Republican party answers to one

Today, Donald J. Trump owns the Republican Party. Trump selects candidates, controls campaign finances, determines Party policies, and punishes/rewards on the basis of personal loyalty.

In the 18th century and into the early 19th century, state political Party Bosses held the power. Then our last Constitutional Amendments were the Civil War Amendments (13-14-15th). There were no 16th Amendment (to shift federal revenue from Custom/import tax to mainly Income Tax), and no 17th Amendment (direct election of Senators away from state legislatures).

Patronage, nepotism, and backroom deals — “To the victor goes the spoils” — was the way politics was done. Political Bosses ran the state parties; they appointed people to government jobs, and state legislatures elected U. S. senators. It was before presidential primaries.

It was during the National Presidential Nominating Convention that deals were made on national policies and Presidential candidates. Candidates were expected to remain in the background. The Party Machine headed by the Bosses conducted the campaign. It was also a time when Congress held foremost governmental power.

The Era of Big Political Bosses was during the 1800’s and until the Progressive Era of the early 1900s.

New York’s United States Senator and Republican Party Boss, Roscoe Conkling, was the personification of the ultimate Party Boss. Conkling ousted Jamestown’s Reuben E. Fenton for N.Y. Republican Party Boss.

Conkling wielded his position, patronage offerings, and money to achieve national party command in the dominate party in Congress. Conkling was arrogant and would humiliate the dis-loyal.

In 1880 the Republican Party was divided. Conkling and his fellow “Bosses,” after 36 ballots at their Chicago Presidential Nomination Convention. eventually compromised. Many “agreements” were made before “dark horse” candidate Ohio Senator James Garfield was nominated. Conkling believed he held sway over the newly elected President; they had an “agreement.”

Shortly after the election, deals started to unwind and grievances resurfaced especially when President Garfield asserted his Executive powers and appointed a non-Conkling man to the highly coveted N. Y. Custom House post. Conkling went bonkers and resigned from the Senate

Conkling was not re-elected and when Garfield was assassinated (July 2, 1881) Conkling was on the sidelines. Party Boss Conkling over-played his hand. His power was not divine nor absolute. His power rested on fear and what he had to offer. When he left office and lost his patronage and was challenged, supporters fell away. His house of cards tumbled.

Now, presidential candidates head their Party and assume election responsibility. The Executive branch, since FDR’s New Deal and World War II, is the dominant branch of government and the vast majority of governmental positions are held by Civil Service employees (Pendleton Civil Service Act of 1883).

Both New York Republican Political Boss Conkling and National Republican Party Boss Trump sought personal power foremost and they realized politicians’ willingness “to go along to get along” would allow the Bosses to achieve power. The Bosses could and did intimidate the politicians.

There are Judicial and Legislative “checks” on Executive/Presidential power, as we witness in current ongoing court trials and recent impeachments but there remains a need for “checks” on Party leadership power though Republicans legislators demanded accountability in 1973-74 with Nixon.

The 1973-1974 Republicans placed law over party boss; we need more such “old time” Republicans. Voters need to know what their party stands for; the GOP platform/policies are what Trump says; too many voters merely cling to the party label and offer cult-like support to Trump.

Who controls the Republican Political party and how the Republican Party is controlled remains problematic.

The Jamestown Fenton History Center Museum – 716 664 6256 – welcomes visitors. Fenton was quite a man; as Governor, Congressman, and Senator, he accomplished much.

Don Scott is a North Warren resident.


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