Share on Facebook

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Obama Inherits the legacy of Thomas Jefferson


Barbak Obama can claim political roots that almost reach back to the founding of the United States- almost. The first important political party of the United States was the Federalist Party, the party of George Washington and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and represented the propertied and commercial classes. But it was opposed by the Democratic Republican Party which opposed Hamilton and the interests of the wealth- and, as a forerunner of today's Democrats, sympathized with the more collectivist politics of revolutionary France in its war with England in in the 1790s.

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic Republican, put an end to Federalist power when he was elected president, serving until 1809, the Federalists falling further from favour by their oppostion to the war of 1812. The Democratic-Republicanm ascendancy continued through Presidents James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincey Adams and Andrew Jackson (1829-37) under whom the Democratic Republicans became the party of the common man. Replacing the plutocratic Federalists in oppostion to Jackson's Democrats was the Whig Party, which, ironically, favoured greater intervention in the economy, although primarily to favour commerce and industry. But both parties accepted slavery and wanted the issue kept out of politics.

Slavery soon became the determining issue in American politics and the shibboleth around which political parties were formed. As the issue continued to irritate the main partues, Democrats and Whigs held the presidency almst interchangeably through the mid-19th century. The Republican Party was finally formed in 1854 from Whigs and Democrats opposed to slavery, northeastern Christian Evangelicals and norwestern farmers, all of them protesting the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The issue changed the landscape for good. Unable to find a way to apprach the slavery question, the Whig party disappeared and the Democrats were split over the issue. Civil War broke out between the pro-slavery South and the North which opposed slavery and fought Southern secession from the Union. The first Republican to be elected president, Abraham Lincoln led the north to victory, abolished slavery and kept the union intact.

After the war, the lay of the land changed again. The Republicans began to lose their agrarian base to industrialization and the Democrats became the great regional conservative force of the south and the west. The late 19th century saw power held by Republican and Democratic presidencies alike but the Republicans had still to stuggle to adapt an agriarian party to indistrialiuzation while the Democrats were able to attract the urban immigrants and working class. At the turn of the century, Theodore Roosevelt cut across the liberal-conservative, urban-rural divide by splitting the Republican Party with his self-styled progressive attack on the big financial trusts through reform and regulation. Ironically, Roosevelt's Progressive Party, an off-shoot of the Republican Party became the source of the Democrats own, new, progressive policies.


1607 -the first European settlement, at Jamestown, Virginia.

1630- the Mayflower lands with Puritan settlers at Plymouth, Massechusetts.

-African slaves imported to work the plantations.

1775-1783- the American Revolution.

1776- 4 July- the Declaration of Independence.

1789-97- George Washington- Fed.

-the Federalist party is formed in support of George Washington's foreign policies and the policies of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton who represents commercial and propertied interests.

-a party calling itself the Democratic Republican Party gathers around opposition to the economic policies of Alexander Hamilton.

1789-1801- John Adams- Fed.

-the Democrats sympathize with the French during the Anglo-French wars of the 1790s.

1801-1809- Thomas Jefferson- Dem-Rep.- First successful Democrat candidate. The Federalist hold on power ends for good.

1803- the USA buys Louisiana from France in the Louisianna Purchase. Settlement of the mid-west and west begins.

1809-1817- James Madison- Dem-Rep.

1811-1814- The War of 1812. The US goes to war with Britain's Canadian colony over Britain's search and seizure of American ships on the Atlantic.

-Federalist Party ends due to its opposition to the War of 1812.

1817-1825- James Monroe- Dem-Rep.

1819- Florida is ceded to USA by Spain

1821-1853- Spanish territories in the south and south-west join the USA.

1825-1829- John Quincey Adams- Dem-Rep.

1829-1837- Andrew Jackson- Dem.

-the Democrats become a well-honed political machine and espouse a platform of support for the 'common man'.

-the 'Whig Party' is founded in opposition to Andrew Jackson. It favours greater government intervention in the economy.

-both Whigs and Democrats believe in keeping the slavery issue out of politics.

1837-1841- Martin Van Buren- Dem.

1841- William Henry Harrison- Whig.

1841-1845- John Tyler- Whig.

1845-1849- James K. Polk- Dem.

1849-1850- Zachary Taylor -Whig.

1850- the Fugitive Slave Act.

1850-1853- Millard Fillmore- Whig.

1853-1857- Franklin Pierce- Dem.

1854- the Republican Party is formed from northeastern evangelicals, northwestern farmers and anti-slavery factions of the Whigs and Democrats in opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

-the Whig party ends due to its inability to avoid the slavery question.

1857-1861- James Buchanan- Dem.

-the Democrats split over slavery and secession.

1860-1861- Southern States leave the union and form the Confederacy over the right to use slavery.

1860-1865- Abraham Lincoln- Rep.- first Republican to win the presidency.

1861-1865- The American Civil War ends with victory by the Union or Northern states.

1865- abolition of slavery. The period of Democrat ascendancy ends as the Republican period begins.

-the Republicans begin to lose their base to rapid industrialization.

-the Democrats change from being a party of reform to a conservative party based in the South and the West, appealing to the immigrant working class in the industrial northeast.

1865-1869- Andrew Johnson- Dem. Nat.

-the southern states re-join the union.

1867- the USA purchases Alaska from Russia.

1869-1877- Ulysses S Grant- Rep.

1877-1881- Rutherford B. Hayes- Rep.

1881- James A. Garfield- Rep.

1881-1885- Chester A Arthur- Rep.

1885-1889- Grover Cleveland- Dem.

1889-1893- Benjamin Harrison- Rep.

1893-1897- Grover Cleveland- Dem.

1897-1901- William McKinley- Rep.

1898- the USA purchases Hawaii.

1898-1900- The Spanish-American War.

-Republicans trying to appeal to a changing urban industrial population without losing its agricultural base.

-Theodore Roosevelt splits the Republican Party by forming his Progressive Party to use reform and regulation to deal with socio-economic problems.

1901-1909- Theodore Roosevelt- Rep.

1909-1913- William Howard Taft- Rep.

1912-1921- Woodrow Wilson- Dem.

-the Democrats begin to adopt many of the policies of the Progressive movement,

1917- The United States enters World War I on the side of the Allies.

1919- Woodrow Wilson, for the United States, dominates the peace congress at Versailles.

-the Republicans remain the isolationist party, standing for big business, states' rights, limited government intervention, deregulation, free market economics, a strong military and vigilant anti-communism.

1921-1923 -Warren G. Harding- Rep.

-Republicans back in power due to their isolationism and attention to economic growth.

1923-1929 -Calvin Coolidge- Rep.

-1924- Native Americans given the right to become US citizens.

-Republican capitalize on the economic boom of the 1920s- but also with the speculation and overextension of credit which leads to the Depression.

1929- the US stock market crashes, setting off the Great Depression.

1929-1933- Herbert Hoover- Rep.

1929-1938- the Great Depression. End of the period of Republican ascendancy.

-Republican policies of non-intervention abroad and in the economy weaken the party in the face of mass unemployment and shadows of dictatorship in Europe. This leads to FDR's four successive terms.

1933-1945- Franklin D. Roosevelt- Dem- elected four times.

-a period of renewal and ascendancy for the Democrats as national urban, ethnic, religious and racial support is added to the party's Southern base while the House and the Senate tend to maintain Democratic majorities.

-Roosevelt forges Democratic policy to end mass unemployment and to stimulate industry.

-end of Republican isolationism.

1941- surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbour, destroying the US Pacific Fleet. The US enters World War One.

-US participates in the Allied invasion of Italy.

-the US and Allied forces invade Italy, landing in Sicily.

-Harry Truman elected President.

1944- D-Day- US and Allied invasion force lands in Normandy

-the US launches the Manhattan project to develop the world's first Atomic bomb.

1945- August- the US ends the war against the Japanese in the Pacific by dropping atomic bombs on Japan at Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

1945- US and allied forces defeat Nazi Germany, occupy Berlin.

1945-1953- Harry S. Truman- Dem.

-General MacArthur fired by Truman for trying to acquire power in occupied countries in the Pacific.

1950-1953- the US and Allies support South Korea against North Korea in the Korean War.

1952-1961- Dwight D. Eisenhower- Rep.

-Republicans recover with Eisenhower's mass, non-partisan popularity.

-a period of 'split government' begins with Republicans tending to hold the presidency and Democrats often dominating both houses of Congress.

-Democrats support civil rights, social welfare and Third World aid.

1961-1963- John F. Kennedy- Dem.

-activists pursue desegregation on the South.

-Kennedy brings in civil rights legislation.

-Kennedy and Johnson who will succeed him, both form productive partnerships with Congress.

-Kennedy launches the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba to topple Castro.

1962- the world comes to the brink of nuclear war as Kennedy forces the USSR's Krushchev to withdraw missiles from Cuba.

1963- President Kennedy assassinated. V.P. Lyndon Baines Johnson succeeds Kennedy.

-end of the Democrats' latest period of ascendancy that began with Roosevelt.

1963-1969- Lyndon B. Johnson- Dem.

1964- the U.S. gradually enters the war in Viet Nam in support of South Viet Nam.

1968- assassination of Martin Luther King.

-assassination of Democratic presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy.

-due to Johnson's support of the civil rights movement and division over the War in Vietnam, the Democrats are split, losing their grip on their conservative wing and the South, leaving conservative southern Democrats to become 'Dixiecrats'.

-due to Democratic disunity, the Republicans are in the ascendant.

1969- Johnson resigns. Nixon elected president.

1969-1974- Richard M. Nixon- Rep.

-the South starts to turn to the Republicans along with the 'sun-belt' of the Southwest and the growth of a hi-tech economy in the West.

-Democrats retain control of both houses of Congress.

1972- Nixon visits Peking in rapprochement with China.

1972-1974- the Watergate scandal.

1974- Nixon resigns over the Watergate scandal. He is succeeded by his vice president, Gerald Ford.

1974-1977- Gerald R. Ford- Rep.

1975- Viet Nam war ends with complete US withdrawal.

1977-1981- Jimmy Carter- Dem.

-Carter successfully fights high gasoline prices in the energy crisis.

1979- the Iranian revolution. In Tehran, Revolutionary Guards take the U.S. embassy staff hostage.

-Carter sends a hostage rescue mission to Tehran which fails.

1981-1989- Ronald Reagan- Rep.

-Reagan wins over the 'Reagan Democrats', Democrats discouraged with the policies of Jimmy Carter, eating into the Democratic base. He also gains the support of Christian fundamentalists.

-Democrats lose large sections of the urban working class and the middle and upper classes and become identified with the urban poor, small farmers and interest groups. The vast variety inside the Democrat coalition becomes a liability.

-Reagan inaugurates the conservative tax revolution, cutting back vastly on taxes, cutting social welfare and giving unprecedented support of big business and huge military spending.

1982-1987- Reagan illegally sends aid in support of the Nocaraguan Contras, to topple the Sandinista Nicaraguan revolutionary government.

1985-1987- Reagan enters talks with Mikhail Gorbachev to end the arms race and ban nuclear weapons.

1986- Iran-Contra scandal. Scandal erupts over the sale of arms to Iran in return for the release of hostages in Lebanon with the arms revenue going to the the Contras in Nicaragua.

1988- Reagan's vice president, George W. Bush succeeds him as president.

-GW Bush launches a US invasion of Panama and arrests Panama's General Noriega for drug trafficking.

-GW Bush launches an invasion of Grenada and topples the hard-left government of Maurice Bishop.

1989-1993- George HW Bush.- Rep.

1989-91- end of the Cold War. GW Bush launches a US-led new World Order during the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

-with the end of the Cold War the Republicans, saddled with a $268.7 billion deficit are faced with cutbacks affecting the large constituency of the military and military contractors.

1991- the Gulf War. After Saddam Hussein occupies Kuwait, GW Bush forms a wide international alliance which invades Kuwait and southern Iraq, liberating Kuwait and wiping out Saddam's army.

-George Bush loses election due to broken promises n

1992-2000 -Bill Clinton- Dem.

-Clinton hampered by debts owed to gays, women, environmentalists, unions and ethnic minorities.

-Cinton wins over the "soccer moms"- former Republicans attracted to Clinton's policies of fiscal rectitude, economic growth and investment in education.

-Clinton passes bi-partisan welfare reform known as Workfare.

-the House and the Senate sart to turn Republican again.

1994- Clinton and the UN are either too distracted or too slow to come to the aid of Rawanda, where nearly a million are slaughtered in racial genocide.

-the Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, lead a movement to make cuts in welfare.

-Clinton attempts retaliatory missile strikes after Al Qaeda bombs the US Embassies in Kenya and Ethiopia.

1995- Clinton sends US warplanes, in conjunction with NATO, in a successful mission to drive the Serbian military from Kosovo.

1996 -Clinton re-elected president after he portrays Newt Gingrich and challenger Bob Dole for being cold-hearted on welfare.

-Clinton is nearly brought down by a Republican-led attempt at impeachment after he is found to have had an affair with staffer Monica Lewinsky in the White House.

1999- the US warship Cole is heavily damaged with sailors killed after Al Qaeda rams the vessel in a suicide attack.

-in the 2000 election campaign, Al Gore turns to the left, appealing to environmentalists and trade unions. Bush challenges him with 'compassionate conservatism."

2000-2008- George W Bush- Rep.

2001- 9/11- the U.S. is caught by surprise as A Qaeda flies planes into the World Trade towers, killing 3,0000.

-Bush abandons 'compassionate conservatism" by turning to anti-environmental legislation and tax cuts for the wealthy. He also regain support from the military and military contractor constituency by increasing defense spending.

-Democrats suffer a leadership vacuum.

-Bush and Rumsfeld begin plans for an invasion of Iraq on grounds that it aided al Qaeda in 9/11 and that Iraq harbours weapons of mass destruction.

-Bush declares North Korea, Iran and Iraq as 'the Axis of Evil' and inaugurates 'the War on Terror'.

-Bush's inability to revive the post-9/11 economy and his partisan approach to security and the 'War on Terror' lose him public support.

-despite lip service to seeking the support of the UN, Bush flouts UN and world opinion and prepares to invade Iraq.

-2003- March- US forces invade Iraq and take Baghdad.

-2003-2006- the invasion of Iraq turns out to have been ill-planned as a massive and lethal insurgency develops. The weapons of mass destruction that were the war's justification turn out to have been non-existent. As US casualties rise and thousands of Iraqis die, US government incompetence and cynicism causes a scandal world-wide.

2004- Bush is re-elected.

-most of Bush's domestic legislation such as 'No Child Left Behind', the substitution of 'faith-based' charity for social services and the privatization of social security either fails to get through Congress, or fails in execution.

2006- after the Republicans lose both houses in mid-term elections. Bush fires Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.

2007- under General Petraeus, newly appointed to command forces in Iraq, an extra 20 thousand troops are sent to Baghdad and Anbar Province to engage the insurgency with a new 'Surge' strategy which involves foot patrols, forming bonds with the local population and paying former Sunni insurgents, who have turnd against erstwhile Al Qaeda allies, to form US-allied militias. The 'Surge' is successful as the Sunni insurgency begins to dry up but the Sunni-Shia civil war continues, though diminished, and Iraq's Shia government shows no signs of being able to govern on its own.

-2008- Bush attempts to lay down a legacy as his term in office comes to an end by attempting to begin a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians around a Palestinian homeland. Little or no progress is made.

-John McCain wins the Republican primaries for the November presidential election.

June- Barak Obama defeats Hilary Clinton in the Democratic primaries.
Post a Comment