growth. Reagan's administration was perhaps the highlight; he stole the Libertarian thunder of Ed Clark in 1980 but then ran up the biggest deficit in history up to that time. Reagan Republicans take credit for defeating the Soviet Union, but are lying; the USSR crumbled of its own weight exactly as Ludwig von Mises predicted it would, and not even the CIA of Reagan and Bush saw the collapse coming.
This is what the two big parties have actually done, when they've had the power to act; in addition to which they have raised the level of taxation from about 9% (at all levels) prior to 1910, to almost 50% today - counting what they spend, not just what they enact as visible tax. Democrats never saw a tax they didn't like, while Republicans say taxes are too high but have never reduced them in living memory. Any promises they make when running for election must therefore be compared to what these disreputable gangs of reprobates have actually done, over two centuries, when they had the power; and on that basis. anyone who believes them is beyond credulous.
Competing with those two parties are the Libertarians, whose chartered basis is fine but who have repeatedly chosen "limited government" advocates as their candidates for high office (with a few notable exceptions.) That phrase is of course an oxymoron. In any case freedom will never be won by political action, even through that third party. The very idea is absurd; in the improbable event that the LP could gain a majority, it would impose freedom on the losing minority! Such a society would not be free at all; freedom happens only when wanted by everybody. And that means it will come only when all government employees have walked off the job in disgust.