Ralph Benko

Amidst the Democratic Party meltdown might elite Republican Party operatives snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Don’t rule it out. Many elite Republicans lust to steer their party the way of the Whigs.

The Whigs? This month a candidate of the Whig Party, long believed extinct, won an election for the first time in 160 years. This scoop was reported by MyFoxNY, Philadelphia voters elect Whig to public office.

This election was for a Philly election judge responsible for “overseeing equipment and procedures at the polls.” The national Modern WhigParty reportedly claims, according to its national chairman, 30,000 members (although most of these appear to be signups at its website). Who knew?

Making something of this small electoral victory is whimsical. But it is not mere whimsy. Something more is afoot.

Something that whispers of an elite Republican political death wish.

Landslide (36 votes to his opponent’s 24) victor, now Judge, Robert “Heshy” Bucholz tells all to Fox NY: “Bucholz said he joined the Whigsthree years ago because of their fiscally conservative but socially liberal views. They represent a sensible ‘middle path’ between Democrats and Republicans….”

Fiscally conservative and socially liberal? Where have we heard this before? From powerful elements of the wannabe “Modern” Republican Party, that’s where. Elements within the GOP Establishment — hello Steve Schmidt, I’m talking to you, among others — clearly aspire to achieve, for the Republican Party, the glorious status of … the Whigs.

So … whatever happened to the Whigs? As summarized by the Wikipedia: “The party was ultimately destroyed by the question of whether to allow the expansion of slavery to the territories. … By the 1856 presidential election, the party was virtually defunct.”

The Whigs attempted to declare a truce in the political war over the burning moral issue of the day: slavery. Public intellectual (and professional colleague of this columnist) Jeffrey Bell once observed: a political party can recover from being wrong on a burning issue of the day. It cannot recover from irrelevance.

The Democratic Party was the pro-slavery party. The Democrats came back from that debacle. But a political party cannot afford to duck and, thereby, make itself irrelevant. That’s what the Whigs did. Calling for a “truce” is electoral poison.

Ralph Benko

Ralph Benko, author of The Websters’ Dictionary: How to use the Web to transform the world. He serves as an advisor to and editor of the Lehrman Institute's thegoldstandardnow.org and senior advisor to the American Principles Project.