The recent elections of republicans Chris Christie in New Jersey and Bob MacDonnell in Virginia and of course the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts seem to have shaken up the political landscape in a way not seen for some time. The reaction of the GOP has been predictable: they see it as a repudiation of the democrats and their chance to regain power. Business as usual, in other words. But there is another way to look at this.
In all three cases, a broader point is being ignored: the real winner was e: none of the above. In Massachusetts, the biggest political party is neither the GOP nor the democrats, despite their long history in the Bay State. It is independents, who represent 52% of registered voters. This is hardly a ringing endorsement for either existing party. But it is a political hole large enough to drive a truck through for a party that has as its basis common sense, a modest view of governmental authority and no ideological baggage. And it exists: the Modern Whig Party.
Despite their funny (and memorable!) name, the Whigs have a long history in American politics, and before that in England. Prior to the American Revolution, they counted among their ranks such patriots as George Washington, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. They formed as a party officially in 1833 to counter what they considered the hubris of Andrew Jackson, a strong advocate of central power in the Executive. They elected two Presidents and formed the political culture that nurtured Abraham Lincoln. The party essentially self-destructed in 1852 over slavery issues, but out of its ashes sprung, phoenix-like, the Republican Party, which is still with us (barely.)
So, why a Whig party for today? For one thing, the name. Let’s not kid ourselves; a catchy name is helpful in a crowded political marketplace. “Libertarian” sounds too much like “liberal”, and their ideology seems cranky and limited. “Democratic Socialist”? Come on, only in a quirky place like Vermont could a candidate from such a party get elected to the Senate. “The Green Party”? Once you get past the image of dirty hippies whining about the modern age there is not much left there either.
So, why not the Whigs? A common sense, middle of the road party with a catchy name and a noble political ancestry. Worth a try, isn’t it? Because our current system ain’t workin’.