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Today’s two-party system reminiscent of Whigs, Tories

Around 1680, during the reign of King Charles II in England, two parties existed like our two American political parties today. At that time, the two parties formed up around the issue of their orientation toward kingly power. The one party favored monarchy and the protection of wealth, and the other favored popular government and a better distribution of wealth.

Historians looking back use the generic terms “court party” and “country party” to describe these two early parties, referring to the King’s court and the country folk, virtually everyone else.

But at the time, two less flattering names caught on among the people for the new parties. The two were called the “Abhorrers” and the “Petitioners.” The first group abhorred any diminishing of the king’s power and wealth. The second group was constantly petitioning for some reforms so they could have a bigger say in government and a more decent life.

In time, these early names for the parties developed into the names of the parties used off and on in England today: Tory and Whig. Remember that the Tories were what the American colonists called King George III’s armies sent to overpower them in 1776. Americans remembered their Whig roots in the days before the Civil War and one of their parties called themselves Whigs for a while.

The American Republican party has recently taken on both the philosophy and the main method of the royalist Tory party of England. The Trumpian policy of “absolute immunity” of the chief executive from prosecution is very similar to the Tory philosophy of “the king can do no wrong.” Republicans also don’t want any new taxation of their income or the income of corporations.

Even more Tory-like than their political philosophy of an untouchable leader is the main method used to maintain the leader in power. King Charles II claimed the power to call and end sessions of Parliament whenever he pleased. He also claimed the even more totalitarian power of dissolving Parliament entirely, so new elections would have to be held hopefully more favorable to him. This made for a constant chaos in politics that helped keep him in power. Trumpists in the Republican party have dutifully set about causing a similar kind of chaos in the election process today in order to keep their chief executive in power.

In sum, a rather large wing of the modern Republican party has turned a cold shoulder to democracy and embraced a role like the Tory party in England that hated or abhorred democracy.

Our modern Democrats, like the original Whigs, are concerned about having stable elections according to law and not the whims of a single individual. In the offices and legislatures filled by these elections, the people’s will can be enacted.

Kimball Shinkoskey | Woods Cross, Utah

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