Friday, April 14, 2006

Republicanism and the American System

It is easy to get confused when tracing the genealogy of American political parties. For example, "Jeffersonian-Republicans" became "Jacksonian-Democrats" and were, without a doubt, small-government, quasi-libertarian-conservatives. By that same token, the pro-centralization, protectionist-leaning Federalist Party, ultimately reorganized into the Whigs and then the Republicans. Thus, to some, it seems that the two major parties have switched places in the modern era. To be sure, the Wilson/Roosevelt/Johnson Democrats were light years away, ideologically-speaking, from the Andrew Jackson's and, even, Grover Cleveland's of the nineteenth century. However, while the Dems seem to have degenerated from their largely free trade and non-interventionist roots, the Republican Party has changed very little in the last two-and-one-half centuries. Of course, there have been some exceptions along the way: Coolidge was a minimalist and Goldwater and Reagan tried to change the focus of the party by promoting conservative, Jeffersonian goals in opposition to the New Deal and Great Society. Nonetheless, the party of Lincoln and TR was the party of centralization, protectionism and, most importantly, corporatism (e.g, vote buying). Here is an interesting piece linking the Republican Party to Henry Clay's Whigs and the favor-doling-system that was, somewhat ironically, named, the "American System." Unfortunately, it certainly seems as though the contemporary Republican Party it making enormous strides these days to get into touch with its roots - - much to the chagrin of libertarians and Reagan conservatives.