Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tell Me It Isn't So!

As our nation continues to be gripped in the throes of fairly daunting economic data, it is responsible to consider the ways in which our elected representatives, senators and the President have chosen, and may choose in the future, how to address the rather unattractive numbers we are constantly inundated with about unemployment, the stagnation of America's economic growth, and others.  At first blush we see one party, largely represented by the Democrats, made-up of self-professed liberals and those who have taken-on the newest moniker to grace the Left, the Progressives.  Democrats have historically favored the "downtrodden" and less-fortunate in our society.  Democrats have historically been supportive of labor rights movements that provide a stronger, collective voice to American workers.  Democrats have history been a champion of senior citizens and the disabled.  Now, despite the fact that Democrats are also historically displayed a surprising ineptness at promoting the messages and causes that they celebrate and strive to improve, they continue to be in the corner of "the average American."  Some would most likely argue that fact.  But, when all else fails, we can find some comfort in the notion that, traditionally, the facts don't lie.  And the facts are such, that other than a rather bizarre embracing of some individuals and businesses associated with Wall Street (bizarre only because it has not been quite as "out in the open" as it has in recent years), Democrats continue to be the political party in the United States that believes that all Americans not only have a right to succeed and the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"; Democrats also continue to believe that if you are one of those who fall on difficult times (whatever the cause), or are simply not made to be wealthy (for any number of reasons, the most of which those same individuals have little ability to influence, if truth be told), then you deserve to find comfort in the fact that you will, at the very least, be able to achieve a relatively reasonable and safe quality of life ... even if that should mean that your government ... I'm thinking in terms of both state and federal entities here ... steps in to lend a hand. 

And then there is the other side; the Republicans.  It used to be that for one to profess (or, as some would prefer to suggest, confess) to be a Republican was a badge worn proudly.  Republicans are, thanks to history, "the Party of Lincoln."  Republicans have also been long-associated with a stron national defense (even while they have long liked to suggest noone else is quite as capable of defending this nation besides themselves ... ignoring, obviously, the contributions to the "American way of life" that were courtesy of that Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt).  And the Republicans have also been, at least somewhat (moreso "somewhat" in the past than can be said of the more recent decades) aligned with "big business."  The last point being largely due to that party's new-found championing of low tax rates for businesses and corporations.  I say new-found primarily based on the notion that the first true fiscal conservative was Thomas Jefferson ... a well-known and often villified and praised (in the same speech more times than one wants to admit) individual more closely associated with the Democratic party.  Alas, being a member of "the party of Lincoln" rings a bit more hollow than it might have in the decades after the Civil War (and prior to the reforms created by the Civil Rights and Great Society legislation brought-about by then-President Lyndon Johnson, in the mid- to late-1960s).  During those first tulmultuous years after the "War Between the States," Republicans could (and sometimes even did) proudly trumpet the fact that their former party member ... the 16th President of the United States ... provided the pathway for equality of all Americans, and the ending of the practice of human bondage (aka. Slavery).  And many Republicans still today like to promote their belonging to that august political party that ended the tragedy that was succession and brought-about the demise of one of the most cruel and inhumane practices to ever exist on the planet.  Unfortunately, in an era where no truer words were spoken when one says that "actions speak louder than words," Republicans today fall woefully short of the standard passed to them by President Lincoln. 

What is most disheartening about the shift in Republican 'politics' (as it were) is the fact that I actually know (and have known in the past) a number of people who identify themselves as Republicans.  And yet, when I consider what today's Republican party stands for, I ask myself, "How is that these good and decent people that I know ... how can they be a part of this political party ... the Republicans?!"  The Republicans I personally know do not believe that government is, in and of itself, inherently evil; that there are some things which government can and should do.  The Republicans I have befriended in the past and those I know today do not act as though they wish to make things like food, a home, and healthcare available to only those who can afford it.  The Republicans I know do not believe that corporations should be in-charge of our local, state or national elections; rather, they have long-championed civic involvement and the importance of every eligible person expressing their right to vote.  Those same Republicans do not think it reasonable, fair or responsible to, therefore, create some seemingly benign yet malignant litmus test for would-be voters by imposing a "photo I.D." requirement that prevents anyone without one (a photo I.D.) from voting.  And the Republicans I call "my friend" do not believe it is appropriate, just or even moral to treat others as "less than" or as "sub-standard Americans" based on their race, gender, age or sexual orientation.  And like that relatively famous Oliver Wendell Holmes opined some years ago, those Republicans that I have and hope to care about and be cared for by, believe that a progressive income tax is the price that Americans should pay in order to be granted access to a free, fair and just society.  Yet, the Republican party of the 21st century has seemingly embraced many (if not all) of those very sad, in some respects inhuman, inhumane and despicable positions. 

I freely and openly admit to my having once belonged to the Republican Party.  In fact, I worked for President Reagan's campaign in 1980.  As a then-16 yr. old, I was enamored with Reagan's eloquence and his overt "Americanism."  At the time, of course, I was not able to participate in that years' election.  Just the same, I was ready, willing and able to spend many-an-hour promoting the "values" that he espoused.  And while in later years, after becoming better educated about the issues then (and now), I became seriously and severely dispirited with the Republican party after reaching an understanding of how then-President Reagan introduced a number of things into our 'national discourse' by way of public policies and programs that today are resulting in horrific consequences, I still believe that at that time ... in the late- 1970s and early 1980s ... Reagan gave our nation a psychological "boost" that was sorely needed. 

Despite the fact that today's Republicans like to parade their "Reagan Republican" credentials, they are little like the former President in many ways.  It's true that Reagan slashed income tax rates.  It's true that Reagan spent hundreds of billions on defense, increasing defense spending exponentially, at a period in our nation's history when we weren't engaged in any major conflicts.  But yet, President Reagan was willing and able to do those things while also agreeing to modifications to Social Security that provided that program with sustained viability for decades.  He didn't believe that Social Security, in and of itself, was inherently evil.  In fact, he embraced the notion that American needed some sort of "social safety net" that would provide aid to those who find themselves unable to provide for themselves and/or their families.  And probably the most glaring difference between President Reagan and today's 'version' of "a Republican" is that he was ready, willing and able to compromise with those politicians who were from the other party (or parties). 

I know the Republicans that I have called "my friend" or who are (or were, in the case of those who have passed-on) members of my family.  Those persons are friends of mine (or family).  And today's Republicans are no "Reagan Republicans."  And I find it really hard to believe that the majority of Americans truly, honestly and deeply believe-in some of the sorts of changes that today's Republicans have suggested that they would like to make.     

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