The Iowa Caucus is only moments away and our nation will begin the formal process of choosing a successor to President Barack Obama.
The existential question for political conservatives is this: What do they make of the Donald Trump wild card factor that has changed the dynamics of the Republican Party primary season?
Perhaps the insights of a historian and a journalist of the past may shine some light on the dilemma that Republicans face.
The late historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. was both a brilliant and erudite historian who wrote on a great many subjects during his lifetime.
Mr. Schlesinger worked in the Kennedy Administration as a “Special Assistant to The President”; he was a classical New Deal liberal who believed that the federal government should promote a “liberal” or in today’s parlance a “very progressive agenda.”
Arthur M. Schlesinger’s specialty was writing on the American Presidency.
He wrote four volumes on the life and political times of Franklin Roosevelt and he wrote the classic “The Imperial Presidency” which was published in 1973.
One of Mr. Schlesinger’s beliefs was that every 30 to 40 years that America experiences a seismic shift in the political landscape. Schlesinger suggested that the American electorate vacillated between “conservative” and “liberal orbits” every 3 to 4 decades.
On the other side of the political spectrum, the Evangelical and Conservative journalist Dr. Marvin Olasky’s conducted research that concurs with Mr. Schlesinger’s premise that our nation’s two political parties (since 1888) vied with each other for dominance in Presidential elections every 40 years.
For example, the time period from the late 1880s to the late 1920s was a time of Republican Party (conservative) ascendency in which the Republican Party dominated Presidential elections.
The dominant Political figure during this time was Republican President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt.
Teddy Roosevelt was known for his “trust-busting” and for his “big stick diplomacy.”
Fast forward to the 1930s and the political fortunes of the two parties radically reversed.
From 1932 to 1968, Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman both redefined and remade the Democratic Party and changed what was a regionally based party of disparate elements into a cohesive national unit. By 1964, the Democratic Party was at the height of its influence and it appeared that its dominance would never end.
The 36 year reign of the Democrats that was initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt ended at the hands of Richard Nixon’s narrow victory in 1968.
President Nixon – and later President Reagan (1981-1989) – won votes from many disaffected Democrats who felt that the Democratic Party moved too far to the left of the political spectrum and was no longer the Party of Roosevelt and Truman.
Presidents Nixon and Reagan – along with the Republican Party Congressional majorities of the 1995 through 2000 time period initiated a major realignment of both the nature and scope of Federal Government activity. The Nixon-Reagan revolution was so effective that former Democratic President Bill Clinton averred in the 1994 to 1995 time period that “the era of Big Government is over.”
In 2008, Democratic Senator Barrack Obama ascended to the Oval Office with a convincing electoral win in which he captured 53% of the popular vote and 365 votes in the Electoral College.
President-Elect Obama’s win was impressive in all political facets.
He thoroughly beat his challenger Senator John McCain by capturing a decisive plurality with nearly every ethnic, political and religious group in his victory.
If history repeats itself (and history never repeats itself in an exactly duplicate sense, but there may be discernible patterns), then it would seem that the next 40 years on the Presidential level will be dominated by the Democratic Party.
From 1888 to 1924, the Republican Party won the office of the Presidency 7 times out of 10 Presidential elections (McKinley-Theodore Roosevelt-Howard Taft).
Starting with the Presidential election of 1928, the Democratic Party won the Presidency 7 out of the next 10 Presidential elections (Roosevelt-Truman axis).
And from 1968 to 2004, the Republican Party dominated the Oval Office by capturing the Presidency in 7 out of 10 Presidential elections (Nixon-Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II years).
The existential question is this: Will this pattern of Presidential Party dominance that has existed since 1888 continue or will there be a change in the electoral continuum?
The Republican Party may be in the wilderness for the foreseeable future.
In time, as historians and journalists such as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Dr. Marvin Olasky have pointed out, the political fortunes of the party in the wilderness change and they return to power.
However, in the short-term, it is imperative that Judeo-Christian adherents, Traditional (Paleo) Conservatives, and Free-market advocates learn lessons from our nation’s electoral history so that they may best marshal their political, monetary, and social resources on the Local, State, and Regional levels while they are exiled in the “Presidential Wilderness.”
[Journalist’s note: This article was redacted and updated from a similar essay published two years earlier in February of 2014.]