Are Whigs Back in Fashion?

February 24, 2011 Op-Eds, Opinion

When people hear the word “wig,” they naturally assume “male hairpiece.” Far fewer people today know much about the Whig Party of the 1800s. This is not that surprising, however. This was a political party that survived for roughly two decades during the Jacksonian Era of Democracy. Though it produced four of our nation’s presidents, two of the four came into power as vice presidents succeeding their counterparts. John Tyler (10th) became president after William Henry Harrison (ninth) died of a cold, likely brought on by giving his infamously long Inauguration speech on a rainy and cold day. Millard Fillmore (13th) became president after Zachary Taylor (12th) died after what has been long rumored to be gastroenteritis brought on by eating milk and cherries. As sad as this all is, these men have never gained quite the lasting remnants in the American mind set as the likes of Washington, Lincoln, Kennedy or Reagan.

Regardless of their past, a new movement is afoot to bring back the ideals of the former Whigs as a new party, aptly named the Modern Whig Party (MWP). Established roughly one year ago, the MWP is a national organization of about 30,000 members initially founded by military veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan as a comeback of this historic political party. The MWP has six major tenets: fiscal responsibility, energy independence, education/scientific advancement, states’ rights, social progression and veteran’s affairs. With the fiscal political position of centrist/center right and social political position of centrist/center left , it has a far broader political viewpoint than most other third parties. The MWP has 38 state affiliates, including one in Florida, yet it should not be confused with the Florida Whig Party (FWP). Once affiliated with the MWP, the FWP (founded in 2006) discontinued said association in late 2009, largely due to its increasingly conservative platform. The FWP, interestingly enough, was the first “Whig” state political party to officially run candidates for federal office in over a century.

The big questions one might ask is: will this party have staying power? Does it even have the ability to garner as much acclaim and national attention as the Tea Party did a few years back? My guess is no, yet with the rambunctious election year 2012 should bring, this is the time, if any, for third party candidates to come out the woodwork. It is all well and good to have broad ideals, and many Independents may be drawn to parties such as the MWP, especially due to dissatisfaction over the Democrats and Republicans rising on both ends. Just do not expect them to gain any support from staunch members of either major political party. As I said, can they take some Independent votes, especially during the Primaries and Caucuses? I think so, but almost as much as any other third party. They are nowhere near the level that the “Tea Party” is at in notoriety, and it is likely to stay that way if they do not get their message heard. Politics is a game, though, and upset wins are a natural part of it. They may not get the presidency anytime soon, but they may just be another divisive factor that takes votes away from the predominant party and turn the tables.

About Amir Sadeh

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