Sunday, January 6, 2008

John M. Dobson's "The Origins and Structures of the Major Political Parties"

From John M. Dobson, Politics in the Gilded Age: A New Perspective on Reform. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1972, p. 37

"The leadership of both national parties during the last third of the nineteenth century consisted of alliances of bosses and local leaders. The parties lacked the central focus that had characterized Jefferson's Republicans and Jackson's Democrats. The most influential party leaders were those who devoted their attention to state politics rather than the Presidency. The series of lackluster Presidential contenders the Republicans nominated after 1872 did not represent an over-all weakness in the party so much as the strength of the regional bosses. Whether the party's Presidential campaign ended in victory or defeat, it did not radically alter the soundly functioning Republican machines throughout the nation.

"A partisan's attitudes on certain issues did more to define his political position than did his party designation. How, then did the parties manage to retain their members? No single leader attracted followers on a national basis, and, as Chapter 2 will show, after a time no single issue aligned the parties either. The persistence of the parties, then depended upon widespread and overpowering loyalty to an abstraction. Ironically, this loyalty appeared to be growing stronger at a time when the parties were becoming more and more similar in their stands. Many of the short-lived third parties formed to support a particular principle announced their position in their names--e.g., the Greenback, Free-Silver and Prohibition parties. None of these could abandon the basic principle for which it had been named, but the deliberately obscure Democratic and Republican titles could stand for little or nothing."

No comments: