Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Lesson to the GOP from the Whig Party

Although this is the first presidential election I'll be able to vote in (I was 17 in 2012), I've followed politics for years. Ordinarily, I would not be one to support another candidate besides the Republican nominee. This isn't because I'm strictly partisan, but rather because for decades it's been the Republican vs. the Democrat, with no one else having a chance. So even though I didn't care for John McCain or Mitt Romney, I still would have voted for them in the general election because they were significantly better options for a conservative than Barack Obama.

Which hopefully makes my different stance this cycle hold more weight. I'm not convinced Donald Trump is anything close to conservative. His values in many ways run contrary to mine, his track record of liberal support is clear, and many of his ideas, at least those that are actually coherent, are alarming.

It’s been a weird election season for me. I’ve at times feared criticizing Donald Trump because I don’t want to appear as though I’m supporting liberal candidates, and likewise Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders because of the fear of appearing as a Trump supporter. Either option is less than ideal. Barring anything that strongly indicates that Trump is worth voting for, and despite my doubts I’ll keep my mind open, I will be voting third party this election. I am considering Darrell Castle, candidate for the Constitution Party.

Now there would be many (if not all) Trump supporters that would tell me a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for Hillary Clinton. I can see their reasoning; as I said before, I’d tend to support the Republican candidate in an election. However, I believe I and all Christians should be good stewards of our vote, and we will be called into account for how we vote. I hope it’s obvious that Hillary Clinton’s policies run contrary to Christian values. But so do Donald Trump’s. Again, we face a bleak reality. Looking at the race when there were over 20 candidates between the two parties, this was the worst outcome imaginable.

As Matt Walsh posed, how will Trump be able to criticize a woman whose campaigns he has supported for years? How can he expect us to believe he has changed his beliefs so radically from his support of Barack Obama in 2012? How will he be able to stand up to Clinton when she can rightly call him on his reprehensible treatment of women (take the Huffington Post with a grain of salt), bragging about his adultery and accusing Megyn Kelly of being on her period and calling her a “bimbo” because she dared to question him on the subject?

One of a large number of tweets in which Trump trolled Kelly by tagging
her and then berating her in the 3rd person
But it’s okay, because as he said, “It doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of a*s.”

What mature candidate talks about his penis during a debate and mindlessly berates other candidates with nicknames like “Little Rubio” and “Lyin’ Ted”? What conservative would make plans to censor his opposition? Who actually states on social media, “I love Hispanics!”? Why would we believe he is a Christian when he shows no proof whatsoever in his life?

And what Christian could actually support him?

I think there are two camps among evangelicals, and really anyone under the umbrella of Christianity, which support Trump. There are those that have supported him all along. We’ll call this the Delusional Camp. These individuals are probably too far gone, as they have followed the man with the shady and immoral résumé over other true conservative and Christian candidates. I won’t make that a 100% assumption, but if someone has for months made excuses for the inexcusable, I don’t hold out much hope.
There's a well-documented and nauseating support for Trump by
evangelicals, notably Liberty University and its president, Jerry Falwell, Jr.

The other camp is comprised of people who would have preferred another Republican nominee, but now are supporting Trump in an attempt to stop Hillary Clinton. I can sympathize with this position, and so I’d like to think they are more willing to consider their position.

I want to take a lesson from the history of presidential politics in the United States. America has not always had such a clearly defined two party system. (For the record, there is nothing in the Constitution about how many political parties there have to be. So when people say, “We need more than two political parties,” I’d tend to agree, but it’s not as if we just pass a law and make the U.S. have more political parties. It has to be a grassroots effort.) Nor has the political system always been Republicans and Democrats. The Democratic Party is older, but has changed quite a bit in the last half century. The Republican Party came to be from a mix of several other parties – most notably the one I wish to examine.

The Whig Party’s roots are in the presidency of Andrew Jackson. (I love Andrew Jackson as a character but dislike many of his policies.) Jackson was a Democrat who easily won his first election against Henry Clay of the dying National Republican Party. Three different small political parties merged to form the Whig Party, which was named after the wigs worn by the patriots of the Revolution; this was done due to the perceived tyranny of Jackson’s administration.

Back then, presidential elections were different. The Electoral College had more freedom, and there were more elections with over two major candidates. In 1836 the Whig Party realized it was not strong enough to run a single candidate and expect to defeat Democrat Martin Van Buren. They developed a brilliant plan: run four different candidates to appeal to different regions, take away enough electoral votes from Van Buren, and send the election to the Whig-controlled House of Representatives. They came less than 4300 votes short of winning Pennsylvania, which would have allowed their plan to succeed.
Four years later, the Whig Party elected candidate William Henry Harrison. Unfortunately, Harrison died just 31 days after his inauguration. The new president, John Tyler, went against the party in his policies and was expelled from the Whigs. In 1844 they lost a close election. The next time they were able to elect Zachary Taylor – despite the fact, mind you, that the Free Soil Party cost them several states. After Taylor’s death, his successor Millard Fillmore was able to push through the Compromise of 1850.

The Compromise of 1850 was the end of a stalemate between those pushing the expansion of slavery and those opposing it. Taylor had avoided it altogether. The Compromise admitted California as a free state, allowed territories to decide the issue of slavery by popular sovereignty, abolished the slave trade in the District of Columbia, and strengthened the Fugitive Slave Act.

Slavery destroyed the Whig Party. Northeastern Whigs were indifferent about it. Southern Whigs, many of whom lived in Border States, supported the Compromise of 1850 due to its strengthening of the ability to recapture fugitive slaves. Northern Whigs, on the other hand, opposed the Compromise due to it lacking the “Wilmot Proviso”. The Wilmot Proviso would have banned slavery in the territories rather than leave it to popular sovereignty. It was left out of the final bills. Following the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 that opened up slavery to new territories, many northern Whigs left the party for the new Republican Party. Nativist Whigs joined the Know-Nothing Party. The Whig Party's final presidential election in 1852 was a landslide victory for the Democratic candidate.

What followed the breakup of the Whig party was an 1856 election that split the vote and allowed the Democratic candidate, this time James Buchanan, to win. The Republican and American Parties together received 54.6% of the popular vote to Buchanan’s 45.3%.
The Republican Party emerged rather quickly from the fracturing of the Whig Party over slavery.

What lesson can we learn from the Whig Party? It is possible that the modern Republican Party might be “going the way of the Whigs”. While the Democratic Party has polarized itself farther left, the Republican Party has pushed more towards the center. Moderate Republicans have recently faced primary battles from “Tea Party” candidates and other conservative Republicans as a strain develops in the party. The gap of ideals has grown to the point that cooperation is difficult. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner called conservative presidential candidate Ted Cruz “Lucifer in the Flesh” and a “Miserable Son of a B***h”. The last two presidential elections, won by Barack Obama, saw moderate Republican candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney, respectively, gain the nomination, much to the chagrin of conservative Republicans, including myself.

The outrage, therefore, is warranted, as is a desire for a conservative candidate to battle a radically liberal one. However, some in the party have cut off their noses to spite their faces. They can be likened to a teenager that dates a “bad boy” to get back at her parents. In reality, she is also hurting herself. An uninhibited individual, Donald Trump swooped in and promised Republicans he would “make America great again”, not really telling us when the greatness ceased, how it happened, or how it would return, akin to Meghan Trainor’s statement that she is “bringing booty back”. The individuals that flocked to Trump were those that were won over by this rough talk, claiming that their candidate “says what people are thinking”. My advice would be to take a trip to The Wizard, get some courage, and say those things themselves, rather than relying on an abrasive billionaire. Trump claims he is a unifier, and to a point he is right: I never thought I would have so much politically in common with liberals. Yet I can unite with them in how much I loathe Trump both as a candidate and as an individual. Quite the opposite, The Donald has split the Republican Party probably more than anything else in its history. There are Republicans that would follow him to Hell and back, and those that are unlikely to vote for him even in the general election.

This is the valley of decision. Where will we draw the line? Donald Trump is the “slavery” of the Republican Party. There are seemingly irreconcilable differences between its members that are spelling its demise. It is noble to desire to stop Hillary Clinton, which at this point seems only possible if she is rightfully indicted on federal charges for allowing four Americans to die in an embassy and then cover it up. (Though her supporters also appear to be drunk on Kool-Aid; who could support a criminal with a past such as hers? But I digress.) However, we have to be careful how this situation is handled. Yes, there was the election of 1856 that split the votes and allowed the Democratic candidate to win. No, I don’t want that to happen. But I’ve seen little that makes me believe Trump is a significantly better candidate. Remember, he has supported Clinton. I, barring any major improvement in the general election, refuse to authenticate the immature decision to make him the candidate. I won’t endorse him simply because he’s the Republican nominee. I’ve always been a conservative first, and a Republican if that follows. (I’m pretty sure that’s in my Facebook profile.) So the vote might be split between Trump and a more conservative candidate. But as the Democratic Party left Ronald Reagan, so the Republican Party has left me. If it takes a trial by fire to purge it or destroy it and make way for a new conservative party, so be it.

If we’re really wanting change in the political structure, if we’re really wanting our voices heard, then we have to be the ones to begin it. A party isn’t changed by simply accepting whatever it decides to do. We must dictate the party, not the other way around. A vote for a Darrell Castle or even a write-in of a Ted Cruz is not a vote for Hillary Clinton. It’s a vote against both Clinton and Trump, for both their policies would be harmful to our nation. We have to show that. Don’t simply refuse to vote. Vote for a true conservative. No, I don’t expect them to win. Yes, I realize that could aid Hillary Clinton. But when I answer for my vote, I don’t want to say that I supported the two front runners. I choose the third option.

Just remember, in the election of 1860, the young Republican Party elected an Illinois lawyer who had left the Whig Party after becoming disenchanted with its stance on slavery. I’d say he did pretty well.

Sadly, I don’t really expect a similar result. America’s moral bankruptcy is increasing exponentially. But when the dust settles, I want to be able to say I did all I could to prevent it from sliding into irrelevancy. My vote this November is a part of that testimony.

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