Making sense of USA political parties
Making sense of political parties in the USA contemporarily, historically, and how they relate is not either intuitive or agreed upon. Historians, political science professors, writers, Dinesh D'Souza, all tend to disagree and look for different common threads as well as have different factors and elements they use to evaluate a party platform or organization or individual.
There are endless lenses one may view politics and history and their interplay, for a non-close to home example, consider the Radical Feminist (capital R). They view the world through the lens of patriarchal oppression of women. So to them, there is little if any difference between the Republican Party of Lincoln and the Democrat Party of Jackson to the Republican Party of Trump or the Democrat Party of Bloomberg (this is often how horseshoe theory is born). Through their lens, they see male-oriented structures, led by men, for which men benefit. To the avowed Marxist (the more traditional ones) all that is not theoretical Marxism is some flavor of capitalism, to the staunch free-market fundamentalists, any government action in a marketplace is socialism, from each of their respective lenses, it's easy to see how things begin to look identical between mainstream political parties. And I suppose it's possible neither are exactly "wrong", it's just that what each uses to evaluate a party, platform, policy, organization, or individual is so different from the other, they can both look at the same person or policy, etc and one call them Capitalist Swine, and the others accuse them of being Literally Hitler while another thinks they are Chairman Mao.
There is the modern Catholic church that kisses the feet of alien Muslims and there was the Catholic church that put their heads on pikes. Both of these iterations of the church have the same name, the Vatican is in the same place, the pomp and circumstance are more or less all there. Are we to believe they are the same entity? There was Vatican II, an event that would radically change church doctrine, there were popes who decried invaders and those who welcomed them. I believe it would be a wild oversimplification to allege that the Catholic church of Pope Urban II is the same church of Pope Francis. More than an oversimplification, I do not think it would be accurate and would convey very little relevant information to somebody if you were to say “it’s the exact same church” without a whole list of qualifiers and details of superseding and intervening events. There are at least two, very distinct phases of the Catholic church, so distinct they could be viewed as separate entities unto themselves.
With that example, let’s consider theories of people like Dinesh D’Souza, that essentially argues the Republican Party of Lincoln is the same party of Trump, and the Democrat Party of Jackson is the party of Hilary Clinton, and further, that everybody within each party from the donor-class to the low-information voter on each side, are in lock-step with each other.The analysis Dinesh gives is, in my opinion, something like "well, they have the same name, and they never changed names, so it's all the same." It's like when your favorite bar or restaurant gets sold to new owners, entirely renovated, the menu entirely changed, the staff all replaced, but keeps the name, is it the same at all? We have a Ship of Theseus issue on our hands here. No, I don't believe it's the same. More things have changed than stayed the same. We could really get into the weeds about metaphysics of identity here, people, for example, change a lot over their lives, but they are in one sense the "same" being, but in another sense, they are not. I contend that having the same name and the same logo, while no single issue in the party platforms remaining the same and no single ideological thread being unbroken, it’s not possible to consider the institutions the same.
Refuting Dinesh’s theory comes down to this, what policy, theory, ideology, or anything other than the most superficial traits unite the modern Democrats and Republicans with their ancestors? I do not believe there are any.
I think of US political parties of vehicles that have gone through many iterations and very little beyond that.
Take Thomas Jefferson, for example, people like Dinesh would have us believe that Jefferson's party that opposed the more central focused Federalist, who staunchly defended free-speech, who once wrote, "A white woman having a child by a Negro would be required to leave the state within a year. The individual who violated these regulations would be placed "out of the protection of the laws"is cut from the same cloth as the party that wants hate speech laws and encourages mixed-race relationships? It's not a coherent viewpoint.
One of Jefferson's fierce opponents at the time Madison, seen at the "big government" guy through today's lens, also had no qualms about his feelings in regards to race or wanting strict immigration standards and to be able to deport migrants very easily. The idea that either party of 2020 can be traced to Madison is nonsense. They do not map onto each other any more than the Catholic church of Francis maps onto the Catholic church that launched the Crusades.
Another aspect that must be examined is the presence of factions and issues. With two political parties, millions of people, thousands of distinct policy ideas, hundreds of factions, it’s not possible to conclude parties accurately represent everybody who may vote for them.
There have always been factions within parties that intensely disagreed with the main direction of the party, Radical Republicans are one example. They believed in racial egalitarianism that was quite literally a century ahead of its time in regards to things like marriage between races. Radical Republicans were in the same party as Lincoln, who said he does not believe in marriage between races. It was not the views on race that united the Radicals to the Republican party, it was likely more due to local Northern politics, and general Southern hostility that they saw to make the Republican party a vehicle for their views that did not squarely place them in the mainstream of either party of the era. The Radical Republicans in the Reconstruction era have more in common with modern-day racial theories and dispositions than anything around during and after the Civil War.
Consider the Civil Rights Era as another example, at the Federal level, there were people like Jacob Javits and Emmanual Celler pushing for The 1965 Immigration Act, gun control, the Civil Right Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Voting Rights Act, and so on, while also at the Federal level you had Theodore G. Bilbo who defended racial segregation. Or George Wallace, Democrat governor of the same era who declared in a fiery speech "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." What are we to make of these four men? All Democrats of the same era, as radically opposed as could be? We are to conclude that people chose a vehicle they can use. If most of your constituents identify as Democrat, for whatever reason, you run as a Democrat. If they believe in state's rights, you tell them the Civil Rights Act is a violation of the 10thAmendment and property rights and is the centralized government trying to impose its will on you. If your constituents identify as Democrats because they were supporters of FDR's Depression-era programs, you run on that platform to gain power.
As a sub-class to factions, there are single-issue voters. Take any "controversial" issue, say gun laws and abortion or immigration, there are fundamentalists who only care about one thing, and they often have disparate reasoning. Gun rights enthusiasts are a bit of the tail that wags the dog, they are largely rural and white, and as a bloc, they force the GOP to at least pay lip service to protect the Second Amendment. However there is often a large disconnect between the voters and their elected officials, many Republicans have come out in support of red-flag laws, more strict background checks, limiting the right to carry a weapon, have various views on things like castle doctrine and stand your ground laws. Even within the pro-gun community, there are factions in terms of things like shall-issue concealed licensees versus Constitutional carry, or whether or not the NFA should be abolished or remain.
Those who see abortion as their fundamental issue would likely side with a Democrat who is pro-life over a more socially liberal Republican that is not interested in passing any sort of anti-abortion measures. Within the anti-abortion community, some believe abortion is an abomination against God and they hold serious religious convictions on the matter, and some seek to end abortion because they view the practice as a racist endeavor in the USA. After all, the rate of black women having abortions is higher than white women, along with the idea that abortion clinics "target" blacks.
How to Evaluate
At times when you have Neocons advocating for war with Blue Dog Democrats opposing it, local labor organizers fighting for unions as Democrats, while other Democrats lobby for open borders to drive down wages, and some intersection of all of this, how does one make sense of anything?
How do we make sense of Right-wing Isolationists who are accused of being anti-semetic opposed to WWII, with ethnic Jews being charged with sedition during WWI for calling for young men to resist the draft?
I have a two-prong approach, I start by separating positions from interests, then look at various elements and factors. Admittedly, this is not down to an exact science, or anything close, more of a "know it when I see it" test with two-phases.
First, why separate interests from positions? Because positions are very squirrely, Black Panthers and the KKK both want to be armed. They both can be found supporting the Second Amendment in the USA. Does this mean the Black Panthers are the KKK? Of course not, that's absurd. If Communists want guns to overthrow the Capitalists and kill Fascists, and Fascists want guns to execute Communists, are they "the same ideologically?" No, again absurd. Their superficial positions of being armed overlap, but their underlying interests and goals are wildly different. Too often we see the "both cops and robbers have guns and use them, therefore they are the same" argument in terms of politics. It's very superficial. We need to get first to the "why." Then when we have a "why" we can evaluate. Suppose the Marxists want to be armed so they can overthrow the tyrannical Capitalist hierarchy and usher in an age of material and racial egalitarianism, they underlying interest is to achieve egalitarianism. Suppose the Radical Traditionalists also want to be armed so that they can protect their children and their citizens from what they view as hostile outsiders that threaten their homelands, tradition, history, and so on. Suppose they want to use their arms to march alien invaders into the Grand Canyon. It becomes clear that simply agreeing that "we want to be armed" is not sufficient to understand much about a person or policy or organization. You have to ask “why”?
Abortion is another good example if one person wants to outlaw abortion because they want more black and Latin children born in the USA so that they can outvote white people, that tells you something entirely different than a person who wants to outlaw abortion because they think it harms the traditional family structure.
Once you have parsed the position “what we want” and the interest “why we want it”, look at some elements of left vs right, or whatever you want to evaluate, it could be race realism vs racial egalitarianism, Trotskyism vs Stalinism, Inclusive Feminism vs Exclusive Feminism, and so on.
Some brief examples:
Left vs right
1. elements (the more static things)
a. Egalitarianism vs natural hierarchy
b. Out-group vs in-group preferences
2. Factors (not deal breakers either way, but indicative and weigh one way or the other)
a. Race realism – probably leaning right, but could be related to left-wing intersectional thought and radical feminism, consider Mike Bloomberg (below)
b. The biological reality of sex (maybe right-wing, maybe a Trans-Exclusive-Radical-Feminists (TERF) – see below.
c. Capitalism – maybe right-leaning due to viewing capitalism as a way to have a material hierarchy, maybe right-leaning due to seeing Capitalism as a structure that puts the Market above the well-being of our people. Being a capitalist thus is no a determinative element of if something is or is not "right-wing", but a factor that must be examined. Then you break the factor down more if necessary
i. Capitalism vs Anti-Capitalism (racial) vs Socialism (Marxist flavor, not National)
ii. Let the free market decide vs do what is best for the race vs do what makes us most equal
iii. The market will correct itself vs our destiny is not tied to the market vs central planning
iv. Is it good for the bottom line? vs is it good for our health as a nation? vs does this achieve more equality?
Trotskyism vs Stalinism
Communism International vs Socialism in one nation
Abolish family vs restore family values
race realism vs racial egalitarianism
Aggregate racial differences vs one race, the human race
Differences genetic vs differences due to society
Inclusive Feminism vs Exclusive Feminism
Trans-women are women vs Trans-women hurt genetic women
This can all be very complicated and we must also consider historic norms and leftward and rightward drifts in ideology over time. The important takeaway is to create some sort of non-binding schema and framework that allows you to evaluate things outside the box. Mike Bloomberg recently came under fire for some comments he made about crime and race, does that mean he's a "right-wing" guy? No, not really. It means there is a factor among others that do not neatly fit into the "box" of progressive liberal Democrat. And maybe that's all it means.
I hope this helps a bit. Let me know in the comments what you think.
https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/documents/presidential-documents-archive-guidebook/national-political-party-platformshttps://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1996/10/thomas-jefferson-radical-and-racist/376685/(See: Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616 (1919), and The America First Committee of Charles Lindbergh.)