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The Way Of The Whigs: The Compromise of 2008



"It’s time for the Democratic Party to go the way of the Whigs"

— Hunter S. Thompson, in the kitchen in 2000, 2001, 2004.

I was never totally sure what Hunter meant by this. Often when he said it, I’d just shrug my shoulders, or other times I’d pretend to understand.  What I learned later, and especially today, is that as usual… Hunter was right.

During the Jacksonian democracy, which operated from around the 1830s to late 1850s the Whigs formed their party in opposition to president Andrew Jackson (well, at least his policies). 

The Whigs really loved the idea of Congress having more power than the President. They remembered, or at least read the history books about how awful things could get when a jackass took the throne. So, they didn’t like the idea of a king-like executive branch — today, the Democratic party, as you know, complains about the president or a powerful corporatation having the powers of a monarch.

They also promoted the idea of a sound economy and wisely financed government (the last Clinton left a massive SURPLUS in the treasury which, as you know, was looted by 2002.)  Their name, "Whig,"was an homage to the American Whigs of 1776, who fought for independence and freedom — the kind of thing we preach to the rest of the world.

The Whig Party counted among its members such national political luminaries as Daniel Webster, William Henry Harrison, and their preeminent Kentucky born Henry Clay. The Whig Party also had a few war heroes in its ranks (even higher than Kerry, McGovern, and Wesley Clark) such as Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Even Abraham Lincoln was a Whig leader at one point!

The Whig Party managed to get two of its candidates in the president’s office (Harrison and Taylor) in those two decades.  In our last three decades, we’ve been able to elect Carter and Clinton.

But, the party self imploded over the question of freedom and slavery. Instead of allowing freedom for all (in our case, 158 years later, to let all the votes count), they fought and fought among themselves to the point that they managed to nominate a really cool guy named Winfield Scott to run in the national election, even though there was a much more experienced Whig already in office (President Fillmore). But Winfield was popular within the ranks of the hip Whig crowd, but Whigs will be Whigs, and they let the less experienced Winfield take the spot anyway (yes, just like the rules committee did today) and thus, the Whig party was defeated in the national election. REALLY DUMB.

 And as any self-imploding, media-driven organizations will tend to do, within a few years, POOF. The Whigs were gone.  

Thus, after today’s death by committee, I now understand what my husband meant. The Beginning of the end for the Whigs was the Compromise of 1850. Today will be remembered (I bet) as the Compromise of 2008.

Until next time, your friend going the Way of the Whigs,

Anita Thompson


P.S. Sunday morning update: Lord. Sad, but not suprising news from CNN: One of my (former) heroes, Donna Brazil, just admitted that she helped make the fateful decision with the Rules Committee on 3 hours of sleep. 

 I was fortunate enough to go the the fabulous Mountain Film Fest in Telluride last weekend to do a Q & A after Gonzo, and do a book signing (next to Samantha Power), along with watching the panel discussions on torture and human rights.  Documentary Taxi to the Dark Side deals with the issue of torture and many experts discuss the results of torture. One of which is sleep deprevation. Scientists know that sleep deprivation is the main factor in turning humans into "babbling idiots" as one of the guards noted. So sad.

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