The elections of 2016 were noteworthy in a number of ways that go well beyond the surprise that occurred when Donald Trump won and Hillary Clinton didn’t. I have been searching the history books since November looking for a time in American history when one political party so dominated the national scene as the Republicans do today.
Perhaps the only time in our history when dominance was so complete was when George Washington won the Presidency pretty well by acclimation in 1788. It was a time before political parties and everyone seemed united behind the General who led our country to victory in the Revolutionary War.
When President Washington was leaving office 8 years later he wrote a letter to the country. In it he warned against our having political parties. He said that, “political parties weaken the government. They create unfounded jealousies among groups and regions.” He further stated, “they provide foreign nations and interests access to the government where they can impose their will upon the country.” Yes, I know that sounds like he wrote his letter just last week, but it was 230 years ago.
The year 1788 was very different than 2017. However, one cannot miss the current situation when the will of political parties seem dominate over the good of the country and we debate on the highest governmental levels the possibility that Russia intervened in our last election enough to have affected the outcome.
For the past 100-plus years our government has operated on a pendulum between more liberal elements and more conservative, between Democrats and Republicans. Conservatives will hold power for a while and then give over to the more liberal. It is the way we have balanced our Supreme Court and have focused on societal change (liberal) for a time before reestablishing the status-quo (conservative).
Both liberal and conservative elements of our government have a role to play and provide a balance between charting new directions and maintaining the “tried and true.” Staples of American society today such as 1) desegregation of the military, 2) integration of public schools, 3) Social Security, and 4) Medicare/Medicaid to name but four, all became the law of the land during more liberal (Democrat) administrations. Of significance is the fact that laws created during more liberal times stay with us even during times of my conservative leadership which indicates acceptance of those societal changes by conservatives.
One cannot deny that our country has been becoming more and more conservative over the past 40 years. Evidence of that trend is obvious when we look back to the mid-1960s when we elected liberals John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson as Presidents and then look today at the grassroots voting strength of the more conservative Republican Party.
So, who holds the power in our country today? The significant statistics follow.
The Republicans current hold ...
246 out of 435 seats in the house.
54 out of 100 seats in the Senate.
34 out of 50 Governors of states.
4 out of 8 Justices of the Supreme Court were appointed by Republican presidents (with one more currently in process.)
This isn’t new since Republicans have held the numerical advantage in both houses of Congress and Governors of states for much of the last two decades. The only major change with the last election, and it is significant, is that a Republican is now living in the White House. In short, the Republican Party has been in control of much of the governance of this country for some time, with or without the presidency.
In recent years, we have moved from a time of balance between Democrats and Republicans to one of dominance by the Republicans. George Washington would tell us that the country may be in jeopardy because of that dominance. Checks and balances between the parties is good, dominance is not.
— Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and the Anderson Independent-Mail in South Carolina. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states. Books by Hopkins currently available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble include “Journey to Gettysburg” and “The Wounds of War,” both Civil War-era novels, and “The World As It Was When Jesus Came.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.