Sunday, July 18, 2010

Why I Should be a Republican

Actually I was a Republican.

It was the early ‘60s. I had read Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative and it resonated with me. So I was for Barry in 1964 – his campaign slogan was “In your heart, you know he’s right.” Chalk it up to youthful indiscretion. But I was unknowingly in good company back then. A young lady from Chicago, Hillary Rodham, was also a Goldwater follower.

The Vietnam War caused me to become disillusioned with both parties. Like today, we were in a war with no clear goals, and no end in sight. Unlike today, there was a viable anti-war movement, and that raised my consciousness as a patriotic American to realize that we were squandering precious resources, lives, and our reputation. I remember the moment when LBJ succumbed to the anti-war pressure and announced that he would not run for re-election. And with the exception of 1972, when I campaigned for George McGovern, the ensuing years’ presidential campaigns were essentially the choice of the lesser of two evils. Until 2008, where we had a real choice. I campaigned for Barack Obama in New Jersey and Florida, but his inability to deliver real change is disappointing.

At this stage of my life, I am in a fairly comfortable position. While I’m rich in family and friends, I’m by no means wealthy financially. Nevertheless, I’m better off than most Americans – retired with a decent income, and somewhat affordable medical insurance.

So why shouldn’t I be a Republican? After all, the GOP touts itself as the party of individual, not collective, responsibility. Since I’m on a fixed income, I should be staunchly anti-tax and pro-corporatism so that my investments can grow. I have decent health insurance and will be on Medicare soon, so why shouldn't I be in favor of repealing what my Republican friends derisively call Obamacare? My kids are out of school, on their own, so why shouldn’t I want to cut education taxes and school support to the bone? I’m old enough to be pretty sure that the deleterious effects of Global Climate Change will be felt after my lifetime, so why should I care about investing in clean energy? I’ve never owned a GM car. Why should I care if General Motors goes belly up? I’m retired, why should I worry about continuation of unemployment insurance? And here in New Jersey, Governor Christie claims he is cutting taxes (although in reality he is just redistributing them), so why shouldn't I be an ardent supporter? I rarely check out books from the library, so why should I be upset when its funding is cut? It seems like the Republican agenda is a perfect fit for my situation.

Yet, there are two main reasons why the Republic Party and what it stands for are repugnant to me. First are my kids and their kids – present and future. We Baby Boomers had so much promise for social justice and the American dream, yet for the first generation in a long time, we are leaving an America to our children that is in worse shape than when we entered it. The divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” is increasing, and traditional safety nets are becoming victims of Senate filibusters. The Reagan/Bush deficits and their abdication of environmental stewardship will be with our children for decades to come.

Secondly, I am a patriotic American. It is important to me that we work toward the collective good – and that is not what Republicans stand for. While they tout individual responsibility, their agenda supports corporations and the wealthy with budget-busting tax cuts while in their world, basic ingredients of the American dream like jobs and health care are secondary at best. Certainly, there are some Democrats who also fit this mold – so once again it is down to the choice of the lesser of two evils.

It saddens me that the party of Lincoln that was founded on social justice and the party of Eisenhower which promoted fiscal responsibility has been hijacked by selfish zealots who don't give a hoot about their fellow Americans.

The American Dream is a collective dream. Starting with the Founding Fathers, we are in this country to make it better (“form a more perfect union”) for each succeeding generation. That dream belongs to all of us - black, white, brown, Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist, straight and gay.  A party that values corporations over people and war over diplomacy is not one that I can support.

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