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Dylan Loewe Headshot

Whigs: It's Time for a Comeback

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With apologies to Tippecanoe...and Tyler too.

This is your chance. Come out from the shadows. I know you haven't been a political party in 150 years, I get that. But this might just be the chance of a century.

The leaders of the Republican Party have just finished convincing themselves that the reason the public was so turned off by their ideologically backward, anti-intellectual policy agenda was that it just wasn't ideologically backward or anti-intellectual enough. And by leaders of the Republican Party, I of course mean the folks waiting in line to kiss Rush Limbaugh's Oxycontin-dusted ring. That, by the way, might explain this whole thing. The Oxycontin. Kissing that damn ring. What else explains how a real-life group of adult people could make this many boneheaded decisions in a row? Michael Steele said yesterday that people didn't know what he was doing, and that's the way he liked it. Sounds like the Oxycontin to me.

President Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, wrote in an op-ed yesterday that "we may find out what it means for a political party to hit rock bottom." I'll tell you who knows just what that's like: The Whigs.

Less than 25 years after its founding, the Whig Party was toast. Chapter 7. Done. In under a quarter century. They were a strange coalition of folks, all with very disparate interests and expectations. The party never knew exactly where it stood or exactly what it stood for. They pushed, for example, for a central bank, but when Whig President John Tyler had the chance, he vetoed the central bank's charter. That was a pretty big deal by 1840s standards.

Ultimately the party couldn't unify its factions and lost total control. Sound familiar? It ought to.

It certainly can't be easy being a Republican these days. Must seem like a bunch of dead ends, what with President Obama's popularity higher than (dare I say it) Ronald Reagan, and with a party leadership that looks like it's straight out of an SNL sketch. (One of the funny ones. With Tina Fey.) But listen up wayward Republicans, there's hope for you yet, and no, not that icky kind the president loves to talk about.

It's time for you to unite, here, now, at this historic moment, and do what was meant to be done. It's time for you to bring back the Whigs.

Think about it for a minute. The Whigs came into existence for the sole purpose of opposing a Democratic president's agenda. I know you like the way that sounds. They were also big fans of state's rights and loved to talk about "adhering to the great conservative principles," and we all know that's something you can get behind.

Now, of course, you shouldn't be too worried about emulating the old party issue by issue. It's not something we've ever really been that big on. After all, Democrats used to be racists and Republicans used to be, well, Abraham Lincoln. So to some degree, you shouldn't get too hung up on what the Whigs used to be. Start thinking about what they can be going forward. Give it a whirl, see what you can come up with. Whatever it is, it can't be worse than Bobby Jindal.

The party system has been stable for a while, sure, but this nation has a long history of parties ebbing and flowing out of existence. Usually, when a party becomes so impotent, its leaders so misguided, that it can't even provide a coherent alternative to the status quo, that's when there's a chance for a new party to make its move. Jefferson got it done. So did Lincoln. Now it's your turn.

The rise of the Whigs starts with you. Make it happen.