Here’s a sequence of letters I never thought would flow from my fingertips: I miss the Republican Party.
Two-party systems suck. We do not live in a binary world. There are no “both sides of the issue,” there is a myriad of sides. There is a right and there is a wrong, but only by comparison. In other words, Ayn Rand was a purveyor of sociological science fantasy.
Of course, there is something worse than a two-party system. When one of those parties is nothing to write home about and the other one is brain dead (a popular term this week), and the two parties we’re stuck with rigged the system so that there can not be any more parties, what we are left with is America 2019.
It wasn’t always like this. There was a time, 111 years ago, when the Republicans were, by and large, the progressives in Washington. This ended when Teddy Roosevelt decided not to run for reelection in 1908. His chosen successor, William H. Taft, was the dude who pulled the party of Lincoln to the right. Appalled by this, Teddy, who did not speak quietly, challenged Taft in 1912. By then, Taft and his cronies had instituted a massive patronage system that prevented any outlier from having a chance. In his typical fashion, TR started his own party. A “third” party.
He called it the Progressive Party, but it was commonly referred to as the Bull Moose Party. Damn, what a cool name. Anyway, their platform called for such revolutionary ideals as banking reform, farm aid, health insurance, assistance for women and children, worker’s comp, and giving the women the vote. It’s too bad women couldn’t vote for that. Teddy capitalized on what was a completely unintended campaign event: at a Milwaukee campaign stop, he opened his speech with the following:
“Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot.” He exposed his bloodied shirt, took his fifty-page speech out from his coat pocket, showed the audience that it had two substantial bullet holes, and proclaimed “It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose!” The former president continued: “Fortunately I had my manuscript, so you see I was going to make a long speech, and there is a bullet — there is where the bullet went through — and it probably saved me from it going into my heart. The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.” He went on for another 90 minutes, and while his voice grew weak, he stayed on his feet.
He should have been proclaimed president right there on the spot. Sadly, Roosevelt and Taft split the Republican vote and Democrat Woodrow Wilson won the White House, earning and maintaining the title of America’s most racist president for the next 104 years.
To be fair, in TR’s coat pocket also lurked his steel-lined eyeglass case. Between that and the bulky speech, the assassin was reduced to the status of a mere wannabe. Teddy did come in second, ahead of Taft with 27% of the total vote. No third-party candidate ever performed better.
The Bull Moose Party got absorbed somewhat into the Democratic Party. The Progressive Party name remains in use to this day, along with the Conservative Party, the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the Communist Party, and the various pop-up WTF parties. Were they all to be combined into one mammoth party – and wouldn’t that convention be a hoot! – they still wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans.
Our two-party “system” – there’s no mention of it or of political parties at all in the Constitution – is insane. Much like our current president is insane. These next eleven months are going to be very, very taxing.