In the 19th century, the Democrats were the party of limited government, and the Republicans were the party of big government and crony capitalism. As I argue in my new book, Covenant of Liberty, Grover Cleveland, who was in office from 1885-1889 and 1893-1897, was the last President who could accurately be described as a Constitutional Democrat. He was famous for vetoing Republican efforts to give federal funds to special interest groups. He was also a free market proponent, who strongly advocated the reduction of protectionist tariffs supported by the Republicans. Little wonder that Cleveland is one of Congressman Ron Paul’s heroes, so much so that I’m told a photograph of Cleveland hangs in Congressman Paul’s office.
Then came Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the party leadership of the Democrats abandoned the limited government traditions of Jefferson, Madison, and Cleveland.
A few limited government Democrats remained in steadfast opposition. One of them was a Democratic Congressman from Oklahoma, Lyle Boren. First elected in 1936, family tradition claims that he posed this question to some of his fellow Congressmen in 1938:
“The greatest problem in America today is to erase the question in the minds of men, ‘What is the government going to do for me?’ and replace it with the question, ‘What can I do for my country?’ ”
You can read the rest of this article at Broadside Books' "Line of Fire" here.