The end of a year is a time for contemplation–for considering how the world has, or has not changed, and evaluating the apparent trajectory of our social institutions…for considering who and what has been lost….
In that vein, I share this quotation from Theodore White’s Making of the President: 1960. I came across it again recently, and was struck by its current relevance.
Read it and weep….
The Republican Party, to be exact, is twins and has been twins from the moment of its birth—but the twins who inhabit its name and shelter are Jacob and Esau: fratricidal, not fraternal, twins. Within the Republican Party are combined a stream of the loftiest American idealism and a stream of the coarsest American greed….
[I]t is forgotten how much of the architecture of America’s liberal society was drafted by the Republicans. Today they are regarded as the party of the right. Yet this is the party that abolished slavery, wrote the first laws of civil service, passed the first antitrust, railway control, consumer-protective and conservation legislation, and then led America, with enormous diplomatic skill, out into that posture of global leadership and responsibility we now so desperately try to maintain.
The fact that all this has been almost forgotten by the current stylists of our culture is in itself significant. For until this century and down through its first decade the natural home party of the American intellectual, writer, savant and artist was the Republican Party. Its men of state and diplomacy were, as often as not, thinkers and scholars; and it is doubtful whether any President, even Wilson or the second Roosevelt, made the White House so familiar a mansion to writers and artists as did Theodore Roosevelt (who, indeed, was also one of the founders of the Authors’ League of America).
The alienation of the Republican Party of today from the intellectual mainstream of the nation stems, actually, from the days of Theodore Roosevelt. For when in 1912 the twins of the Republican Party broke wide apart in the Roosevelt-Taft civil war, the “regulars” of the Taft wing remained in control of the party machinery, and the citizen wing of progressive and intellectual Republicans was driven into homeless exile.
An exile within which we remain, nearly 60 years after this was written.
Despite the fact that I consider myself an optimist, I doubt very much that 2016 will see a return to reason and moderation.
The United States desperately needs two sane, adult political parties. We don’t have them now, and the prospects for the near term are not promising.