Friday, October 23, 2009

What is in a Name for a Political Party, Anyways?

Our recent ruminations about the rise of the officially registered independent voters exceeding 30% in many states across the nation apparently struck a chord among many people.

Out of many emails and phone calls we received, one gentleman wrote to ask how to change his registration and when we asked why, he said: “I didn’t know you could ever change your registration!”

Talk about blind party loyalty! From birth, no doubt.

But his question brought to mind this question: “Just what do these political party names mean anyway anymore?” After all, if you are going to call yourself a ‘Republican’ or a ‘Democrat’, it might be a good idea to know what they really mean in the first place.

Because quite frankly, political party names in the American history have changed and shifted over time such that what constituted a Democrat or a Republican in the late 1880’s is scarcely recognizable any longer today.

There have been basically 6 main political party names over our history, pretty much divided over the role of government.  One side has advocated more centralized government power and control, and taxes and higher spending, in Washington and in the state capitals.  The other has advocated less government control, lower taxes and more individual independence and freedom.

They have blended lines at times like cream in a coffee cup to where they can be barely indistinguishable at times.  Like today for example....many people feel like we have two ‘centralized power’ parties in Washington, both of which advocate more spending and more debt, the only difference being that one tries to say they want ‘less’ of it than the other.

Like ‘Bud-Lite’.

Let’s go to the very beginning.  We supposedly have a ‘democratic republic’ based on models the Founding Fathers read about in the original Greek and Latin histories of the Greek democracies and the Roman Republics.  The Greek word for democracy meant “of the people’.  The Latin word, ‘Res Publica’ literally meant ‘the people thing’.

We technically and literally have a form of government than means “The People Thing Of The People’.

So far, so good.  At least we started out on solid ground in 1789.

Since that time, here are the major political factions that have coalesced around some common shared goals:  ‘Federalists’, ‘Anti-Federalists’; ‘Democratic-Republicans’ under Jefferson (that would really confuse people today…or would it?); ‘Whigs’, ‘Democrats’ under Andrew Jackson and Republicans formed under Abraham Lincoln through the historical Jeffersonian roots.

Madison warned us against ‘factionalism’ which would take us down the road to the British parliamentary system, which they obviously abhorred.  They deliberately built-in safeguards to prevent such factionalism from getting out of hand, such as the Electoral College.

Those guys knew what they were doing.

We have had isolationist republicans, silver democrats, southern “Dixiecrats’, 'Blue Dog' Democrats, Teddy Rooseveltian ‘Bull-Moose’ Republicans, Rockefeller Republicans and all sorts of various adjectives attached to both major parties over time.  A ‘classical liberal’ in economics during the Enlightenment days would have been a ‘free-market capitalist' of the 1980’s.

So things have gotten confusing from time to time in our history.

What about now, today, in American politics? What do we really have anyways?

That is really up to this generation to decide for themselves, as Thomas Jefferson hoped we would do.

Frankly, we wouldn’t mind going back to the early days of the Greek democracies where the political parties were designated as such:  ‘Men of the Coast’. ‘Men of the Plains’. ‘Men of the Mountains’. And forget all the current connotations of the words "Republican' and 'Democrat'.  Maybe this would restart our national political dialogue along towards a more productive outcome.

Change the word ‘men’ to ‘People’ to be politically correct and inclusive. That seems to describe the current divisions of interests in many states around the nation.

As long as at least one political party in American stands for fiscal sanity, ferreting out wasteful government spending at every level, instituting the lowest possible and fair tax burden to produce balanced budgets forever after we pay off this enormous debt and protect us from terrorist attack ever again, we really don’t care what that party will be called.

Maybe call it the “Martian Party’ after Marvin the Martian whose tag line was “You earth creatures make me sooooo angry!” 

Or how about the ‘Telemachian Party’?  Nah, sounds too much like ‘telemarketing’ to be a success.

Marvin Martian courtesy of

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