The once and future Democratic-Republican Party

Opinion: Ken Trainor

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Among the many comments posted online this past week following my column naming the Republican Party as the "problem that causes so many problems," I most enjoyed the one from "OP Resident #545 from Oak Park," who wrote: "While I dislike getting too personal, this drivel [right-wingers love the word "drivel"] explains clearly why the author hasn't risen above this station in his career … [He] is in no way as smart as he'd like to think he is."

Guilty as charged: I'm not that smart. I meet people who are smarter all the time. A lot of very sharp people live in these two towns. I'm just not sure OP Resident #545 is one of them (hard to tell from a knee-jerk reaction). As for my station in life, it's fun writing for people who are smarter. In fact, I'm not sure it's possible to rise above the Oak Park-River Forest station in life.

But while I may not be the brightest bulb in the batch, I'm smart enough to know a bankrupt ideology when I see one. I can also recognize a dying political party. Don't blame me. I'm just the messenger. Everyone else is probably too polite to point out the obvious. 

Long ago, the Republicans set out to move American politics to the right. And it worked. The Democratic Party is no longer on the left side of the political spectrum but very much anchored in the middle of the road. In fact, they're now roughly where the Republican Party was 50 years ago — before the elephant started its severe rightward veer.

The Democratic Party has become more conservative, much to the dismay of liberals. But they haven't sold out completely. Democrats still believe government can be a force for good. They also embrace the free market — but only if it's regulated.

In many ways, Barack Obama is the perfect blend of progressive and conservative. As was Bill Clinton. 

So the GOP has succeeded — but at what cost?

Be careful what you wish for. The price of success is steep indeed — the death of the Republican Party (not yet, but sooner than later).

It doesn't take a genius to see that if a party doesn't believe in government, it won't be able to sustain a political majority. It's an insurmountable contradiction. You can't govern if you don't believe in government. You can't govern well anyway. Whenever the Republicans do gain power, they prove my point. 

Eventually, people are going to notice.

But by temperament, political conservatives are not hard-wired to make adjustments (like the Democrats did from 1980 to the present). Inflexibly stubborn and afflicted by absolute certainty, the right wing can't admit when they're wrong.

So in spite of my limited intelligence, and sundry other character defects, here's my prediction on how this will all play out over the next quarter-century or so. 

But first, a little historical context:

The Democrats and the Republicans got their start way back in 1791 as a single organization — the Democratic-Republican Party, founded by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. They controlled the presidency, Congress and most state houses from 1801-1825, then split into separate entities. The Republicans became the Whigs and then, in 1854, regrouped as the Republican Party.

Today's Democrats are coming full circle. They're turning back into the Democratic-Republican Party, which will, for a while, wield great influence because the middle is where most of the voters can be found. Moderate progressives and moderate conservatives will find common ground and a new political home there, basically ending this awful era of political polarization. 

In the short term, the Republicans may "win" control of Congress because the rapidly-growing minority population — along with women, reportedly — haven't figured out that it's important to vote in "off-year" elections.

When they do figure it out — probably 2018 — the Republican Party is finished.

For some time, the Democratic-Republican progressive powerhouse will get a lot done and everyone will be better off for it (if it's not already too late, planet-wise). Unfortunately, single parties usually end up being corrupted by power and compromised by money (observe the Democratic domination in Springfield). Wall Street will embrace the new party and pour in the money because they were never really anti-government — they know where their bread is buttered.

So the D-Rs will need other parties to step up and provide competition. The Green Party should make headway as the world's climate catastrophes get more and more catastrophic. The Greens will represent the long-neglected liberals — and attract those who realize the liberals weren't so far off base after all.

The current extremist version of the Republican Party, on the other hand, will likely be absorbed by two entities: The crackpot Tea Partiers and the Libertarians. But neither will be able to overcome the insurmountable contradiction: You can't govern if you don't believe in government. 

As the United States becomes a majority-minority country, and as the political pendulum inevitably swings back to the left, the D-Rs will evolve into the new conservative party. The right-wing fringe will either be hopelessly marginalized, come to terms with the D-Rs, or simply die off.

I'm not sure what will happen after that.

Nobody is that smart.


Reader Comments

10 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Gregg Mumm from Oak Park  

Posted: May 21st, 2014 3:37 PM

Ken Trainor's disgust of the Republican Party if fully warranted, but there are grounds for condemnation beyond what he laid out in two recent columns. In a nutshell the party's three-pronged conservative ideology--libertarian, social/religious, and establishment--is a toxic brew, poisonous to the country's social fabric. The misnamed GOP--it's grandness having died at the presidential level with Lincoln's assassination, with brief blips of respectability provided by Teddy Roosevelt and Dwi

Ken Trainor  

Posted: May 17th, 2014 12:02 PM

Ray, I let your personal insults slide, but when you make statements about this paper that are demonstrably false (which I'd be happy to document), I have to call you on it. You know better than anyone that we welcome conservative viewpoints in Wednesday Journal. In fact, we've given you (and lately, John Erickson) more column inches than anyone else. Judging from your last comment, I guess you don't think you should be held accountable for false statements. You're wrong.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 16th, 2014 2:10 PM

@ KT I am not a paid for my opinion - you are! My credibility isn't an issue and I hope you are not offended by your own words. @JBM has it occurred to you that Trainors last 2 columns have been very offensive to many of us who live in Oak Park?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 16th, 2014 10:52 AM

Ray, once in a while you should read the WJ Comments Rules. I refer you to: "No one likes to be SHOUTED at. No one likes to be insulted. This is intended to be a strong and pointed conversation. But don't confuse rude with strong on this Web site."

Ken Trainor  

Posted: May 16th, 2014 9:26 AM

Well, Ray, we've published your opinion in Viewpoints many, many times, so I guess the comment below tells us a lot about how credible you are as a commenter.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 15th, 2014 3:46 PM

@Jacek - Ken has likened these comments to the tenth ring of Dante's Inferno. He claims not to pay any attention - doubtful! Many of us use his absurdity to get to express the limited government conservative point of view we hold. This paper is not prone to publishing anything positive about Republicans, conservatives or any opinion right of far left. They have deemed the progressives as the new centrists!

Jacek Lazarczyk from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 15th, 2014 12:22 PM

@ Brian - you might be on to something, here. I have not read Mr. Trainor's editiorials for several years now. I glance at the title and go directly to the comments. Is it possible that he is trolling the readers? What if we did not give him the satisfaction of a comment to beging with?

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: May 15th, 2014 10:10 AM

Good comments Ray. Nothing really to talk about regarding this and editorials like this. It just closes the door on reasonable conversation. I guess that was the point.

Politics geek  

Posted: May 14th, 2014 8:32 AM

Not bad, Ken. Democrats are the de facto dominant party, but I think you underestimate two things. The rumblings of populism on the left and the ability of pockets of conservatives to stubbornly hang on. I'm interested to see how the ideological differences among liberals play out in a Hillary Clinton administration. She's no populist. She may get no competition for election, but the battle to shape policy will be key.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 14th, 2014 7:29 AM

The word "Drivel" is perfect for our opinion of the Ken Trainor editorial style! Why use excess ink when 6 letters do the job. Webster defines drivel as "to talk stupidly and carelessly" Trainor has never been known for letting facts get in the way of his opinions. Respecting opposing views is way down on Ken's priority list and remember, he ALWAYS gets the last word.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2017

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2017 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad