It’s interesting to think about the shift of foreign policy perspectives among Republicans and Democrats represents a return to the historical perspective towards war by both political parties.
Woodrow Wilson (D) and Barack Obama (D)
“The U.S. Constitution prevents the government from meeting the country’s needs by enumerating rights that the government may not infringe.” -Woodrow Wilson
“How is the schoolmaster, the nation, to know which boy needs the whipping? … The “literary theory” of checks and balances is simply a consistent account of what our Constitution makers tried to do; and those checks and balances have proved mischievous just to the extent which they have succeeded in establishing themselves.” -Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson created the Federal Reserve and the Federal Income Tax. He also pushed a globalist foreign policy and famously viewed the Constitution as an impediment. Is there another politician that resembles him? Barack Obama comes to mind for me.
For the vast majority of the history of the Democratic party, they were hawkish. The U.S. joined WWI because of Woodrow Wilson (D), they got involved in WWII because of FDR (D). People notoriously forget that the Vietnam war was escalated and started by Lyndon B. Johnson (D). Or the Korean War was pushed by Harry Truman (D). Up until the Iraq wars (by the Bush’s), all major U.S. wars were started by Democrats.
Robert Taft (R) and Ron Paul (R)
From 1947 to 1949, when the Republicans controlled the Senate, Taft was his party’s leading voice in domestic policy. He was reluctant to support farm subsidies, a position that hurt the GOP in rural areas (especially in the Midwest) in the 1948 elections…. In terms of foreign policy he was non-interventionist and did not see Stalin’s Soviet Union as a major threat. Nor did he pay much attention to internal Communism. The true danger, he believed, was big government and runaway spending. He supported the Truman Doctrine, reluctantly approved the Marshall Plan, and opposed NATO as unnecessary and provocative to the Soviets. He took the lead among Republicans in condemning President Harry S Truman’s handling of the Korean War and questioning the constitutionality of the war itself, saying: “My conclusion, therefore, is that in the case of Korea, where a war was already under way, we had no right to send troops to a nation, with whom we had no treaty, to defend it against attack by another nation, no matter how unprincipled that aggression might be, unless the whole matter was submitted to Congress and a declaration of war or some other direct authority obtained.” - Robert Taft
Robert Taft was against big government and runaway government spending. He was less concerned about personal beliefs of other people (such as communism) unlike Nixon (who in this historical perspective would represent George W. Bush). Senator Taft was against what he felt was an illegal war in Korea. He was a strict believer in the constitution. Robert Taft never became president although he was highly influential in shaping the Republican parties ideals. Does he remind you of someone? To me, Ron Paul comes straight to mind.
Like Robert Taft, Ron Paul might not ever be elected president, but he can still be highly influential in shaping the party ideologically. Dwight Eisenhower eventually took the GOP nomination over Taft as a counter to Taft’s non-interventionist beliefs, but by the time Eisenhower left he is famously quoted as saying, “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” Eisenhower essentially came to agree with Robert Taft’s beliefs.
In the GOP primary debates, candidates Mitt Romney and Michelle Bachman famously pivoted and indicated support for military withdrawal after hearing the audience applause from Ron Paul speaking about bringing back all the troops home immediately. More GOP politicians are following Ron Paul’s political beliefs (like Taft) and abandoning George W. Bush (who is like Nixon in this comparison). If there is a transformation within the GOP, it can be summarized as a Taft-like figure (Ron Paul) reshaping the the party away from a Nixon-like figure (W).
There was a long period of time when the Republicans were the Doves and the Democrats were the Hawks. The Republican party logic was that resources spent on global initiatives (such as war) were better spent to improve the lives of Americans domestically. As such, war was a waste on the grounds that the money was better spent on America. The party logic from the Democrats side was that America is responsible for the well being of others and it is our duty to intervene overseas. Now there was a switch with Nixon and the Bush’s, with the GOP becoming the hawks, but now it looks like that changing once again.
A decade ago, my U.S. History and European History teacher in high school kept saying that history was cyclical. It is interesting to view real-time how true he was as political perspectives towards war are switching back for the two major American political parties.
In the bottom left is a picture of Robert Taft, interesting to see how even his hair cut resembles Ron Paul.