Done With Conservative Democrats

What did Congressman Larry McDonald (shown) have in common with writers John T. Flynn and Albert J. Nock? For one thing, all three were prominent 20th-century opponents of Big Government. John T. Flynn’s As We Go Marching and Albert J. Nock’s Our Enemy, the State were two of the last century’s most important critiques of government power, while the Americanist conservative Georgia congressman was, until his untimely death in 1983, the president of The John Birch Society.

For another thing, all three men were Democrats.

Hard as it may be to believe in the Trump era, there was a time in the not-too-distant past where “conservatives” — including some very principled constitutionalists, paleo-conservatives, and the like — were lodged firmly in the Democratic Party, and were just as vexing to that party’s establishment leadership as today’s Liberty Caucus is to the GOP House leadership.

Even among many Democrats with more Big-Government, welfarist inclinations, it was once not uncommon to find influential politicians who were strongly pro-life (former Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey comes to mind) or pro-gun.

But something has happened to the Democratic Party, something whose roots lie decades in the past, but which has come to fruition over the past 30 years or so. That something is the movement of the Democratic Party far to the left, such that it has come to view what were once partisan squabbles with Republicans as an ideological death struggle with a foe that it has come to regard as its mortal enemy: the so-called Right.

Since the time of the Great Depression, the Democratic Party has been the party of Big Government, although in FDR’s time, a number of conservative Democrats, mostly though not exclusively from the South, such as Harry F. Byrd, Rush D. Holt, and Josiah Bailey, formed a coalition in opposition to the welfarist programs of the New Deal. At the same time, some conservative journalists and writers, such as the aforementioned Flynn and Nock, lent credence to the “big tent” appearance of the Democratic Party. This Democratic “Big Tent” continued all the way into the Reagan era, when the “boll weevil” Democrats — also from the South — made political careers out of supporting Reagan’s policies against the wishes of the liberal-leftist Democratic establishment, mostly made up of East and West Coast liberal elites.

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