I am an old Republican. I am religious, yet not a fanatic. I am a free-marketer; yet, I believe in the role of the government as a fair evenhanded referee. I am socially conservative; yet, I believe that my lesbian niece and my gay grandchild should have the full protection of the law and live as free Americans enjoying every aspect of our society with no prejudices and/or restrictions. Nowadays, my political and socio-economic profile would make me a Marxist, not a Republican.
I grew up in an era where William F. Buckley fought the John Birch society and kicked them out of the Republican Party. I grew up with -– in fact voted for the first time for –- Eisenhower. In 1956, he ran a campaign of dignity. A campaign that acknowledged that there are certain projects better suited to be handled by the government. See, business thinks in the short term, as he said. That’s the imperative of the marketplace. I invest and I expect that in a few quarters, I garner the fruits of my investment. Government, on the other hand, has the luxury to wait a few years, maybe decades, for a return on a given investment. As a former businessman, I know that first hand. Am I a Marxist for thinking that?
I witnessed the fight for equal civil rights in the 1960s. And as a proud American, I applauded the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, and we became a better country because of them. Those acts made America stronger. Those acts, at their core, represented and still represent all the values upon which the Republican Party was founded. Yet today, our GOP representatives and leaders are ashamed of them. When they talk about them, you feel their discomfort, their clumsiness, and sometimes their shame. That awkwardness is so strong that it crosses the television screen and hits you in the face in your living room. Why is that? What happened to this generation of Republicans? We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, and yet we act and behave as if we are the party of Nathan Bedford Forrest.
I did not like Medicaid and Medicare when they were passed. I was opposed to them. Maybe I was too young, too strong, and too ideologically confined. Yet, over the years, I saw how Medicare helped millions of elderly Americans. I saw how Medicare helped my mom in her final years battling emphysema caused by years of smoking. You have to be blind to oppose those programs. You have to be blind to wish for the suffering of millions of Americans just because you believe in personal responsibility.
As a businessman, I was torn between my bottom line and providing health coverage for my employees. I knew that if I provided them with that coverage, their productivity increases. I did my best, but the riptide of the health insurance market defeated me. And with a heavy heart, I offered them gimmicky coverages that, deep down, I knew did not provide a comprehensive and adequate coverage, but it was the only coverage I could afford.
I voted for Nixon and for Reagan. Although I did not like the deficit spending of the Reagan administration, I blamed it on and rationalized it by the necessities of fighting the Cold War. I liked Reagan — who didn’t? Even my Democrat and liberal friends liked and respected him. I voted for Clinton, twice. I thought he was the best Republican president since Ike. No, I did not make a mistake. Bill Clinton was closer ideologically to Eisenhower and Nixon than Bush I and II could ever be. I thought that Clinton practiced and articulated true Republican ideology in his fiscal discipline, job creation, smart tax cuts, and foreign policy better than anyone since Ike.
Then something happened in the 1990s. The leaders of the GOP grew belligerent. They became too religious, almost zealots. They became intolerant. They began searching for purity in Republican thought and doctrine. Ideology blinded them. I continued to vote Republican, but with a certain unease. Deep down I knew that a schism happened between the modern Republican Party and the one I grew up with. During the fight over the impeachment of President Clinton, the ugly face of the Republican Party was brought to the surface. Empty rhetoric, ideological intolerance, vengeance, and religious zealotry became the common currency. Suddenly, if you are pro-choice, you could not be a Republican. If you are for smart and sensible taxes to balance out the budget, you could not be a Republican. If you are pro-civil rights, you could not be a Republican.
It started with minorities: they left the party. Then women; they divorced the GOP and sent it to sleep on the couch. Then, the young folks; they left and are leaving the Republican Party in droves. Then, someone stood up and told my niece and my grandchild that they are not fully Americans — just second class Americans because they are homosexual. They wished hell and damnation upon my loved ones just because they are different. Are we led by priests or are we led by rational politicians? Now, we have became the party of the Old Straight White Folks. We should rename the Republican Party the OSWF rather than the GOP.
Recently, since the election of Barack Obama, common sense has left the Republican Party completely. We are in the era of craziness. As David Frum has written, a deal was there to be made over the healthcare bill. Instead, this ideological purity blinded the GOP. As LBJ said it, instead of being inside the tent pissing out, we choose to be outside the tent, pissing against the wind. And we got splashed by our own nonsense. Why did we do that? Well, when a political party shrinks its electoral based to below 30% and is composed by one demographic group, all that is left are a bunch of zealots. We shrank it by kicking out of the party those who believe that abortion should be legal but limited. We shrank it by kicking out those who believe that an $11 trillion economy, like ours, needs a strong government, not a government that can be drowned in a bathtub. We shrank it when we sanctified Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck, and canonized Sarah Palin. These are the leaders of my party nowadays. How did we go from William F. Buckley to Glenn Beck? How did we go from Eisenhower and Nixon to Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann? I do not know. What I do know, however, is that these leaders remind of me of the leaders of the Whig Party. And if they continue on their nonsense, they will bring the collapse of the GOP.
I do not recognize myself in the Republican Party anymore. As someone said it before, I did not leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me. I have the same ideological positions on most of the issues that I had when I voted for Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush in 2000. However, I just cannot trust the reins of our government and nation, of this formidably complicated and complex gigantic machine that is the USA, to the amateurish leadership of the Republican Party.
We are living through tough times. We are being challenged like I have never seen America being challenged before. China is a formidable foe, and it is out there competing against us on every field and beating us on several fronts. While our education budgets are being slashed in every state across the nation, China is doubling and tripling theirs. These are the challenges and challengers that we are facing. And we need our best and brightest to lead us, not a half-term governor or radio/TV talking heads.
Maybe I am too old and too cynical, but I think the Republican party is in the last stages of agony. If nothing happens, we might win an election or even two, but in the long run we will lose America.