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  Bush's Ancestors
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Last EditedRP  Oct 17, 2005 05:00pm
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CategoryAnalysis
MediaNewspaper - New York Times
News DateSunday, October 16, 2005 10:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionA few pundits and political insiders have likened the current Republicans to the formidable, corporate-financed political machine behind President William McKinley at the end of the 19th century. The admiration Karl Rove has expressed for the machine strengthens the historical connection. Yet neither conservatives nor liberals have fully recognized that the Bush administration's political and ideological recipe was invented decades before McKinley by a nearly forgotten American institution: the Whig Party of the 1830's and 40's.

A century and a half before Reagan's election, the Whigs worked out the basic ideas of supply-side, trickle-down economics. They acclaimed the romance of risk and private investment and a compelling but simplistic view of America as, in one widely used Whig phrase, "a country of self-made men."

On the political stump, the example of the buckskinned Whig congressman and Tennessee rifleman Davy Crockett was widely imitated. Even classical-style orators like Webster learned to put aside their Cicero on the campaign trail, declare themselves rip-snorting Democrats - and threaten to punch out anybody who said otherwise.

The Whigs portrayed the Jacksonians in very similar terms. "Wherever you find a bitter, blasphemous Atheist and an enemy of Marriage, Morality, and Social Order," The New-York Daily Tribune under Greeley charged, "there you may be certain of one vote for [the Jacksonians]." Upon enlisting in the Whig Party in 1835, Representative John Bell of Tennessee sounded like a forerunner of William Bennett, declaring that "we have, in truth, in the last 8 or 10 years, been in a continual state of moral war."
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