Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pollitical Plate Tectonics

I am sure that upon seeing this title, those little wrinkles formed in the center of your forehead. It's not your perception that is at issue however, but mine. I was sitting quietly and thinking (ignoring the pain caused by such behavior) about the upcoming political frenzy while watching a program on the History Channel about the evolution of land masses on the planet Earth. As it often does, my mind made a rather unique (OK, substitute your own word here) connection between the two widely disparate subjects. Try and stay with me here... 

Plate Tectonics, for those of you not addicted to books on geology or the History Channel, is the process that describes the large scale motions of the Earth's lithosphere. Too highbrow an explanation for you? OK, this is the process that describes how and why the continental plates move around the planet like the skin of a piece of fruit could move around it if were not attached to the meat of it, except in the case of the earth's skin, it moves around in separate pieces. Part of this process involves these plates moving away from each other, the other involves them moving toward and crashing into each other. It is the latter than struck (no pun intended) a chord with me. 

You see, in this process of collision in the earth's crust, one part is forced up, and new mountain ranges are normally created. As they grow, these new geographic features dominate their surroundings. Over time however, these mountains drift away from the contact point where they were made, are worn down through erosion, and gradually disappear. It suddenly occurred to me that the same thing happens with political parties. The Democratic-Republican Party for example, was created in 1792 by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison among others in response to Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Party. 

This new party was formed in an attempt to return government to strict adherence to the limits imposed on government as outlined in the Constitution and in opposition to the increased strengthening of the Federal government under the Federalist party they had left. The object was to go back to individual freedom and responsibility, return to states rights, and stop the encroachment of Federal governmental intrusion and power. (Are you laughing hysterically yet?)  Even as late as the 1960's, decaying remnants of this philosophy still existed, as newly elected Democratic president John F Kennedy was calling on us to "... ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country"

Today it would have to be considered obvious that the principles on which this political party was founded have all but disappeared, some saying that they are even reaching a point approaching Socialism and as such, a point of true political subsidence

The Republican Party came a bit later in 1854, and came to power with the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. Also known as the GOP ( or Grand Old Party), they replaced the Whigs as the preeminent competition to the Democrats and over time replaced the Democrats as the personification of the conservative point of view in politics. Once home to both fiscal and regulatory minimalism, they long defended strict adherence to the Constitutional limits on the Federal government and the concept of individual freedom, with personal responsibility. 

While still ostensibly known for this, these conservative principles have mostly long since worn away in the party, with the remnants only appearing from time to time as empty rhetoric these days. Perhaps their final plunge occurring after the 1994 Congressional "Contract with America", the principles of which have gradually been abandoned in the years since. 

Lately coming to prominence, we see the Libertarian Party. Founded in 1971, and today considered a radical conservative fringe group, this party appears to be growing in power in recent years. Espousing individual rights and strict interpretation of the Constitution, this party today seems entirely about limiting the encroachment and power of the Federal government (or any level of government for that matter)

There is little doubt that they would now have to be considered the most conservative of the current political parties and the most strident opposition to encroaching Federal intervention in everyday affairs. While they have had limited success on the local and state level in some areas, they have yet to have any real impact on the national level to date. 

Do you begin to see the parallels? 

The Democratic Party is formed as a conservative group to return government to a strict interpretation of the Constitution and oppose strengthening of the Federal government. Those principles erode over time and 62 years later, here comes the Republican Party to take up the flag of strict interpretation of the Constitution and limited Federal government. As the Republican Party's founding principles erode, following those of the Democratic Party before it, the Libertarian Party appears (though it took almost 117 years to do so). They now appear to have now taken up the flag of conservative principles, espousing a strict interpretation of the Constitution and the strict limitations of Federal governmental power and intrusion.  Only lately appearing on the scene, they also appear to be on the rise, growing in both strength and numbers in recent years. 

Perhaps like the movement of the continents, the creation, erosion, and eventual replacement of political parties are a natural occurrence. Perhaps time simply saps the will of a political party over time; causing it's founding precepts to erode, and forcing it's principles to be reborn under a new name and leadership. Perhaps, with this latest tectonic collision, there is hope yet for a return to a government in America defined and limited by the Constitution that created it. Perhaps nature herself has taken a hand, as this process takes its seemingly inevitable next step in an ongoing process. 


Roland Hansen said...

All this talk about tectonics has shaken me up so much I have developed a headache.
Now, then, let's examine the Democratic-Republican Party a bit more closely.

Hooda Thunkit said...


Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Kinda says it all, to my thinking.

IOW, politics has a series of natural cycles.

We however, have to adapt and deal with it.

Tim Higgins said...


Sure, you're right and all, but only if you want to get tecnical.

Tim Higgins said...


It's not the power part that bothers me, but the loss of political will. Political erosion may come to be realized as an issue bigger than Global Warming (and if it does, I want my Nobel).