ME has spent most of his retirement from service to the United States studying, thinking, and writing about the country he served.
THE TRANSITION FROM FROM THE "NO PARTIES" OF 1789 to the Democratic and Republican Parties of 2012 is absolutely fascinating! Following the twisted and convoluted path the American political system traveled is sort of mesmerizing for someone who enjoys this kind of journey. Yet, it is also something which should be taught in high school as well so that soon to be voting American adults understand where we came from; and more importantly ... why.
Please be aware that the terms Democrat, Democratic, Republican, Republicanism, Libitarian(ism), Liberal(ism), and Progressive(ism) had many different and sometimes contradictory meanings, depending on when in history you used them and whether you are using layman euphemisms or core philosophy. Speaker John Boehner, in the 1700s would have been thought of as a liberal, given his stated believe in individual liberty, but today calls himself, and is called a Conservative (but, as far as I know, he does not hold to the core beliefs central to conservatism). On the other hand, a Progressive in the late 1800s, the genesis of progressivism, could have been either a Conservative or Liberal, depending on what particular issues they were concerned with. In some respects, you can trace both of today's Parties back to the Progressive era in the United States in that they were determined to move American society from the more barbaric state of servitude to the King to the less barbaric state of individual liberty; that being the goal of any progressive movement ... to secure a more civil society.
Nevertheless, rather than force the reader to adapt to non-colloquial terminology, I will use the following definitions for the terms "conservative", "liberal", and "progressive":
- Conservative - either true conservatism, i.e. one who believes and ordered society is better than the chaos which individual liberty brings, or, alternatively, one who is known as a Minimal-state Liberal; someone who believes strongly in egalitarianism but opposes government imposed progressivism
- Liberal - a person who strongly believes in egalitarianism as well as using government to help institute progressive reforms when no other method works; this is known as an Active-state Liberalism
- Progressive - may be either Conservative or Liberal, but nevertheless believes there is a need to move society forward from a less civil state to a more civil state. What those reforms may be and the methods in which they may come about will differ significantly between Conservatives and Liberals.
- Moderate - someone who does not hold extreme conservative or liberal ideological views; a person willing to compromise; a pragmatist; the person who tries to steer a course that would please Aristotle, meaning attempting to achieve the "Golden Mean".
- Extremist - someone who takes an uncompromising position on their particular ideological belief; a position so strong that they believe all is lost should they violate or give up any part of that belief. These people are unwilling to compromise, regardless of the cost to the general society.
- At my Hub on Political Ideologies, there are more complete and exact descriptions.
What makes a hub like this possible is that all political parties are made of elements of all five of those labels and as one group or another find themselves in the minority position, they often break off to form another party or join a group of similar persuasion of the opposing party. Prior to and including the election of President Lincoln, this happened quite frequently, but much less so afterwards. Today, in 2016, the Republican Party, with the help of Donald Trump, may be giving birth to two new parties; one retaining the extreme conservatism of which it is composed right now, and a more moderate version similar to what it looked like in the 1970s.
Like my other hubs of this type, it is going to be a work-in-progress. I suspect it will take over a two years to complete this effort, so, I hope you enjoy it as the story of maturation of our political parties unfold before your eyes.