Where Did Political Parties Come From?
The short answer in America is: Wisconsin.
It just happens to also be the state where I was born and raised and where arguments between urban largely Democrat populations and rural Republicans are as common as mosquitoes in July.
Sometime around the age of eight after attending an Adams Township Townhall meeting with my parents and listening to otherwise sane people argue for two hours about snow-plowing budgets versus long range weather predictions for winter 1966 — the equivalent of a crystal ball argument about how many angels could fit on a D-6 Cat steering wheel, I asked the fateful question: where do political parties come from?
“Communists,” muttered my Mother, fluffed up in her car coat like a small hen ready to peck at something. As usual, I found out later that she was right.
“Nah, now, Little Mother,” my Father interjected, “don’t be talking about Communists.”
“Why not?” she instantly flared. Her perfectly-plucked dark eyebrows flat-lined and she scowled out at the snowy night, watching for deer in the headlights.
“That’s no subject for children,” Dad said in his calming way. “How could she understand what a Communist is?”
“It’s simple enough,” Mother sputtered, and turned halfway around to face me in the back seat of our Pontiac sedan as it wallowed homeward through the snowstorm,
“In 1848, in Europe, there was a Communist Worker’s Rebellion. Your Great-Grandfather and a lot of other people were kicked out of Germany for siding with the workers against the government.”
This was a big revelation. I never expected that anyone in my family ever did anything radical — ever.
My face must have reflected my astonishment, because after a moment of trying to control her mouth, my Mother broke into a chuckle and nodded, as if she could read my mind: my Great-Grandfather was a Communist? Holy moly!
In a Wisconsin just a decade out of the Eugene McCarthy Era, it seemed that she should have been whispering, or as my Father suggested, not talking about such things at all.
“They all came over here, mostly to Pennsylvania and Ohio and Wisconsin, and settled down— but they brought their ideas with them, and it wasn’t long before we had the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, both, ripping things up.”
“Which one are we— Democrats or Republicans?” I asked.
“Neither,” my Father pronounced flatly and with the kind of finality that denied dispute.
I looked at my Mother for any glimmer of second opinions. She remained hunched up against the cold, still seething about the skin-flints trying to deny snow plowing to the poor people who lived on the East Side of Black River Falls, Wisconsin.
We, of course, occupied the neutral territory on the North Side of town, a collection of vintage Charlie Brown subdivisions and small farms on either side of I-94.
My Mother finally sighed. “Well, my side of the family was always Democrats from the founding of the Party onward, but I think FDR was a rat— just a very smart rat.”
She never really explained that comment, but I remembered it and have had cause to contemplate it many times in the course of my own researches.
I wisely let the silence settle before asking, “But, Dad, why did Bill Wilcox call you a Conservative?”
“I suppose because I am,” he answered smoothly in his soft, ever-so-slightly German-accented voice. “Do you know what that means?”
No, I really didn’t, but I was ready to take a stab at it.
“You want them to plow the roads, but you don’t want them to over-charge us for it.”
Somewhere in all that I gathered that Democrats were spendthrifts and Republicans were –well— let’s say, careful, about spending money. At least that’s the way it was in 1966….later developments notwithstanding.
According to my Mother, who was there for most of the immediate aftermath, the current American political parties were founded by Socialist Democrats (Nazis) and Communist Labor Unionists, respectively. These are quite unrelated to the earlier versions of “Democrat” and “Republican” and apparently the organizers adopted those names because they were more familiar and sounded better than “Hitler Sympathizers” and “Marxists”.
According to my Father, neither group was worth two hoots in Hell and shouldn’t be allowed to run a bicycle shop, much less a whole country. Time has yet to prove him wrong.
As for me, I long ago concluded that political parties are what the Elites use to keep us blaming each other, instead of blaming them.
We are led to believe that political parties empower us, but in fact, they do the exact opposite. They leave us two-blocked, polarized, and paralyzed.
Thanks to the political parties, there hasn’t been a public mandate to do anything life-changing in this country since Martin Luther King, Jr.
The politicians from both parties pick our pockets, promise us the moon, and deliver more saw dust, and they do so religiously, year after year after year.
They won’t work for us and they won’t work with each other, so nothing gets accomplished, and if anything does get accomplished, it’s wrong. Witness Obummercare.
The sane man or woman says quietly, in the background, “Why don’t they just go home?”
Please note that the federal government has shut down at least a dozen times in my lifetime and I have never yet noticed that they were gone.
It has been over a century since the Two Party System took hold, and in that time, and despite whichever party has been in office, average Americans have steadily lost ground.
That is the fact that we should all be looking at— and noticing that the “Next Election” never comes.