Since the beginning of the modern era in American politics, and I wouldn’t venture to say exactly when that was, there has been a core conviction in both major parties that if this country would just elect a true conservative (or liberal) and a Congressional majority of the same persuasion, this nation would attain heights heretofore only dreamed of. Well, that time has arrived and we’ll soon see.
Both the Democratic and Republican Parties in the past have included substantial minority factions of opposing ideologies that blocked or watered down much purely partisan legislation. And this has probably been our good fortune. But those days are gone.
Up until almost 1970 the Democratic Party included a solid minority of southern conservatives who consistently voted with the GOP on economic and labor issues and took an isolationist view on international matters. In return, conservative Republicans would either vote with these Dixiecrats on bills involving race or absent themselves when such bills came to a vote. This "Unholy Alliance" blocked or emasculated most progressive legislation until the passage of the civil rights bills in the 1960s.
After civil rights legislation invalidated the South’s Jim Crow voting laws, South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond bolted the Democratic Party and joined the GOP. A stampede followed and in less than a decade there were no southern Democratic senators remaining in Congress. President Lyndon Johnson is supposed to have remarked as he signed the Voting Rights Bill that this marked the end of the Democratic Party in the South for two generations. But this tale is anecdotal at best. There is no record of LBJ having uttered those prophetic words. But all this party realignment did was to make honest men of southern Democrats who had been voting with the GOP all along on most issues anyway.
The checks and balances that moderated the American legislative process and moderated the radicalism so typical of European parliaments are gone. Today the labels "Republican" and "Democrat" have become mere synonyms for "conservative" and "liberal." There is no longer an ideological or political center.
As most readers of this column might guess, I didn’t vote for President Elect Trump. But I am a loyal American first and for the overall good of the country I wish him an effective presidency. He has virtually no record of political activism and is married to neither the Republican Party nor its ideology. And I think his initial move in replacing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie with Vice President Elect Mike Pence to head up the transition team was a move in the right direction. Christie comes with more baggage than Hillary was ever accused of having. I think the more voice Pence has in the new administration the better off our country will be. Not so for "Crooked Chris." On the other hand, there are few drops of moderate blood in Pence’s veins; he rarely even approaches the center.
Another possible plus: Trump has no personal stake in any of our obviously failed/failing Middle East policies. A new face with a new approach might shake things up here and abroad. But many of his projected appointments are downright frightening, to say the least. Both our country and our president elect need our hopes and our prayers – lots of the latter.
George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.