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Jacksonians take it on the chin

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webmaster | 10/18/13

The battle between the Republicans and the Democrats in the just-finished government shutdown and seemingly endless argument over the Affordable Care Act was an older argument than you might have been led to believe if you allowed yourself to be informed more or less entirely by the breathless television commentators who covered it to the point of seriously testing the public's gag reflexes.

It was, rather, a somewhat seasonal argument between two long-standing forces in American politics.

William A. Galston, writing in The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, calls the two sides the Jeffersonians and the Jacksonians.

The Jeffersonians are, like President Thomas Jefferson, essentially philosophers. The Jacksonians, like their namesake President Andrew Jackson, believe more in action.

President Obama and his legions of liberal pals, including the young and the educational establishment that forms their young minds, are Jeffersonians in nature. They aren't necessarily Democrats, but tend to identify with the Democratic Party, which leans in the direction they believe government should lean.

The Jacksonians, on the other hand, believe that too much is being taken from earners and given to non-earners, and they believe that to be unfair, if not immoral. Since the recipients of these income shifts tend to be people who are out of work, they are thought by the Jacksonians to be lazy. However, the Jacksonians don't necessarily oppose helping the needy, they just don't believe that help should be coerced.

Conservative Republicans and members of the Tea Party are Jacksonian in nature, primarily because they are frustrated by the weight of the growing welfare state and its cost, even though they might be beneficiaries in some ways of the welfare state themselves.

The Tea Party is a relatively recent phenomenon, but in recent U.S. history the Republicans played the Jeffersonian role. Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower were examples of Jeffersonian Republicans.

But when the Great Depression came along, so did a Jacksonian, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who rallied an electorate weary of an economy that wasn't working for them.

The Tea Party and their conservative Republican allies took it on the chin in this most recent bout, but don't count them out. The turning of events could make them the next wave of political dominance.

Or not.


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