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Role swapping in political parties

February 4, 2018

One of the things I remember most about AP History (oh so many years ago) is how the political parties sometimes totally switch places. During the Civil War, Republicans were anti-slavery and Democrats were pro-slavery (yes, simplifying). During the civil rights era, Democrats were pro-equal rights while Republicans were pro-segregation. During the Civil War, Republicans were for a strong federal government, while the Democrats were all about states rights. During the civil rights era, Democrats were for a strong federal government, while the Republicans were all about states rights.

I always thought switching roles like that seemed a little strange; how could a party be for one thing at one moment, but then somehow be against it the next? After all, while I was growing up, the parties seemed pretty set in their roles. Republicans were:

  • For free trade and international commerce.
  • Strongly anti-Russia.
  • Strongly pro-law enforcement.
  • All about family values and “moral’ behavior.
  • Fiscally conservative.

And yet in just a couple of years, the Republicans have completely reversed themselves. Now they’re:

  • Protectionist and America-first.
  • Pro-Russia.
  • Anti-law enforcement (since when is the FBI a tool of liberals?).
  • Tolerant of divorce, infidelity, and other “immoral” behavior.
  • Free-spending.

I wonder what people who were part of the Republican Party when they held that first set of values feel about the party now, and whether the shift will be long-lasting. If so, it’ll be very interesting to see if the Democrats now shift to again diametrically oppose the Republican values. With their recent anti-Russia and pro-law enforcement positions, they’re certainly being pushed that way. Or will we see the creation a new 3rd party that grows to supplant the Republican Party? It’s happened in the past; it’d be interesting to see it happen first-hand.

From → Politics

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