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.