America’s Revolutionary Party

It’s always been the Republicans

 

The midterm elections have brought us a sweep of both houses of Congress by the Democrats. Just what this means in terms of the war in Iraq or specific legislation is still unknowable, but it now seems undeniable that we are living in an age of radicalism.

Republican radicalism, that is.

Kindred spirits? Reagan speaks at Moscow State University, 1988.
 
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“we Had A Great History, And We Turned Aside”

A long-time Republican-party insider and close student of its past discusses how the party has changed over the years—for better and for worse —and where it may be headed.

Jack Kemp was born in 1935 in Los Angeles; his father owned a small trucking company. He came of political age in a time and place that made it likely enough that he would become a lifelong Republican, and he did. But the kind of Republican Jack Kemp became defies stereotype. Read more »

The Lives Of The Parties

The two-party system, undreamt of by the founders of the Republic, has been one of its basic shaping forces ever since their time

Recently I got a letter from a friend of mine, Max Lale, the current president of the Texas State Historical Society, that gave me a quick glimpse of a vanished world. Lale recalled that on election day of 1928, when he was twelve, he accompanied his father on a mile-and-a-quarter walk to their local polling place in Oklahoma. There he waited while his Southern-born father, faced with a choice between Al Smith and Herbert Hoover, agonized over which would be worse: to support a Catholic or a Republican. In the end he cast no vote for President.Read more »

Big Grizzly

Gargantuan, gross, and cynical, the patrician boss Boies Penrose descended from aristocracy to dominate Pennsylvania Republican politics for thirty years

The history of politics is a history of words. “Boss” is as American as “Santa Claus,” both words being Dutch in origin. “Boss,” wrote the English captain Thomas Hamilton, was a peculiar Americanism, a substitute for “master.” Hamilton’s book, Men and Manners in America , was published in 1831, roughly coincident with the rise of machine politics in the United States. It was during the 1830’s, too, that “big” became a favorite Americanism, an adjective suggesting quality as well as quantity; power and prestige, not merely size.Read more »

The Red Hot Republican

A good party is better than the best man that ever lived.” So said “Czar’ Thomas B. Reed, the formidable late-nineteenth-century Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was talking about his own Republican party, of course, and “Elephant Joe” Josephs, the gloriously partisan artist whose proud self-portraits appear here, would have agreed enthusiastically. For no more impassioned Republican ever drew breath than this one-man GOP whirlwind from Buffalo, New York.Read more »

The Know-Nothing Uproar

Maria Monk’s lurid “disclosures” and Samuel Morse’s dire warnings launched a crusade of bigotry that almost won the White House

The congressional and state elections of 1854 and 1855 witnessed one of the most remarkable political upheavals in the nation’s history. Candidates whose names were not even on ballots were thrust into office; others who had been given no chance to win triumphed over long-established favorites; and a political party that had operated in such secrecy that few knew its name and still fewer its true purposes was catapulted into control in a half-dozen states, won a strong minority place in several others, and seemed destined to capture the White House in 1856.

The Front Porch Campaign

While Bryan stumped up and down the land, McKinley let the voters come to his lawn in Canton—and they came

In 1896, the depression which had followed the Panic of ’93 was in its third year. Debt, business failure, unemployment, and labor unrest were spreading; to many, revolution seemed just a step away. This was the setting for the bitter presidential contest between Republican William McKinley and Democrat William Jennings Bryan, and the great debate between the advocates of “sound money” and the supporters of the inflationary panacea, free silver.Read more »