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Intro to "Europe as a Buffer " -- please pick this apart...

by proximity1 Sat May 27th, 2006 at 12:49:16 PM EST


 (paraphrase) There is no 'Democrat' or 'Republican' way to pick up the garbage.
-- Fiorello Enrico LaGuardia  (December 11, 1882-September 20, 1947)  Mayor of New York from 1934 to 1945.

For much of their political history until roughly the end of World War II, with the exception of a few notable episodes, most of the people of the United States have acted as though they accepted as a given that, between the two main political parties, Republicans and Democrats, there was broad general agreement about what constituted the basic principles of democratic government. These were typically understood as the principles  set out in the text of the Constitution and its amendments.    There was even, for much of the public, a broad agreement about what were assumed to be the basic interests of the nation, its essential rôle in the community of nations, and about how to recognize the constituents of political freedom, economic prosperity and social progress--these latter being, for many practical purposes, almost considered as hardly distinguishable.



 note: these points concern partisanship as it was manifested mainly from the nation's founding until the conclusion of the Second World War.  Here, a note from Wikipedia's entry on the US Democratic Party's origins:

" Origins of the Democratic Party: 1792-1828
The Democrats trace their roots to the Democratic-Republican Party established by Thomas Jefferson in the 1790s. This party arose from opposition to the policies of the ruling Federalists, which advocated a strong central government and and a republic governed by elites. Members called it the "Republican Party" after the principles of republicanism to which they were devoted, although the party is referred to as the Democratic-Republican Party to distinguish it from the modern Republican Party, with which it has not connection. The Democratic-Republicans favored France over Britain in the wars of the French Revolution that broke out in 1793 and continued until the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815. They saw the independent ("yeoman") farmer as the ideal exemplar of virtue, and distrusted cities, banks, and factories. They were strong in the South and West, and weakest in New England."

" The Democratic-Republican Party won control of the presidency and congress in 1800, and managed to eliminate the Federalists as serious rivals by the end of the War of 1812. After 1816, the remnants of the party split into factions. War hero General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, emerged as the leader of the faction that, after he was elected president in 1828, became the Democratic Party."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Party_%28United_States%29#Origins_of_the_Democratic_Party:_1 792-1828

    my introductory part continued:

 While it's true that the Constitution's meaning was, from the very beginning, the subject of disagreement, it was expected to be thus.  An institution, as a separate branch of the national government, the Supreme Court, was expressly created by the terms of the Constitution itself for the purpose of arbitrating and ruling on « cases and controversies » arising from disagreements about the application of the Constitution and about disputes between the several states.  

    This, at any rate, is or was the popularly-accepted and idealized myth even if the historical facts are, in reality, much more complicated and disputable.  Americans constituted a single people forged  from widely divergent, though mainly European, nations and experiences.   As Americans, what they shared, at a minimum, was the desire to leave all that behind and become part of something new to which they'd all contribute their futures.

    We may even summarize the basic principles as follows:

    A legitimate government is constituted by the expressed and freely-given consent of those adult citizens over whom it may exercise legal authority.  Its powers are enumerated--that is, limited  --and usually set out in a written founding-charter, formally adopted by a majority of the citizenry or their authorized delegates.  The government exercises its authority through duly constituted institutions which are managed by publicly-elected officials or their appointees, who must  regularly submit themselves to the public's election by free and fair secret balloting at an appointed time and place.  Certain civil rights are to be respected as inviolable for all regardless of circumstances and protected from infringement,  no matter how large a majority of the public might favor that  infringement--including the right to public assembly and speech, to vote, to be secure from arbitrary or unwarranted searches, seizures or arrests and, when arrested upon a warrant or upon cause, to be afforded the right to a fair and speedy public trial at which one is entitled to be defended and to confront and question one's accusers before a jury of one's peers, the jury being free to determine by its  sole discretion, the question of guilt--innocence being presumed until,  by formal standards of judicial proof, guilt is established to the satisfaction of the jury in a majority or unanimous vote.

    The parties of Republicans and Democrats, then, were in appearance and in fact not so very different in their basic political philosophies--if they can even be said to have had one for more than election campaign's purposes.  Wherever there is a desirable prize to be won--in this case, the exercise of political power on the national level--we shall find two or more contenders vying for it.   Where Democrats and Republicans differed was in the personalities which belonged to their party and in these individuals' talents, in their abilities to effectively manage the public's affairs--or, that is, at least to persuade the public of that in an election campaign.

    Americans determined how to vote according to their feelings about such things as whether taxes were supportable or not;  whether the roads were maintained and the schools properly administered; whether businesses and farms were able to prosper in the nation's economy; whether public affairs were tolerably or intolerably corrupt; and,  of course, whether the public morals were paid adequate lip service and whether or not those in the public's view set a not-too-scandalous example for children.   The ideological details of politics were the concern of a relative few, notably lawyers, writers, scholars, some politicians, clergy and, of course, the militant fringe among the poor and oppressed.  Thus, party fortunes waxed with economic booms and waned with economic busts or with what voters foresaw as imminent in boom or bust.

 [ So, please help pick this apart: where would you revise this to improve sense and historical accuracy?  What assumptions are here which you find false or inaccurately presented?  Note that I won't have access to Robert F.'s suggested reading for some little while and this can't therefore reflect the points in that book. ]

Display:
I do not know what this "Europe as a Buffer" is but I will give some points nevertheless.

"The Democratic-Republican Party won control of the presidency and congress in 1800, and managed to eliminate the Federalists as serious rivals by the end of the War of 1812. After 1816, the remnants of the party split into factions. War hero General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee, emerged as the leader of the faction that, after he was elected president in 1828, became the Democratic Party."

My view, supported by another wikipedia article, is that after some ten years of virtual one-party rule (1814-1824), the party eventually split.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_United_States(1789–1849)#The.22Era_of_Good_Feelings.22

Of course, this was strictly speaking after 1816, but the wikipedia article makes it sound as it was immediately after.

You asked for nitpicking, right?

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by A swedish kind of death on Sun May 28th, 2006 at 09:58:08 AM EST

 "You asked for nitpicking, right?"

 I did, indeed; thank you.  However, the excerpt I appended above from Wikipedia is not really what I was looking for critical comments on--though yours may be quite correct.

  What I'm hoping you'll pick apart is my portion of the diary above.  The Wiki note on the Dems and Republicans is really only there for some very basic background.  

  Any comment on my portion of the diary?

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Sun May 28th, 2006 at 10:17:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I see.

I do not think I can be very helpful without knowing what this "Europe as a Buffer" is and what role this diary plays.

What you have written here is of course (as all naratives are) a story of what has happened from a certain perspective. Whether other datapoints should be there (who is not regarded as your fellow man, for example) is a question of what you are using it for, not of historical accuracy.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun May 28th, 2006 at 10:27:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the diary considerably understates the differences of view between the Federalists and Repiblicans. Hamilton and Jefferson had quite different views about the nature of government.

Jefferson's ideas, on the whole, were more in line with how American society and politics developed.

The Whigs did attempt an ideology, through Henry Clay's American system, before the sectional disputes over slavery undermined the coherance of both parts of the Whig v Democratic party system.

The early Democratic v Republican system was certainly not a time of consensus, good feeling or shared ideology. It did after all culminate in a civil war and the bitter party strife of the reconstruction period.

Of course most politicians, in most eras of US history may have agreed on some things, but bipartisanship is really a twentieth century construct. I would suggest it only emerged after Progressive reforms weakened party structures.

by Gary J on Sun May 28th, 2006 at 08:29:12 PM EST

 Thanks for your comments.

  I'd like to know, then, if I'm correct in thinking that you'd generally disagree with these following paragraphs--

  " The parties of Republicans and Democrats, then, were in appearance and in fact not so very different in their basic political philosophies--if they can even be said to have had one for more than election campaign's purposes.  Wherever there is a desirable prize to be won--in this case, the exercise of political power on the national level--we shall find two or more contenders vying for it.   Where Democrats and Republicans differed was in the personalities which belonged to their party and in these individuals' talents, in their abilities to effectively manage the public's affairs--or, that is, at least to persuade the public of that in an election campaign."

    " Americans determined how to vote according to their feelings about such things as whether taxes were supportable or not;  whether the roads were maintained and the schools properly administered; whether businesses and farms were able to prosper in the nation's economy; whether public affairs were tolerably or intolerably corrupt; and,  of course, whether the public morals were paid adequate lip service and whether or not those in the public's view set a not-too-scandalous example for children.   The ideological details of politics were the concern of a relative few, notably lawyers, writers, scholars, some politicians, clergy and, of course, the militant fringe among the poor and oppressed.  Thus, party fortunes waxed with economic booms and waned with economic busts or with what voters foresaw as imminent in boom or bust."

  As you see, then, it's not the general public which shared a basically common set of political views but, rather, those (élites ?) most active in electoral politics, on both--or all--sides of ideological divides ?

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Mon May 29th, 2006 at 09:15:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Broadly yes.

US parties have usually aspired to be catch-all parties and were not necessarily united at the federal level. Before the modern era they tended to have regional biases and distinctive battlecries if not policies.

What seems to have happened is that parties in the House of Representatives were very disciplined and under strict leadership control from the 1860's to the revolt against Czar Cannon in 1911.

The effect of that was to reduce the control of the leaders elected by the whole caucus and disperse power to committee barons in office through seniority and effectively accountable to nobody. Democratic Party committee leaders tended to come from non-competitive southern districts.

By the 1940's conservative southern Democrats and conservative northern Republicans had worked out they could work together. This was the heyday of the "to get along, you've got to go along philosophy of Speaker Sam Rayburn. It worked both within parties and between parties.

Barry Goldwater and his kind of conservatism emerged as a response to the consensus between the southern Democrats and the me too Republicans. At first it was not too effective a challenge, but as strains grew in the Democratic party over civil rights Nixon's southern strategy brought the moderate conservatives together in one party. This provided a base for the economic conservatives, the religious radicals and the social conservatives to mount an ideological challenge to the liberal consensus of the northern Democrats and the (usually dominant in Congress) conservative coalition of the southern Democrats and the northern Republicans (which was not conservative enough for the people now considered to be US conservatives).

by Gary J on Tue May 30th, 2006 at 06:16:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 I really want to thank you for that interesting comment!  It changes my perspective and in an unexpected way lends some support to a basic assumption in my view.  It's always interesting to find that a different point of view can support a conception which was formerly based on a belief that the fresh point of view undermines.

  I'm more than a little curious about what (reading or other sources) has informed the outline you present above--because I'd like to investigate that reading as well.

  So, to push the analysis ahead a bit, with your added insights, what I now perceive is that, while, formerly, some much broader ideological consensus-- among the professional political  élite rather than among the farmer, yeoman, artisan, tradesman, and one which was really a working consensus which bridged the more subtle philosophical distinctions between these elites, worked roughly well until a first upheaval brought about by the committee chairs' ( and Speaker Cannon's  House rule).

  Once the dust settled and the power distributions among the committee chairs had become rather routinized, there was again, for a period, this general "working together" across nominal party and ideological lines--again, by the Congressional heavy-weights and their allies in the White House (depending on the party at any given time).

  There was, as I understand it, another House revolt --this time, as you might guess, against the systemic power of the House Committee Chairs, who were then a power-sharing factor with whoever happened to be Speaker.  That occurred, if I recall correctly, after Speaker Rayburn left the House control.


 "Rayburn's successor, Democrat John William McCormack (served 1962-1971), was a somewhat less influential Speaker, particularly due to dissent from younger members of the Democratic Party."

 note: see wikipedia here for more

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speaker_of_the_United_States_House_of_Representatives

 In that revolt, it was the hidebound seniority system which was attacked and the reforms which followed made serious inroads into the parties ability to enforce discipline on their members.

  With other developments in mass media based campaigning and huge influxes of money into the campaign and election cycle, we come closer to the system now in effect.

  Through it all, then, there is a background assumption which remains more or less valid: namely, that the political system went through changes--although in a different locus and among different principal actors than I originally indicated--which had for a central effect, the loss of a previous and general working consensus which made ideological differences less apparent and less important.

  Once these changes had worked their influences, we had, in the first instance, a break-down in political consensus among the professional political elites in elective office, and, then, in the second place, a corresponding break-down in consensus among part of, though not all of, the general public which is politically aware and active--voters, and others more involved than merely voting.

   Let that be, then, the updated picture which, again, is to serve just to introduce other notions to be developed in this diary's "program".

  What I want to get to eventually is the state of a deeply and ideologically divided public--such as I see there existing today, and how that happened and what it means for us in the present and in the near-term future both for Americans AND for Europeans and how, by understanding this political background, we can try and look for the places in which influence and change for the better might take place.

  You see?

  Comments, again, are invited.

  And, I couldn't be happier with the help offered so far!  In general, Gary J, you have a lot of interesting things to contribute.

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 11:54:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I truly enjoyed this, proximity.  Well done.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed May 31st, 2006 at 03:27:54 PM EST

 Well, thanks! I'm pleased you find it interesting; and I hope you'll think the same about the coming portions.

  "stay tuned"  ;^)

"In such an environment it is not surprising that the ills of technology should seem curable only through the application of more technology..." John W Aldridge

by proximity1 on Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 11:55:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have little doubt that I will.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Jun 1st, 2006 at 12:04:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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