The New York Evening Post, in explaining the same condition, has written that the people "saw parties without any ... difference contending for power, for the sake of power. They saw politics made a profession, and public plunder an employment ... They beheld our public works the plaything of a rotten dynasty, enriching gamblers, and purchasing power at our expense."<
The dates of those articles were November and December 1855 (See "The Origins of the Republican Party" by William E. Gienapp, Oxford University Press, 1987, page 98.)
When those words were written, the Whigs and the Democrats were the two great parties. The Whigs soon went extinct, the dominant Democrats went on to lose every White House election between 1860 and 1912, except for the elections of Grover Cleveland. The Republicans came into being and won all the elections the Democrats lost.
I have a sense that we may be at the early stages of going through a similar transformation of our party system as we did 155 years ago when the Jacksonian party system failed.
Of course, with the exception of immigration and corruption, the issues are almost completely different today. At the national level back then, the danger of the spread of slavery to western territories was the dominant issue.
Even more tellingly, in 1853-1855, state politics was overwhelmed by a witch's brew of issues (temperance, corruption, immigration, public schools policy and funding, and Protestant/Catholic hostility). And it was those issues that drove the Whigs out of business -- even though they thought the pro-slavery Kansas-Nebraska Act at the national level would guarantee their success for the foreseeable future. The anti-slavery issue eventually drove the creation and success of the Republican, not the Whig, Party.
What is the same? Unlike most elections, in 2010 -- as in the 1850's -- the public sees Washington corruption not as something to be lived with, but as a bipartisan, potentially fatal blight to be actively fought by citizens.
And what is also the same is that new big issues are emerging for the first time in generations -- and neither major party is seen having the answers or the will to advance the solutions.
The GOP is very, very likely to win very, very big in November.
The New York Times has written, in explaining why the political parties have lost the confidence of the public: "Their machinery of intrigue, their shuffling evasions, the dodges, the chicanery and the deception of their leaders have excited universal disgust, and have created a general readiness in the public mind for any new organization that shall promise to shun their vices."