Whiggery

It’s difficult to keep track sometimes.  You see, I’m reading a book that makes frequent reference to the Whigs.  The thing about titles is they change meaning over time.  Whigs, in America, became Republicans.  This was back when the Republican Party was the liberal one.  Whigs in Britain, where the party started, believed in the power of the people rather than the absolute right of kings.  Today’s Republican, as events of the past few years have shown, is an authoritarian.  This swapping of party characters allows Republicans today to claim to be the “party of Lincoln,” although in today’s political landscape Lincoln would have been a Democrat.  So whatever happened to the Whigs?  Their basic ideology is still alive and, for the moment, embodied in the Democratic party.

“Whig” could also be used as a supporter of the American side against the “Loyalists” in the Revolution.  Loyalists tended to be what were called Tories back home.  A Tory supported the power of the monarchy.  In other words, they were conservatives.  All of this changing around of labels makes me wonder just how helpful they really are.  Individuals tend to dislike those who fall into the opposite camp—a factor politicians have been using to divide and conquer.  I try to imagine what that world might be like if honesty were more common among those in elected office.  Starting in 2016 we entered into a new era of the politics of hatred and we will be paying the price of that for many years to come.  We are all just people; why can’t we act like it?

When I registered to vote at 18, I registered as an independent.  I didn’t like the idea of being classed into a party.  There have been Democratic candidates I didn’t like—my party’s not my religion—but none of them has advocated hatred of others as their only platform.  Analysts have long written that a two-party system is faulty and likely to lead to abuse.  We’re living through it right now.  Fiscal conservatives have no choice when the officials in their party back Trump, despite having vocally expressed how badly he reigned and how dangerous he is.  A viable third option is needed, and it would also prevent electoral college shenanigans (as would ranked-choice voting).  Maybe this third-choice party could adopt the venerable title of Whigs.  After all, in its long history this party has played both sides of the political spectrum.  Or perhaps those favoring authoritarianism could use the name Tory.  At least there’s an honesty to it.

Wikimedia: after John Greenhill, oil on canvas, (circa 1672-1673). No matter his party, that’s a wig!

2 thoughts on “Whiggery

  1. Jeff Hora

    Following the intellectual history of our (or any other, for that matter) politics and societal culture will cause an amount of head scratching and attempts at equivalency redefinition. I just started watching “Borgen”, a Danish political drama series on Netflix, which presents the messiness of a multiple party system…it’s messy, but requires much negotiation and collaboration in order to get to a governing majority and get stuff done. It is really unfortunate that the US seems to be unable to get past the number TWO in its concept of political possibilities.

    I know that your watching time is limited, but a viewing of the first episode might be interesting for you.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.