Wisconsin Whigs stake claim on middle groundJ.R. Martin thinks it’s time for the U.S. political system to reboot.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
J.R. Martin thinks it’s time for the U.S. political system to reboot.
So the New Richmond resident and a handful of political activists will travel to Ripon, Wis. on Saturday, Sept. 29, to conduct the first Whig Party meeting in the state in more than 150 years. Martin and others hope the Whig movement will lead to more civility and middle-of-the-road politics in this country.
“The only choice we seem to have is either ‘A’ or ‘B’,” Martin said of the current two-party system. “The trouble is, neither one of the current parties puts the country first. The parties today put their own needs first, and the country’s second.”
The Republican Party was birthed at the Little White School House in Ripon in 1854. The party’s beginnings were the result of a nation marching toward Civil War due to the issue of slavery.
The Whig Party and Free Soil Party, and a few Democrat Party members, unified behind the anti-slavery issue and formed the new party. The hope for the new party was to find common ground that would avoid war and strengthen the country.
Since those humble beginnings, Martin said the Republican Party has strayed from previous ideals. Now both parties are controlled by extreme factions, he claimed, and compromise and cooperation are lost in the fight.
That’s why, in 1992 the longtime Republican, who was born and raised in a Democratic household, decided to retreat from the two-party system. He backed Ross Perot’s independent run for the presidency. Perot’s message focused on crippling economic issues that threatened the nation.
“He was right,” Martin said. “He was ridiculed by both parties as some sort of wacko.”
Since then, Martin’s passion for his country has remained strong but his dislike for the two-party system hasn’t changed. Martin claims he now evaluates each candidate he votes for not on their party affiliation, but on how honest, pragmatic and open they are.
Recently, Martin was feeling particularly uneasy about the nation’s current political landscape. He decided if real change is to occur, it would never happen if people let the two parties continue dictate who the candidates are in every race.
Martin estimated each political party garners only about 20 percent of loyal U.S. voters.
The biggest percentage of voters (about 45 percent) view themselves as independent, yet that larger group continues to let the two parties set the political agenda and choose candidates for major offices, he said.
“We’re stuck in this endless cycle,” he said. “We need to organize that 45 percent. Unless that’s fixed, nothing will change.”
While doing research, Martin happened upon information about the emerging Modern Whig Party, which is being organized nationwide by returning veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The vision for the group is to promote a “country first” movement where political decisions are based on facts, civil debate and compromise. Those ideals are different from other recent third party movements, like the TEA Party and the Libertarians, which are a bit more extreme in their views, Martin added.
Most states, but not Wisconsin, already have Modern Whig Party organizations established. Martin attended the national Whig convention in Bloomington, Minn. in August and eventually agreed to be the Wisconsin State chairman for the fledgling group.
“I’m just a fill in,” Martin explains. “I just want to help get these started, but then I’m looking for someone more qualified than me to take over as chairman.”
Martin said he expects just 10 to 20 people to attend the Wisconsin Modern Whig Party’s first meeting from 5-7 p.m. this Saturday. If the crowd gets any larger than that, the Little White School House (capacity 30) might be a bit overcrowded.
While the group will likely have little impact on the upcoming November elections, Martin said he’s excited about the influence the organization might have on future political contests.
In some cases, the Modern Whigs may try to recruit candidates who will try to unite the country and not divide it. In other cases, the party will endorse major party candidates who espouse the ideals of the Whigs.
“We’re looking for people with common sense and for people who will do what’s best for the country,” Martin said. “We want decisions to be based on facts and reason, not on opinion and ideology. That’s how it should be. The loudest person in the room shouldn’t be running the show.”
Martin, an author and longtime international business person, remains optimistic that political change can occur if people fight back against the two-party system.
“If we do that, I’m 300 percent confident that there is nothing that can stop us,” he said. “Our country really is the light of the world. We can’t fail.”
For more information on the Modern Whig Party, visit www.wiwhigparty.org.