Sunday, January 25, 2009


Most of us have heard of the Whig Party, a U. S. political party of the 19th Century, but not many know much about it. Some even believe it was an early name for the Republican Party, but that's wrong.
The Whigs began about 1833 as a successor to the National Republican Party and other forces opposed to Democratic President Andrew Jackson's policies. Their primary focus was a strong Congress, but this was mainly due to their opposition to Jackson. Other aims of the Whigs included the building of an industrial base in what was then an agrarian United States economy.
Towards the end, however, the Whigs' campaigns were mainly that they were not the Democrats. What finally did them in was the party's lack of a united stand on the divisive slavery issue; many abolitionist Whigs left to join first the Liberty Party, then the Free Soil Party, and the Whigs evaporated as a national organization in 1856, after only about 23 years in existence. In the 1850's the Free Soil Party was absorbed into the fledgeling G. O. P.
The early Republican Party's success was due largely to its strong stands on abolishing slavery and preserving the Union, just as more recently our great party has been most successful when it took strong stands on issues, as in the Reagan Revolution of the 1980's and the Gingrich Revolution of the 1990's.
In the post-Gingrich era, congressional Republicans moved away from conservative principles, and unprecedented spending resulted in the loss of congressional majorities to the Democrats in 2006.
The 2008 Presidential election opened with no clear conservative to take up the Republican cause. Fred Thompson never really gained traction, and Mitt Romney's conservative stands at times contrasted with his record as Governor of Massachusetts. This resulted in the nomination of moderate John McCain, who's biggest asset would appear to have been conservative Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin.
Since the election, it would appear that the G. O. P. has come to the proverbial crossroads. Some, like former National Chairman Rich Bond, propose a more moderate course: “Not everybody comes from the same constituency as a majority-white homogenous district in the South where all people care about is keeping their guns and taxes.” Others, like writer Larrey Anderson, believe that conservatism is the heart and soul of the G. O. P. : "The GOP needs to understand, and it needs to understand this soon, that there is no Republican Party without conservatives -- and conservatives need to start acting on this fact." (Hat tippo to Art Gallagher.)
Where will this debate lead? Time will tell. I know one thing, though. If the Republican Party moves away from basic conservative principles and fails to differentiate itself from the Democrats in bold contrast, we're done. The Democrats won't mind a one-party government, in fact they would relish it.
We can start with the upcoming state elections for Governor and Assembly. Steve Lonegan has already begun that in his campaign for governor; hopefully Chris Christie, Rick Merkt and the other gubernatorial candidates will also stand in bright contrast to the Bozo-coiffed Governor Corzine. One of these men will be our nominee. A clear message is key. The Republican Assembly candidates, both incumbent and challengers, should also leave no doubt as to what will happen should our party regain the majority in Trenton.
If we go in with no message, if there is no clear difference between Republicans and Democrats, we lose.
Then we're the Whigs.

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