What can the election of 1896 tell us about the elections of 2002? A lot, says Karl Rove. William McKinley, the Republican candidate who crushed William Jennings Bryan in 1896 and ushered in a Republican generation in Washington, understood that the old Civil War issues and allegiances had "sort of worn themselves out." A "new kind of politics" was needed for a world made sort of new. Call it "compassionate conservatism" avant la lettre.
What do the elections of 1912 and 1932 tell us about the elections of 2004 and beyond? A lot more than Karl Rove may realize, says Charles Kesler, editor of the Claremont Review of Books. Any Republican realignment that is more than nominal cannot ignore the "standing legacy" of these elections, which "decisively changed" the American political system and "launched the modern liberal state." President Bush may want to put behind him the "old, tired argument" about the limits and purposes of government. But that argument cannot be avoided by anyone seeking a Republican realignment worthy of the name.
To find out why it would be a "huge misunderestimation" to think otherwise, take a look at Kesler's editorial in the Winter 2002 issue of the Claremont Review of Books, and at several fine essays in the issue on the Progressives and the New Deal. A one-year subscription to the CRB is only $19.95.