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Modern Whigs

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January 2009
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I recently was researching the Whig Party when I discovered that there is a new Modern Whig Party (MWP) has been founded and that it looks like a really fine party.   I have jokingly said I was a Whig for years and now I can be one.  Besides a moderate, rational, and wise platform that avoids the extremism of the radical ends of the GOP and the Democratic Party, the Whig’s have taken as their emblem and Owl.  Now, how could I resist the obvious?


I tend towards the Liberal in most things — which I attribute to college. But as I have aged, I have come to realize that there is more to a political party than ideology and its platform and that an old party, no matter how much it professes to be “the party of  the people” becomes intrenched and attracts corruption.  I am excited about the new Obama administration, but I also know that it will run into snags and that an alternative party, especially on the local level, would be healthy for our nation.

The fact that Iraq and Afghan war veterans founded the Modern Whig Party attracts me even though I am not a soldier and am by nature a pacifist.  Oddly, I embrace peace as the desired state of things, but am also fascinated by military science and history.  I have the greatest admiration for many military leaders and the common foot-soldier (or specialist as we say these days).  I myself almost pursued a career as a naval officer, but at age 18, it turned out that my emotional state was not very well suited for it.  Nor is it now that I am too old to join up!

It has always been true that it is the soldiers and sailors and airmen who actually fight (especially the soldiers who face their opponents on the ground) are the best advocates for a common sense and rational attitude towards warcraft.  War is a mess.  It is not a good way to solve problems.  And the soldier’s craft is to carry on the task when it comes in the least messy way possible, efficiently, and effectively.

So, I admire the soldiers who return to civilian life and engage in politics in a positive way.  Like George Washington, for example.  Or Dwight Eisenhower.  We don’t want military dictators in America, but the fact is that real military men of good character and common sense, who understand what this country is all about are the least likely to become dictators.  It is the non-soldiers who have led coddled lives and have romantic notions about accomplishing political or economic goals quickly by using warfare — they are the ones we don’t want in government, especially at the Federal level.

The Modern Whigs are basically for state’s power rather than loading all our money and power into a distant federal government disconnected from the citizens of any of the 50 states.  The old Whig Party of the Revolutionary era and the party in which Abraham Lincoln was a leader, was pro-development, pro-infrastructure, and advocated a diversified economy.  While the old Democrats stood for a agrarian elite and tended to support slavery as an institution, the Whigs did not take a dogmatic stance on that hot potato issue.  That is what brought about the demise of the old Whigs: the party split over the issue of extending slavery into the territories.  We can hardly fault them for that considering that the whole country split apart into Civil War on the same issue.

But when it comes to the right of citizens to see their taxes spent in their own home state, not in pork barrel projects in other states, I tend to agree.  One cannot make simplistic blanket statements.  Some projects that benefit particular states also benefit the whole country.  it is a fine balance.  The Democrats are often criticized for having a kind of blind faith in the power of the federal government to do good.  The Republicans are criticized for wanting to dismantle the federal government, or else turn it into a feeding trough for wealthy capitalists. Clearly, we need to address the health and wellfare of both workers and capitalists in our nation. President Obama seems to be someone who appreciates that fact and wishes to pursue a balanced approach.  But even the Democratic Party has to admit that Mr. Obama is unique.  He is not the typical Democrat and that is a good thing.

Indeed, the Modern Whig Party strikes me as a party the approach of which is similar to that of President Obama — so far as we can tell so far.  Military men understand why torturing prisoners is a bad idea.  They also understand that using military forces to fight terrorists is not practical.  It is like using a hammer when you need a scalpel.

Several of the brothers of my Masonic lodge are members or veterans of the armed services and I consider them the most admirable brothers I have had the pleasure of meeting.  Not that I approve of blind adulation of soldiers.  Every profession has some bad apples or people who are simply flawed.  We are all flawed more or less.  But there is much to be said for the self-discipline military training teaches and the spirit of self-sacrifice.

The Whigs promote freedom of religion and speech, and want the government to keep out ofthe business of siding with one particular religious viewpoint, or legislating private moral matters of conscience.  They view the abortion issue as a matter of public health.  How refreshing!  They view gun control from a pragmatic point of view, not taking one side or the other of the disfunctional polarized debate we have now.  And finally, the Whigs don’t believe that a person should be forced to join a party because of a single divisive issue, such as has been used by the GOP for many years.  Well, that problem goes back to slavery again, doesn’t it?

The old Whig Party had some anti-masonic tendencies, which the Modern Whigs do not address one way or the other.  The way I see it, the anti-masons were opportunists, but the old Freemasons of John Quincy Adams’ time were turning the fraternity into too much of an old boy’s network.  Masons today bend over backwards to discourage favoritism among brothers, or subversive activities.  So, anti-masons looking back on the French Revolution, for example, had a certain point.  But at the same time, I wonder if the American Revolution would have happened were it not for the philosophy of Freemasonry and its influence on the thoughts of George Washington, Tom Paine, and Ben Franklin (to name just three of many).

Take a look.  I’ve been whigging out for years, and now I know why.


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