Sunday, October 31, 2004

Real Republicans

A friend took me to task for having lumped all registered Republicans together and called them a nasty name in a previous post. She was quite right – I am at fault. There are a wide range of people who are registered as Republicans, many of whom share most of my own values of fiscal responsibility, social liberalism, civil rights, and open, honest, accountable government. We differ in the policies and processes by which to achieve those ends, but not on the ends themselves. They are committed to government where differences are resolved through debate, persuasion, and compromise.

And then there is Bush and his thuggish supports who are committed to crony capitalism, preemptive war, and fascism as the fundamental form of government. These people have worked hard and fully deserve the epithet “Rethuglican”.

What has happened to the Republican party?

From my childhood, I have had seen a deep divide in the GOP. On the one hand are the demagogues, exemplified by Nixon, and on the other are true conservatives, exemplified by so very many men and women of character: Gerald and Betty Ford, Howard Baker, Dan Evans, Richard Lugar, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe, the Chafees, the Eisenhowers, Bob Packwood, Pete McCloskey, Bob Smith, and many others. When Dan Evans was governor of Washington State, we proudly called ourselves “Evans Democrats” because he was the best man for the job. I was old enough to understand the importance of Watergate when it happened. My parents made clear that the honor and integrity of the law was of utmost importance, and to judge people by that standard. In the early 70’s, there were Republicans up to that challenge.

"What did the president know, and when did he know it?" Thirty years ago, a Republican was the one to ask that question of another Republican. Can you imagine Tom DeLay or Dennis Hastert asking such a question of their good buddy George? No. Far from being willing to hold the president accountable for having deliberately misled the nation into war, for having conducted the war badly, and for failing miserably to secure the US itself against terrorism, this pack accuses people like myself of being traitors to the nation for daring to question Commander Codpiece.

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."
Teddy Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star, May 7, 1918

There are the words of a true Republican. Was TR blameless or perfect in his public service? Far from it, and he’d be the first to tell you so. What he did was set a standard and demand that Americans hold themselves accountable to it, particularly members of his own party. When they failed, he formed a third party, the Bull Moose party.

Check out the Bull Moose web site. This is a Republican who denounces Bush as no kind of conservative, as lawless and self-indulgent, and as destructive to the interests of the Republican party, indeed, of America. This is not someone who wishes to be a Democrat, though he thinks the Democrats have greatly improved in the last few years. This is someone who wants his party back.

What about these Republicans? Or these? These are people who care about their country as well as their party. They are horrified at the Rethug shift to extremism and ideology, for-us-or-against-us attitudes, insulting behavior towards allies, and attempts to cast those in disagreement with Rethug extremism as traitors to the nation. They decry the abandonment of true conservative principles. They are chilled by the cavalier attitude towards protection of civil rights and legal protections.

So, just exactly who are the Republicans? Me, I vote for the people who speak moderately and honorably, who strongly but respectfully disagree with me about how to solve governmental problems, and who are not trying to develop some fascistic cult of the leader to frighten people into voting for a total turd of mediocrity.

Then there is the sad third group. These people, like John McCain, Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani, are enablers of the lawless ideologues who have seized the reins of the GOP. This may be the majority of the party. Every GOP lawmaker, public servant and party official who knows what violence the Rethugs are doing to America and refuses to break with that faction is materially assisting the attack on America. They do so because of an unpleasant mix of desire for power and misplaced loyalty to a hijacked party machine. Perhaps they think they can direct this beast, or that they need to be in place to pick up the pieces when it collapses. Mostly it is their unwillingness to do as TR told them to do almost a century ago – judge what is in front of your eyes. Their unwillingness to do as Howard Baker did only thirty years ago – place the law before the party. Their unwillingness to speak the truth, lose an election cycle, take back control of their party, and emerge stronger than ever.

There are strong signs that Bush is going to lose badly this round, regardless of what the Gallup poll says. Remember, the polls had Gore behind as well and he won the popular vote. He won Florida, too, regardless of Jeb Bush’s machinations. A miscount is not the same as a win. Thus, the question on November 3rd will be – what kind of Republican are you?


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