The 21st Century American Revolution

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This is no ordinary Presidential election. We are experiencing something as close to a revolution as might be possible in America.

The outrageous things some of the Presidential candidates are saying have captured the public’s rage, anger, and hate combined with an overwhelming outcry to dismantle the status quo in Washington D.C. At the same time, we are witnessing the evolution of political parties and a redefinition of terms like “liberal” and “conservative.”

All of these things have been brewing since the economic bailout less than a decade ago.

The economy plays a key role in shaping change. When people do not believe that the quality of their life can improve by their own efforts, they look outside of themselves, usually toward their leaders and sometimes to the very nature of their government and sometimes revolutions result.  Mr. Obama was elected on a “hope and change” message.  Eight years later there is no “hope”, and there has been no “change.”  If anything, change has been for the worse in the lives of ordinary Americans.

People are finished with “political-speak”—words that come from political consultants and polls that do not mean anything. The public’s current rage appears to be directed at our political institutions—the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Both parties have been evolving for quite some time. Those of us who have historically branded ourselves “Democrats” and “Republicans” are having an identity crisis. The Reagan Republican Party is as dead as the New Frontier Democratic Party.

While it might be controversial to say it or admit to it to a nameless pollster on the telephone, many Americans who consider themselves Republicans do not embrace the religious right, the pro-life or the anti-gay (or anti-anybody else) position. Many Americans who consider themselves Democrats do not embrace a big government run by bureaucrats, or support a big social program budget or a belief that government is the best way to help people.

In a state like New Jersey, the fact is that there is little to no difference between mainstream Republicans and mainstream Democrats. It’s all just labeling, posturing, and primary politics.

Nationally, the two newly evolved parties might now be the “Tea Party” and some kind of hybrid Democratic-Republican Party that removes the social issues from the Republican Party platform and cuts back on the publicly funded social engineering of the Democratic Party platform. Perhaps this new majority party is more like a  21st Century remake of the old “Democratic–Republican Party” of Thomas Jefferson with an emphasis on personal liberty and limited government intrusion into our lives except to prevent one person’s personal liberty from interfering with the personal liberty of others.

American political parties have always evolved. The Federalist Party became extinct not long after the War of 1812. The Democratic Party in the Jacksonian Era was a populist party as elections became a sport for the general public. The Republican Party emerged with an anti-slavery position during the time of Lincoln. After reconstruction, industrialization and the emergence of a small group of people with a high concentration of wealth, the progressive era was born. Progressives influenced both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

Between World War One and World War Two, the political parties evolved again without changing their names. Coolidge and Mellon redefined the Republican Party that evolved into the Goldwater and then the Reagan Republican Party. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal Democrats defined the Democratic Party that morphed into the Kennedy/Johnson New Frontier Democratic Party.

Of course, it is a lot more complicated than this, but the point I am making within my word limitation for this column is that American political parties have always evolved, and the core values of those who consider themselves as members of a political party have always changed with the times.  What is happening now is nothing new. It is a 21st Century American revolution and the latest stage of political party evolution played out for all to see on television.

Donald Scarinci is a managing partner at Lyndhurst, N.J. based law firm Scarinci Hollenbeck.  He is also the editor of the Constitutional Law Reporter and Government and Law blogs.

The 21st Century American Revolution