What do socialism and the Republican Party have in common? Read on.
In 'Murdoch’s Organ' (aka ‘The Australian’ newspaper) of 5 April one KImberly Strassel mentioned Ripon Wisconsin as the birthplace of the Republican Party in the context of the forthcoming Republican primary election there pitting Donald Trump against all comers.
The little white school house in Ripon Wisconsin is the symbolic birthplace of the Republican Party because in about 1852 the Free Soil Party was first organised there, and it morphed into the Republican Party in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was its nominee for president, and the eventual winner.
The Whig Party was slowing imploding in parallel with the rise of the Republicans. The Whigs had elected presidents, but had not succeeded in electing its foremost figure and greatest statesman, Henry Clay, whose frequently quoted remark ‘I’d rather be right than president’ proved all too prescient. Clay was the great compromiser whose compromises for a generation staved off civil war and with his death one of the legs of the table of compromise was lost and the war followed.
These days to call someone a compromiser is a dire insult. One must be consistent and uncompromising to win the adulation of the addled minds of the media.
The Whigs had never supposed slavery was a major issue and the Democratic Party, that genetic issue of Thomas Jefferson, himself a slave holder and more importantly a worshipper of states’ rights above all else, had scrupulously avoided the subject. The one church Jefferson honoured was the state house. Andrew Jackson that other founder of the Democractic Party did not mince words about states rights, he simply declared the slaves inhuman.
The Free Soil movement opposed the extension of slavery in the new western states, starting in the north west with Wisconsin because it feared slave labor would undermine...free labor. The short lived Free Soil Party was born in the little White School house and there is more.
Three of the five signatures on the minutes of the first meeting in the Little White School House came from individuals who had been socialists!
Gasp! Shock! Horror!
Yes, an Associationist Fourier community inspired by French utopian socialist Charles Fourier had flourished in what is now Fond du Lac county at Ceresco just east of Ripon for a few years and as it was winding down some of its members aligned themselves with the rising tide of Free Soil. Associationism was a version of Fourier’s phalanx scripted for American ears by Albert Brisbane and promoted, by among others, Horace Greeley. It was Karl Marx who labeled Fourier a utopian socialist, well Frederick Engels, in fact, but few acolytes notice the distinction.
Ergo the seed of the Republican Party bears the original sin of S O C I A L I S M. Not a fact to be found on the Republican National Committee’s website. Not even a fact to be found in Ripon where it is reported that the early records were destroyed in a fire. But a fact that can be confirmed in the Library of Congress where other records survive.
I wondered how anyone knows of the Party’s history since the Republican National Committee has been stripping history from its web site to comply with the worldview of its Tea Party rump these last few years. To be sure the Ripon Society still exists but it is a shadow of its former self. The list of Ripon Republicans (= by definition liberal, some avant le mot) is impressive for their achievements and noteworthy for their near eradication from the GOP’s official history: Herbert Hoover, George Norris, Thomas Dewey, Arthur Vandenberg, John Lindsay, Wendell Wilkie, Earl Warren, Margaret Chase Smith, Henry Cabot Lodge, Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Spector, Nancy Johnson, Christine Whitman, and Harold Stassen. Few, if any, of these giants would be acceptable to a party that nominates Donald Trump for high office. These days the Ripon Society celebrates the likes of Dennis Hastert, mudslinger extraordinaire and one-time wrestling coach.
A liberal Republican (1) was an internationalist who worked with international organisations like the United Nations and preferred multilateral action to unilateral, (2) who worked with trade unions to strength the society, and (3) and advanced civil rights for all. See how many Republicans would say that today.
By the way GOP stands for Grand Old Party, which was a moniker the Republicans embraced as a nickname after the American Civil War in parallel with Union Army veterans who styled themselves the Grand Army of the Republic or GAR in post war celebrations and reunions. The segue was from GAR to GOP.