Joseph Cotto, 11/4/2014 [Archive]

Right, Left and Today's Political Parties

By Joseph Cotto

Over the last several months, we've heard much about partisan politics. Regardless of what each of us believe or how we vote, it should be obvious that party is running above principle more so than at any other time in modern history.

In spite of this, very few understand the true nature of our nation's leading political parties.

Today's partisan alignment of "conservatives" and "liberals" only came about after Richard Nixon's presidency. Prior to that, both the Democratic and Republican parties boasted a healthy variety of governing philosophies.

Conformism was for small minds back then.

Since the Civil War Era, the Democratic Party has represented folks who harbor politically-relevant grievances. The GOP, meanwhile, stood for and still champions the preservation of socioeconomic norms.

This does not mean that the Democrats were progressives, and the Republicans reactionaries. Far from it.

Many Democrats, who were either of Scots-Irish, Irish Catholic, or some other ethnic European heritage, had fiercely conservative ideas on social policy. Because of their relative material poverty, however, most were sympathetic to fiscal leftism.

Republicans, on the other hand, were mainly capitalistic Anglo-Saxon Protestants and, though they were small in number, Reform Jews.

Both WASPs and Reform Jews tended to be on the wealthier side, and valued intellectual inquiry. Secularism came with the territory, as did libertarian ideas regarding social issues. The society which they created in places like New York City, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and San Francisco, among others, was a continuation of the high European tradition.

Democrats, who also included WASPs and virtually all others from the Civil War-ravaged South, were resentful of the GOP establishment. Eventually, a building block set of ethnic groups formed under the guise of making friends the enemy of one's enemy.

Though Democratic constituencies usually had little in common with one another, they all wanted a slice of America's storied apple pie. Many also planned on enshrining the values of their ancestral homeland into this country's public policy. Such a thing was the forerunner to present-day multiculturalism.

While the years passed and alliances shifted, sometimes radically, one thing never failed to remain the same. The Democratic Party is backed by individuals who want change, and the Republican Party is supported by folks who long for things to remain the same.

Right and left — much less conservatism, liberalism, progressivism or libertarianism — are irrelevant to this.

So, in a comprehensive sense, neither of America's major political parties can be deemed left or right. They sure do have a record of despising one another, though.

That never fails to shine through, unfortunately.

——-

Copyright 2014 Joseph Cotto, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Joseph Cotto is a historical and social journalist, and writes about politics, economics and social issues. Email him at joseph.f.cotto@gmail.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.

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