Summary: This post describes one long-standing weakness which has helped bring the party crashing down (this is a forecast, assuming that the next few elections further diminish its role on the national, state, and local levels).
Note: The title is an exaggeration, a long tradition on the FM site. The GOP’s time as the dominant party are over for the foreseeable future (not that we can see far into the future, these days). The party survives with a strong regional base and a firm hold on its role in our political apparatus as one of the two major parties.
The fall of the GOP from dominance is attributed to many different causes, mostly trivial, by experts. Instead let’s look at the long history which has, with the inevitability of Fate in a Greek tragedy, undermined the foundation of our conservative party. A timeline tells the tale, with the dates providing markers (milestones) along this complex social evolution. One in which the GOP has been mostly either on the bench or in active opposition. The Democratic Party has done most (not all) of the heavy political lifting, and deservedly gained the long-term benefits from this.
The Republican Party gains power, then sells its soul to keep it
22 September 1862 — President Lincoln (Republican) issues the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Compromise of 1877 — Settling the disputed election of 1876, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes gains the White House over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden — in exchange for a final end to Reconstruction. The South becomes a stronghold of the Democratic Party, and Blacks lose many of their gains from the Civil War.
The Civil Rights Era – the GOP passes the baton of progress to the Democratic Party
25 June 1941 — FDR (Democrat) signs Executive Order 8802. From Wikipedia:
It was issued in response to pressure from civil rights activists Bayard Rustin, A. Philip Randolph, and A. J. Muste who had planned a march on Washington, D.C. to protest racial discrimination. The march was suspended after Executive Order 8802 was issued. The order required all federal agencies and departments involved with defense production to ensure that vocational and training programs were administered without discrimination as to “race, creed, color, or national origin.” All defense contracts were to include provisions that barred private contractors from discrimination as well.
6 December 1946 — Truman signs Executive Order 9808 establishing the President’s Committee on Civil Rights. In December 1947 it published its report, “To Secure These Rights: The Report of the President’s Committee on Civil Rights” (text), recommending far-reaching efforts to restore civil rights to Black Americans. This was his response to incidents such as the 1946 beating and blinding of Army Sergeant Isaac Woodard Jr. For more on this see “The Conversion of Harry Truman“, by William E. Leuchtenburg, American Heritage, November 1971.
26 July 1948 — Truman (Democrat) signed Executive Order 9980 and Executive Order 9981. The first ordered desegregation of the Federal government. The second stated:
It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin. This policy shall be put into effect as rapidly as possible, having due regard to the time required to effectuate any necessary changes without impairing efficiency or morale.
1953 – 1961 — President Eisenhower (Republican) proposed and signed the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960. Although they had relatively little effect until Attorney General Kennedy kick-started the Civil Rights Division (see this brief history). Eisenhower also issued Executive Order 10730, placing the Arkansas National Guard under Federal control and sent Army troops to escort nine black students into an all-white public school.
2 July 1964 — President Johnson (Democrat) signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964, introduced by President Kennedy (Democrat). As he did so, he is said to have said “We have lost the South for a generation.” This was a price he was willing to pay, a act of great statesmanship. Leaders like this provide a foundation for their party that lasts for generations.
A big step for the Republican Party on the road to perdition
1963 -???? — The Republican Party accepts defectors from the Democratic Party who join because of the Democratic Party’s advocacy of civil rights. Affirmative efforts to encourage this movement are called the Southern Strategy — one of the most short-sighted and politically callous decisions in US history. With this the Republican Party crossed from its post-Reconstruction passivity on civil rights to de facto opposition.
This acceptance of institutional racism has had substantial and long-lasting effects:
- helping to poison race relations in America,
- betrayal of the Party’s proud heritage,
- polluting the Party’s foundations. and
- alienating large blocks of voters (not just Blacks).
GOP leaders since then have made modest efforts to shake off this legacy.
- starting the first Federal affirmative action plan (Nixon in 1969, the “revised Philadelphia Plan),
- proposing a national minimum income, the Family Assistance Plan (Nixon in 1969, see this account of its history),
- advancing minority leaders such as Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice.
These have proved insufficient.
Perhaps in its time out of power the Republican Party’s faithful core can reflect on the party’s errors, both in doctrine and action, and find a new way forward — leaving the mistakes of the past behind them. America needs a strong opposition party, and the current institutional arrangements make creating a new national Party quite difficult.
If you are new to this site, please glance at the archives below. You may find answers to your questions in these.
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For more information from the FM site
To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp relevance to this topic:
- about America – how can we reform it?
- Good News about America!
- What happens to the Republican Party after the election?
About the American spirit, the American soul
- Diagnosing the eagle, chapter IV – Alienation, 13 January 2008
- Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
- de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
- A philosphical basis for the Batman saga, 23 July 2008
- The American spirit speaks: “Baa, Baa, Baa”, 5 August 2008
- We’re Americans, hear us yell: “baa, baa, baa”, 6 August 2008
- The intelligentsia takes easy steps to abandoning America, 19 August 2008
- Symptoms of a fever afflicting America’s culture, 5 November 2008