Sunday, August 26, 2012

I’m Not Anti-Republican, but the Tea Party is Another Matter…

This is not an endorsement of a party or a candidate. As a citizen, I of course have my preferences, and my left of center leanings are no secret. But just as I value the right to my opinion and my choices, I must give others that same consideration.

However, this is an expression of concern about a group that has affiliated itself with a party. The party itself, as I will show, has a laudable  history; but embracing those who preach discrimination and intolerance  is not part of that noble history.

I’m not anti-Republican. My grandmother was a life-long Republican, as was her father before her.

My other grandparents were Democrats, but I have reason to believe they voted at least once for Reagan.

The Republican Party, at its best (if I understand correctly) has historically stood for a strong DEFENSIVE military, fiscal responsibility without cutting social programs that actually serve the common good, and they have a bias toward capitalism. I may not agree entirely with each of these points but I can respect them and I find none of them to be evil, selfish, or mean-spirited.

And, if we take an historical view, there are reasons to admire both Republican and Democratic leaders.

Of course, there was Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
Eisenhower oversaw the end of the Korean conflict.
Nixon began a process that led to normalized relations with China. Nixon also appointed at least one very progressive Supreme Court justice.
Ford brought a sense of calm and healing in the aftermath of Watergate.
Reagan managed somehow to renew a sense of patriotism and was able to make people feel good with his powerful oratory skills. He also appointed the first woman Supreme Court Justice.
Bush I (George Herbert Walker) signed the Americans With Disabilities Act.

And, likewise, if we look at Democratic history we will see some shining moments.

FDR oversaw the recovery of the Great Depression.
Johnson signed civil rights legislation into law and oversaw the creation of Medicare and appointed the first African American Supreme Court Justice.
Carter has been called the most effective former president ever.
Clinton presided over the longest economic expansion in US history and he appointed the first woman Secretary of State.
President Obama was the first sitting president to say publicly that he favored marriage equality for same-gender loving people. Early in his administration he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. On his watch terrorist Osama bin Laden was killed and GM was saved. Lives will be saved because of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

Both parties have cause for embarrassment also.

Truman (D) is the only world leader in history to unleash the terror of nuclear warfare.
Johnson (D) had Vietnam.
Nixon (R) had Watergate.
Reagan (R) actively ignored the AIDS crisis in its beginning, and as a result, I believe, far too many people died.
Clinton (D), while a brilliant strategist and orator had some major ethical mishaps (for the world’s most powerful person to have an affair with an intern is an abuse of power to the extreme).
Bush II (R) squandered the global goodwill after 9/11/01, turned an historic surplus into an unprecedented deficit, was in office when the economy went into all out freefall, and invaded a country under false pretenses that had not attacked our own.

Both parties have produced leaders who have made mistakes, and both parties also have long histories of caring about their country and their world. Democrats tend to want government to provide more care and security for our citizens while, before Reagan anyway, Republicans were less likely to rush into military conflicts and more likely to negotiate an end to conflicts. And while Democrats were more likely to push for such life-saving, poverty preventing programs as AFDC, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Civil Rights protections, Republican administrations usually protected and sometimes even advanced these programs once they were initiated. Republican women were at one time outspoken advocates for both the Equal Rights Amendment and a woman’s right to choose.

We might believe that the Democratic or Republican philosophy is better than the other, but we could usually trust that leaders of both parties were for the most part competent, intelligent, and motivated by goodwill.

That’s why the rise of the Tea Party is so upsetting. They are as embarrassing to the Republicans as the Dixiecrats were to the Democrats.  Like the Dixiecrats, the Tea Party is filled with racists, xenophobes, segregationists, and all of that venom is heightened by the TP’s open hostility to same-gender loving people, their opposition to women’s rights, and their anti-democratic yearnings for theocracy.

The Tea Party is an anti-scientific, anti-intellectual, fundamentalist, homophobic/heterosexist, misogynistic, xenophobic cult of hate, mistrust, and suspicion. They value their narrow understandings of religion more than protecting the rights of all citizens. They would rather suppress voter activity to maintain power than to get more people involved in the democratic process. And they seem more interested in codifying discrimination than promoting and protecting “liberty and justice for all.”

I’m not anti-Republican, not the historic Republican party that valued peace, would negotiate with Democratic politicians to serve the country, and honor safety nets put in place even if they didn’t initiate those safety nets. The party of Lincoln is honorable. Does it still exist? I best its spirit is still alive; will it be embraced and aloud to thrive again?

I might not identify with the Republican party, but I wouldn’t be afraid of that party during the times that it would win the White House or a chamber of Congress if it were no longer the sanctuary of the Religious Right and Tea Party fanatics.

We can disagree about gun control, whether or not taxes should be raised or lowered (across the board…not just raised on the working class and lowered for the super rich…that is fundamentally wrong and unfair, obviously!), and whether or not our military should be a global police force or a defense system for the homeland.

But we shouldn’t be using politics to argue about science (climate change is real, it’s time to grow up and face this challenge), religion (worship a rock or a rag doll if you want, but don’t use legislation to make everyone else follow the rules and embrace the prejudices of your rock or ragdoll religion), or to enforce discrimination (LBGT people are human and deserve equal rights – it really is time to deal with that simple fact). And we shouldn’t be using politics to turn the privileged into the super-privileged and the disadvantaged into the destitute.

I’m not anti-Republican, but I am anti-Tea Party and I am committed to resisting those who allow the Tea Party to appear mainstream. If the Tea Party is to become the face of the GOP, then I will be anti-Republican until that oppressive wing of their movement is denounced as being themselves, anti-Republican (Bachman/Palin/Akin/Ryan bear almost no resemblance to Lincoln/Eisenhower/Ford).

I have respect for the Republican party - the party that was pre-Religious Right influence and pre-Tea Party insanity. But if the GOP will allow themselves to be hijacked by the most oppressive voices of our society, then opposition to them will become a moral and civic imperative. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Let’s hope the GOP can be Grand again so that “we the people” can choose between fairly debated ideas rather than between bigots and corporatists and the only party, for better or worse, that serves as an alternative.

No comments: