The once-every-four-years national convention season begins this week with the Republican Party finalizing the nomination of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Democrats take their turn the following week with the renomination of Barack Obama and, presumptively, Joe Biden. ;-)
The whole political party system was not even in place in the United States until well after George Washington’s first oath of office. The first semblance of a political party formed out of a remnant of the Federalists, who organized the U.S. Constitution in 1787. According to my legacy 1964-65 Encyclopedia Britannica, “The political group which became known as the Federalist party may be regarded as definitely organized practically from 1791; it was led, leaving President Washington aside, by Alexander Hamilton and John Adams.”
That same written oracle states in Volume 7 that the Democratic Party began one year later “as a national group of voters supporting Thomas Jefferson and using at times the title ‘Republican,’ derived in part from their emphasis on the newly established ‘republic’ as contrasted with ‘monarchy.” Jefferson’s Democratic Party adopted the principles of “popular control of government, widest extension of suffrage and the fullest measure of personal liberty consistent with law and order, strict interpretation of the constitution and preservation of the rights of the states; opposition to centralized power in the federal government; religious liberty, free speech and a free press.”
The Federalist Party held that a far more centralized government role was in order to ensure the survival of the republic. Their emphasis was on funding the war debt, neutrality in foreign wars, and the granting of crisis powers to the federal government.
After the second president, John Adams, the Federalist Party never held that high office again and effectively folded in 1787. Not until 1834 did the Whig Party emerge, eventually establishing a platform that asserted such boring issues as a well-regulated currency, tariffs for revenue, and term limits for the presidency. The Whigs went extinct in the late 1850s when the bulk of their membership followed Abraham Lincoln in defection to the newly formed Republican Party.
From its very foundation, the Republican Party took on the mantle of individual rights, especially when those rights are overwhelmed by the conflicting rights of someone else in a more powerful position. While losing its first run at the presidency, the party’s soul and maturing platform was established in the speeches of nominee Abraham Lincoln.
At his final debate with Lincoln on October 15, 1858, Democratic Party nominee Stephen Douglas argued that the federal government ought to leave the states to decide for themselves whether to permit or to outlaw slavery within their individual borders. “I look forward to a time when each state shall be allowed to do as it pleases. If it chooses to keep slavery forever, it is not my business, but its own. If it chooses to abolish slavery, it is its own business; not mine. I care more for the great principle of self-government, the right of the people to rule than I do for all the negroes in Christendom. I would not blot out the great inalienable rights of the white men for all the negroes that every existed.”
After resolving the Civil War with 600,000 lives, the nation settled into a new polarity of world views. The Republican Party generally stood for holding to a government that was weak in its ability to involve itself in the affairs of community while at the same time powerful for defending every individual’s right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. The Democratic Party took a position at the opposite end of the political spectrum, entrusting centralized government with the authority to manage the people at every level, and to institute laws and court rulings aimed at protecting its members from experiencing shame.
Ironically, Lincoln’s success in halting the seceding of the southern states marked the beginning of the weakening of the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. His proclamation for the emancipation of slaves was an edict to all states. Over 100 years later, the Roe versus Wade decision successfully imposed the Democratic Party’s opinion on abortion to all states.
In the meetings this week leading up to the official kickoff of the Republican National Convention, the GOP Platform Committee reaffirmed the party’s official commitment to recognize unborn Americans as persons deserving of the right to life. The Republican heart sees the unborn in a similar light as their predecessors saw American slaves.
The protracted debate over abortion rights will hear from the Democratic Party Platform Committee next week. Democrats are as indignant about abortion restrictions as their predecessors were with abolition. And the powerful abortion industry does not appreciate being subjected to legal restrictions any more than did the slave trade.
Political parties reflect the averaged values of their membership. Membership comes voluntarily and without restrictions. Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party called on the nation’s founding principles in his famous Gettysburg Address. Anyone who now holds to Thomas Jefferson’s principles defected from his original party decades ago.
The Democratic Party has evolved into a collection of those who reject the conserving of founding principles as America’s liberals. “As the antithesis to Whig-Republicanism, the Democratic Party has proved the logical home for the rebellious and the disaffected.” [The Democratic Party, A Photographic History, page 9]
The abortion / right-to-life issue is the persistent bellwether that reflects the original disagreement between the two prevalent political parties. In spite of the rhetoric, the issue is about who is deserving of the Creator’s endowment of rights and an un-admitted sense of guilt.
Republicans in 1865 were no more motivated by the desire to suppress the industry of plantation farmers than the Republicans of today are desirous of denying a woman’s rights to her own health decisions. But the abortion issue will eat away at the conscience of America until she humbly arrives at the same level of civilization for those still in utero development as she did for those who were enslaved.