Whigs Whin!

First Win For Whigs In 150 Years

For the first time in a century and a half, the Whig Party has successfully elected a candidate. Is the party of Henry Clay making a comeback?

Library of Congress

On Tuesday, the party of Lincoln notched a big win. No, not the GOP, but the Whig Party, the original party of Lincoln. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Robert Bucholz defeated Democrat Lorretta Probasco to become the judge of election for the Fifth Division of the 56th Ward by a margin of 36-24 to become the first elected Whig in Philadelphia, if not the entire country, in roughly 150 years.

Bucholz is a member of the centrist Modern Whig Party, which was founded in 2007 and claims to be successor to the Whig Party, which was one of the two major parties in the United States during the early 19th century. (The Modern Whigs are not to be confused with the True Whig Party, which ran Liberia as a one-party state for over a century until a military coup in 1980.) The original Whig Party elected two presidents, William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor and was led by such notable statesmen as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. However, it broke up in the 1850s as the issue of slavery came to the fore in American politics.

The original Whigs focused on issues that now seem somewhat dated. The party was strongly in favor of restoring the Bank of the United States, higher tariffs and federal involvement in building internal improvements, like canals. In an email to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bucholz described the party as focused on “pragmatism.” He wrote that the Modern Whigs “believe that politics is all about compromise instead of getting everything you want and giving up nothing. The recent gridlock in Washington could not have happened under Modern Whigs."

In his role as Judge of Election, Bucholz likely won’t be able to do much to change Washington, let alone build more canals. He simply is an election judge for his precinct, an office that happens to be decided by the voters in Pennsylvania. But his election is a step forward for a party that has seemingly been defunct for 150 years and that could possibly start a trend. After all, if the Whigs are making a comeback, aren’t the Know Nothings due for a revival too?