I recently got a chance to exchange emails with Drew Scholtens, Chairman of the Georgia Modern Whig Party and member of the Modern Whigs National Executive Committee. The Modern Whigs is a revival of the previously defunct political party which was last active in the 1800s. Prominent Whigs included Abraham Lincoln, John Quincy Adams, and Millard Filmore.
From their web site:
Established in 1833, the Whigs are one of America’s oldest mainstream political parties. We were the original party of Abraham Lincoln and four other U.S. Presidents. Revived by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, the grassroots movement has quickly [attracted] new members. We represent the moderate voters from all walks of life who cherry-pick between traditional Republican or Democratic ideals in what has been called the Modern Whig Philosophy. This Washington DC-based national movement values common sense, rational solutions ahead of ideology and partisan bickering. This includes general principles of fiscal responsibility, strong national defense and educational/scientific advancement.
Curious about what makes the Modern Whigs different from other third party and grassroots protest and political movements, I sent a few questions to them and was fortunate enough to get a response from their leadership.
Below is my Q&A with Mr. Scholtens:
A recent press release bills the Modern Whigs as the “anti-Tea Party.” Why?
I am not sure who is the author of those anti-tea party press releases, but I can tell you we are very, very different. The Tea party is an emotional and ideological movement aimed around the size of government and general discontent with the elected officials. The Modern Whig Party is a pragmatic and methodology-based movement aimed at building a stronger candidate and a better-educated voter. We have a very clear leadership structure and are tightly managed, where as the Tea Party is a non-centralized or controlled movement, which is part of why lots of people are drawn to the Tea Party. We don’t necessarily have anything particularly “anti” anyone but we are a totally opposite approach to ideology politics, which the Tea Party is.
How many members does the Modern Whig Party have? How many chapters in how many states?
We no longer publish our membership numbers. We do however have members in just about every state and we have chairman in over 28 of them. None of the state parties are very large, the movement is only 18 months old, and has just gone through a major transition in December 2009.
Where are you strongest/most active?
We are strongest in Texas, Georgia, New Jersey, California, and Missouri.
In what ways have Modern Whigs worked with both Republican and Democrat-led initiatives in nonpartisan government and nonprofit projects? Can you point to web sites, news articles and other sources for people interested in learning more?
The Modern Whig Party is a methodology party. What that means is rather than control a base using ideology, we build structures, tools, and rules around methodologies that add value to both the common member and the candidate. However it is up to the individuals to interact with the methodology systems. As a result we care little for someone’s ideologcial beliefs, we focus on problems and solutions, cause and effect, without preconceieved notions of right and wrong. Our original founder was invited to a ‘non-partisan’ summit on healthcare put on by the Democrats early in the healthcare debate when they were attempting to build public support. I put ‘non-partisan’ in quotes because quite frankly the two parties can’t do anything non-partisan, their ideologues make this against their very nature. So your question is oddly kind of a trick question, the ideologues would have to want to be non-partisan to engage us.
Your platform says it values “common sense fiscal responsibility, strong national defense, and a focus on education/scientific achievement over strict social issues.” Can you give examples of current policy initiatives that the Modern Whigs support (such as a bill in Congress, politicians, social or political movements it has endorsed)?
We do not have any elected officals. Again, we are only 18 months old, and really we are only two months old in the new methodology-based party structure. However, unlike an ideology-based party that supports bills, a methodology supports tools to enable leaders. As a result its leaders who come up with what they support or do not support. For example: If you were to ask me what the party felt about “Obama Healthcare,” I would find the question illogical. How can a party think? Its a piece of paper I filed with the state. But you could ask me as a person what I feel. Now whatever conclusion I come to, I use and follow party structures, tools and rules in coming to my personal opinion and thus, when two Whigs debate each other they may not agree but their interaction is governed by the party, and thus the goal is to move to a solution.
Your web site stresses that many of the members of the Modern Whigs are also veteran service members who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. How would a Modern Whig approach to foreign policy and the use of military force diverge from current Republican or Democratic approaches?
The party started as a veterans affairs based group, it morphed into a ideology-based party for the first 15 months. The Georgia Modern Whig Party developed the first ever methodology-based model and the national party accepted the model in December 2009. Having said all that once again we are a methodology based party, so each candidate comes to their own conclusions on foriegn policy, however the party does build tools to allow candidates to learn more about foreign policy, and tools for them to submit solutions, etc.
I am impressed by the breadth and thought that went into developing your platform and stance on various issues. How do you see the Modern Whigs influencing debates and public policy to enact these ideas into practice? How does the Modern Whig movement plan on flexing its political muscle, in other words?
“Flexing its political muscle” is illogical once again to the party. The party focues on allowing individuals to engage in the political system with value-added services. We hope to build candidates powerful enough to overcome this countries corrupt election system. If we can get candidates elected that owe nothing to their party and are powerful enough to overcome the special interests and political manuvering, we can have candidates who are once again focused on their voters not on those who “got them elected.”
How do you recruit new members? Is it primarily through word-of-mouth and personal connections?
Currently we are not advertising too much. A value-added methodology party has to actually build its value added tools in order make their theories a reality. For example everything I can tell you would revolve around a vision, but in a few weeks our membership portal in Georgia is being launched and you can actually see what we mean by a value-added methodology party.
What makes the Modern Whigs different from other non-mainstream political groups and third parties like the Green or Libertarian parties?
All of those today are either ideology-based parties or solution-based parties. Ideology parties solve problems using ideology, which is illogical but there are good reasons for it. Solution based parties focus on a platform of solutions, such as the Unity Party out in Colorado. We are a methodology party so we provide tools, structures, and rules around methodologies that help individuals develop, but are not controlled mindlessly by ideology. Two Whigs might totally disagree with one another but the rules dictate how they have to interact with each other. Thus they have to be able to communicate, even if they can’t agree. There is a lot of complexity I can’t go into, but that’s the gist.
When you think of the Modern Whig Party the best way to think of it is not in the context of politics. Take a college, an IT business, and a political party, shake them together, and there you have the Modern Whigs. People don’t join the Whigs because they agree with our ideology which is why they join all the other parties. They will join the Modern Whigs because we create value.