I just mailed my absentee ballot for the 2016 presidential election. I have a few remarks to make now that my vote is cast.
I have written and commented previously during the long campaign that it was interesting to watch a party do itself in. For this I have received some arguments and a lot of rolling eyes. And while the final act has yet to play out, it is now clear to many that the Republican Party is in a lot of trouble.
I did not predict the specific way in which the Republicans would suicide. The conditions suggested strongly that it would happen–but did not indicate the way in which it would happen. The emergence of a “bully” was one of the possibilities, but not the only one. But the bully appeared onstage as that Party’s nominee.
To some degree I was influenced by historical patters in much the same way that other authors have been. In particular, I recognized the impact that Gibbon’s work on the Roman Empire had on Asimov’s Foundation trilogy. It was a long step to apply the historical patterns to the current political situation in the United States, but one that seemed to be so fitting that I put on my seven-league writer’s boots and strode ahead.
Perhaps a little background is in order here. In 1964 we were given the two major Party choices. One was of an ultra-conservative for whom I had high respect. But I did not wish him to represent me as my country’s highest officer. On the other hand was a politician who came from a very checkered background but who mouthed some of the things that I desired.
With that choice of candidates, my vote was determined for the most part by voting against the conservative. The one I voted for won. It became clear in a year or so that some of my worst fears from the conservative candidate were being implement by the one elected. At that time, I vowed never again to vote against anyone. If there were no candidate running who I felt was worth voting for, I would record my presence at the polls but not cast a vote for that office. I am pleased to say I have kept that vow to myself.
Four years later, the primaries included a candidate that I respected. Twenty years earlier, he had led the (establishment) of his party against a take-over by a rump group. Yes, I am talking about the “Dixiecrats.” HHH made a speech at the convention and essentially told them to either support the Democrats or get out of the Party. After a fight on the convention floor, the Dixiecrats bolted. The “solid south” used to mean solidly Democratic. Sine 1948, the south has been mostly Republican.
As a result of that threat to their Party, the Democrats (and later the Republicans in their turn), began to put restrictions on how members of their parties could behave. HHH spoke out that these restrictions went far beyond what was necessary to keep the party in the hands of its membership and, indeed, would lead poor national politics and elected people who did not represent their constituents.
One of the key techniques the parties used was the “unit rule” in which all the delegates from a state had to vote the same way at a nominating convention regardless of whether it represented the membership selection process in the primary.
HHH came out against the “unit rule” during the 1968 primary campaign and promised to fight it. Since 1948 he had risen in political stature and was now the Vice-President of the United States. On the basis of his leadership, many of us worked in our local areas to get rid of the abhorrent “unit rule.” But when HHH took his campaign to the convention in Chicago, he never stood up for what he said or what we did. That is when he lost my vote. He had become absorbed by the very process he had warned us about.
(Some of you may recall experiencing or reading of the history of the situation outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. There were many different issues motivating that protest, but the “unit rule” and dictatorial party procedures were among those issues.) For closure, note that my history books contain no mention of a POTUS with the initials HHH. He lost the election to a man who went on to demean his Party, his Presidency, and his Country.
For almost a decade now, both parties have been objects of a “corporate takeover” attempt, not from another party but from an insurgency from within. The Republicans, in particular, have welcomed those called “Tea Party” people, apparently seeing them as a source of votes. (The effect that the Democrats lost the “solid south” when they protected themselves against the Dixiecrats was not lost on the current Republicans.) The net effect of pressure from the Tea Party was that the Republican Party became more conservative and locked-in than it had been traditionally. Meanwhile, the protections that the Democrats had put in place (including the introduction of “super-delegates”) has effectively moved them farther away from the populist base they used to have.
So both parties have put up political firewalls, presumably to protect themselves.
Donald Trump complained that the Republican Party nomination process was “rigged” against him. He was right to a large extent. It was rigged to protect itself against him and others like him. Similarly, Bernie Sanders also claimed that the nomination process for the Democrats was stacked against him. He was also correct and essentially for the same reason.
(As an aside, it it interesting to note that the current role of Trump is in some ways parallel to the role of “the Mule,” an unexpected mutant who showed unusual abilities that disrupted the nice mathematical sociological theories of Hari Seldon and forced the Second Foundation to take distasteful actions to preserve its mission to rebuild the Galactic Empire.)
It is interesting to speculate on which party “protected” itself better. Initially one might say it was the Democrats since Sanders did not break through their firewall while Trump crashed the one put in place by the Republicans. Yet the Republicans had many candidates while the Democrats had only one primary candidate and one challenger. I suspect funding also made a difference, particularly in the Democratic primary. Perhaps the Republican firewall was stronger, but had to withstand much greater pressure.
This brings us to the place we were before the current primary voting. The Democrats had long ago rejected a take-over by the Dixiecrats. The Republicans had welcomed the Tea Party without realizing that it would weaken them. It was this weakness which caused me to state that the Republicans were on the road to self-destruction. And the more I saw, the more I understood how vulnerable they had become.
Even if there had been no Trump or anyone like him, the Republicans would still be in desperate mode. By not resisting the Tea Party efforts, they have left themselves wide open for one kind or another of a free-for-all. If nothing else had toppled them, they would have collapsed under the pressure of their own weight. I think it is now quite clear that the Republican Party as we knew it is dead (although there are a few post-death spasms still going on, and which may continue for a few years).
There may be a Republican Party in the future. It is possible that it will be recognizable as the legitimate descendant of the current one. But I think it will be quite different than the one we have today even if it has the same name. Or there may be a scenario in which Republican leaders and members abandon the party, forming another–possibly a speculated Conservative Party.
One thing, however, that is becoming clear to me only now is that the Democrats are in deep water as well. The water is not flowing as swiftly through their position, but that water is treacherous. I do not think we are yet to a system with many parties, but we may be on the verge of starting the journey down that path.
And that would be a system I could live with. A Conservative Party for conservatives. A Progressive Party for progressives, a Labor Party for wage-earners, a Farmer’s Party for those who make their living off the land, a Libertarian Party, a Green Party, a SeaWorkers Party, a SkilledTrade Party and on and on to the point of having (gulp!) yes even a “Billionaires Party.”
This would be a mess, indeed. But it can be made to work, and (if done right) work much better than the current system. (France, for one, has done it!) It would not be neat and might alienate those who revere neatness over effectiveness. It would certainly offend the majority of the year 2000 Supreme Court Justices who said the law of the land was that each Supreme Court Justice had 25,000,000 votes while you and I have 1. And the majority opinion of that court said they made the decision because otherwise there would be a mess.
I have late breaking news for the Supreme Court of 2000. Democracy is messy by its very nature. And any external attempt from outside or inside to make it less messy reduces its effectiveness. I am reminded of something Winston Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst form of government there is . . . except for all the rest.”
For those needing closure about how I voted in the presidential race, I seriously considered writing in Bernie Sanders name. Upon further review, however, the decision made “on the field” was overturned and I ultimately filled in the oval beside the name of Jill Stein.
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