Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it George Santayana
I have used this quote so often I can’t even count, although I have also used the Winston Churchill paraphrase. Donald Trump tends to have the tendency to do this shit to you. I have also often quoted the Mark Twain riposte, History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes. And y’all have suffered through it like troopers.
But now I’m starting to think that we may just be beginning to see an actual example of history literally repeating itself. On The Week, with Joshua Johnson tonight on MSNBC, Joshua had on a college history professor to talk about the similarities of the Whigs in the 1850’s, and the current day GOP. I didn’t catch his name, but the name isn’t important, just the content.
Many people think that the controversy of the slavery issue in the 1850’s broke the then Whig party into two, with the GOP becoming ascendant. Nothing could be further from the truth. The breakup of the Whigs in the 1850’s in fact spawned two parties. One is what is now the current day iteration of what we know of as the Republican party. The other one was officially christened as The American Party. But in short order, it became known by a less savory sobriquet, The Know Nothings.
The nickname was well earned. Nickname. The American Party was a purely nativist party, and freely subscribed to every wild pro slavery conspiracy theory that made it appear that they had at least passingly intelligent point of view. It didn’t work. It became known as the Know Nothing Party because members swore ignorance to having ever even heard of such a thing. The Republican party won a series of elections from the mid 1850’s to early 1860’s that cemented it as the dominant party in opposition to the Democrats. Just in time for the civil war.
Here we sit today. There is literally no difference between the early 1850’s Whig party and today’s GOP. Both parties ran on badly flawed ideologies, and both paid the price at the ballot box. When they paid that price, rather than admit the mistake and retool, they both doubled down, requiring party fealty in order to remain in the party. And then denied that they were doing any such thing!
Come on guys and gals, are you seeing any obvious parallels here?!? The Whigs ran on a sick and twisted ideology, and got their heads handed to them. Rather than retool and try again, they dug their heels in and instituted a party purity pledge. We’re so embarrassed to admit who they were that they sank into obscurity.
Where is the difference? You tell me. The current GOP is falling all over itself to swear fealty to a doomed pedagogue who led them to disaster. Swearing it’s the way forward. Is the current traditional GOP resistance strong enough to smash the Trump version of the party, much as the 1950’s GOP smashed the Whigs? I don’t know, but either way, the Democrats had better damn well be ready to finish the job.
Follow me on Twitter at @RealMurfster35