Weber VIII: The Party Divide

Weber goes on to argue that party politics tends to order itself around one bourgeois party and a second party built around more novel ideas. His historical examples, mostly 19th century, also describe American politics reasonably well. 
First England: there until 1868 the party organization was almost purely an organization of notables. The Tories in the country found support, for instance, from the Anglican parson, and from the schoolmaster, and above all from the large landlords of the respective county. The Whigs found support mostly from such people as the nonconformist preacher (when there was one), the postmaster, the blacksmith, the tailor, the ropemaker­­that is, from such artisans who could disseminate political influence because they could chat with people most frequently. In the city the parties differed, partly according to economics, partly according to religion, and partly simply according to the party opinions handed down in the families. But always the notables were the pillars of the political organization. 
In America the Republicans were the party of the victors of the Civil War, and thus of Northern banks and big business -- recall that Wells Fargo sent Wyatt Earp as a secret agent to Tombstone, to ride herd on what the local Democratic elected officials were doing with the silver shipments in which WF was interested. Their opponents were deputized into the Sheriff's forces when the conflict became open. The Earps obtained Federal badges so easily because they were always aligned with the party of the President of the United States and his banker allies. Or, as Lonesome Dove put it:
Woodrow Call: [riding in San Antonio] Things sure have changed since the last time I was here. It's all growed up.

Gus McCrae: Of course it's growed up, Woodrow. We killed all the Indians and bandits so the bankers could move in.

Woodrow Call: Only a fool would want the Indians back.

Gus McCrae: Has it ever occurred to you, Woodrow, that all the work we done was for the bankers?
There is a way in which the parties in America switched sides on some issues, especially as regards civil rights for ethnic and sexual minorities. But there is also a way in which they remained constant, with the Republicans remaining in the role of defenders of what Weber like Marx calls the bourgeois. In such parties, Weber notes, the old rich predominate and the people striving to become rich join. The established families try to hold down the nouveau riche, the arriviste, the Donald Trump to put it in our own context. Weber says that the established pattern here is for the new man to have to prove himself, but once he does he has unwavering support from the voters attached to this party.
The ascent of leaders is far more difficult where the notables, along with the officials,  control the party, as is usually the case in the bourgeois parties. For ideally the notables make 'their way of life' out of the petty chairmanships or committee memberships they hold. Resentment against the demagogue as a homo novus, the conviction of the superiority of political party 'experience' (which, as a matter of fact, actually is of considerable importance), and the ideological concern for the crumbling of the old party traditions­ - ­these factors determine the conduct of the notables. They can count on all the traditionalist elements within the party. Above all, the rural but also the petty bourgeois voter looks for the name of the notable familiar to him. He distrusts the man who is unknown to him. However, once this man has become successful, he clings to him the more unwaveringly.  
That nicely mirrors the current situation of the Republicans, with Trump having no more hostile enemy than the Lynn Cheneys, Mitt Romneys, and Bill Kristols of the world. They regard him with utter disdain, and as Weber says, there's a point to be made there: political party experience is in fact of considerable importance, and also as traditionalists they worry about the loss of norms that have been of long service. The loss of norms is really dangerous -- witness the sudden enthusiasm on the other side for packing the Supreme Court, adding new states, 'reforming' election laws to eliminate protections against voter fraud, and the like. 

On the other hand, new ideas come forward in part because the old ideas stopped working. Decades of losing -- on economic issues, on culture, on immigration, on globalization -- brought the rural and bourgeois voters around to the idea that they needed someone to do something different. The norms cemented losing to China and to the global left, and the loss of their own increasingly perilous economic position as well. Likewise they were more likely to have multiple children, and the odds of passing on economic security to their families weighed heavily on their minds. 

Weber, himself a member of the bourgeois, is mostly interested in that side of the ledger. (If you're reading along, note that the "Social Democratic" party in Germany is also, surprisingly for an American given the name, a bourgeois party.) He was also speaking at a moment in which the hard left had only recently won its position in Russia, and was being disarmed internationally in part by having its ideas adopted by the bourgeois in more palatable forms. This was, in America, what is called the Progressive Era, characterized by income taxes (rather than wealth taxes or socialization of property), Prohibition (to undermine the desire of European immigrants from Germany and Italy and Ireland to come to America), Popular Election of Senators (which empowered the party machines at the cost of the states, disempowering the states being a Republican goal since the Civil War), and Votes for Women (as these legal immigrants were almost all male, this diluted their voting power substantially even after they attained citizenship). 

The populists were on the Democratic side then, Free Silver and all that; and they were on a losing streak, broken up only by Teddy Roosevelt's decision to run as an independent, and then the Great Depression. They were regionally powerful in the South, though, and controlled therefore significant power in the Senate. 

You can see the echoes of the Republican idea of conscripting lesser versions of Socialist ideas into their party platform in the rump Republicans currently trying to avoid being replaced. The Democrats are more obviously following that strategy now, though (e.g. Biden's "plan" to forgive $50,000 in student loans, maybe, rather than all student loans coupled with making college both free and a right as it is in Germany; Obamacare rather than socialized medicine; and constant demagoguery on race as a substitute for action). 

So there are substantial differences in our current situation compared to the one Weber was describing just after World War I. There remains much to learn from his discussion, I think. 

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