Saturday, October 6, 2012

Repeal the Republicans

Repeal the Republicans

Yesterday, the country got good news. The job report offered proof that what economists and businessmen had been indicating for some time was actually true. Our economy is healing, not quickly, as it was very damaged when the financial system of the world collapsed. But healing steadily.

I found the Republican response to the news most informative. There were two different approaches. Gov. Romney claimed that good news wasn’t actually good. Most of his party claimed, without evidence, that the President had manipulated the figures.  As a lifelong Republican, I found this reaction too infuriating to endure.

A quick reminder of what faced the Democrats when the majority of American voters chose them to lead us out of the terrible crisis that the Republican leadership had created for us all. In a few short weeks, we all lost 40% of what we had worked a lifetime for. The value of our houses had dropped like a rock. The value of mutual funds we saved for our retirement plummeted.  Three quarters of a million of us were losing jobs every month. Middle class Americans were suddenly learning how to live poor.

So what did my party do? Pitch in to help repair the damage they had caused? Put suffering Americans ahead of their political ambitions? No. Time and again over the last 4 years, they have thrown us under the bus. They have looked on our misery as their political opportunity. Republican leaders decided that they could prevent economic improvement, and in our despair we would turn to them for help.

This is the most cynical, callous, anti-American plot I have seen during my long life. I am deeply ashamed that the party that Lincoln founded, and that I supported for a lifetime,  has sunk so low.  The current version of the Republican party gambled with our lives for personal power. And now, there is good evidence, incontrovertible evidence that this gamble has failed. Now we have the power to make them pay for the extra suffering they have caused to so many of us.

This election is our opportunity. We have the power to send these right wing outliers to the trash-heap of history where they belong. We can punish them for their actions and at the same time allow the party of Lincoln to rebuild.

There is a month before the election. In that time, Americans need to pledge themselves to do three things.  One, register to vote if you still can. Two, vote. Three, chose every Democrat on the ballot. A total purge of the Republicans in Congress is the only way to tell them that it isn’t only Governor Romney that we don’t like, it is their party, their policies, their scorn for our suffering that we will no longer accept. It is time we make them pay for their choices.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Other Side of the Wall

I wasn’t aware that there was a wall that divided a few Americans from the rest of us until I went to college. For the first time, I met up with people who had already passed to the dark side of this unseen wall. They had already developed a hunger for money and power. The first step was to go to the proper school where they could make a suitable marriage.  It was quite amusing to watch good looking girls pursuing sometimes very unappealing, but rich students. And the reverse was true as well.  These goings on were sources of amusement for those of us who weren’t part of the game.

This experience got me to thinking about what this kind of life would be like for those who chose to pursue wealth and power. Success in this highly competitive life choice demanded constant planning, calculation, and wariness. After all, each of them would always be surrounded by rivals. Anything that promoted their upward climb was good, any restraints on conduct were bad. 

In the upward struggle, it was difficult to have close friendships. Everyone understood that they were tools in some rival’s upward climb. To win each skirmish, truth, personal honor, trust, honesty were useless baggage.

This is the world that Mitt Romney comes from. He made his fortune by being more ruthless than his competitors. There are some really good articles on his business practices should you want to read up on the subject.  He was blessed with the good looks and slick charm that lulled victims into a false sense of security and promoted his rise to riches.  With each conquest came the thrill of victory that muted any guilt over unethical practices.

Most American voters should find these alternate rules for life, and those who practice them offensive. There are many people who have become very rich and powerful without leaving the world of ethical standards, concern for others, honesty. They would not resort to the behind-the-wall standard, “Cheat to win.” Most of us are happy with the life choices we have made. We may not be rich or powerful, but we have lived by the moral and ethical standards our religions have taught us. That is something to be proud of.

Now that Gov. Romney has too much money to spend, he has set his sights on power. Being governor wasn’t sufficient. There was a higher prize to reach for. So now he would be president.

There is one obstacle to overcome. Mitt’s experience is very foreign to the vast majority of Americans.  He has to employ all the tools of his trade to con us out of the only thing he needs us for, our votes. He strongly believes that he will succeed as he has so many times before.

If we pay attention, we can see past practices trotted out for the campaign. On the other side of the wall, information is as carefully guarded as a state secret. And he is still keeping much important information from voters. Have we seen sufficient tax return to understand what he does with his money? Has he told us clearly and in detail how he would govern?

Even more worrisome, the moral and ethical constraints most of us live by, as we have been taught by our religions, don’t exist for the folks on the other side of the wall. And they don’t exist for Gov. Romney either.  Take truth for example. We have all noticed that lies fall easily from his tongue. His smooth and confident appearance makes it hard for us to detect his lies from his truths.

Thankfully, we got to take a look at the other side of the wall in the video from his fundraiser with his friends. His contempt for those who live on this side was clearly exposed. He has no respect for those who haven’t played his game, for people hampered by ideas of honor and virtue and service. And he believes that he is so smart and so skillful that he can convince us that he is just like us. We can safely vote for him.

Last night in the debate, we saw the smooth liar in action. Little of what he had to say was true, but he believes that we will buy the lies he delivered so convincingly. He believes that he can lie and pay no price.

I don’t know about you, but when someone lies to me, I cease to believe anything he says. We all know the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

We must use our ultimate power as  voters to soundly reject this man from the other side of the wall. We must teach Gov. Romney that truth and honesty do matter very much to us.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

From One Pocket to Another - Redistributing Wealth

From One Pocket to Another - Redistributing Wealth

Wealth, the lack of it, and the shifting of it from one pocket to another seems to be quite the topic of conversation today.  It is also a subject I have thought about many times for many years.

There is one basic thing about income redistribution that everyone should understand. EVERY action of government shifts money from one pocket to another. We tend to think of taxes as the way money moves around, but it isn’t the only way government actions affect our individual assets. Every law moves money about.

Let me give you a personal example. My husband owned a small business supplying products for the American shoe industry.  We were able to live a comfortable middle class existence for many years.  In the early years of the Reagan administration, Congress passed and President Reagan signed a small bit of legislation that removed a tariff on shoes manufactured in China. With that act of government, our income disappeared as surely as it would have had a thief put his hand into our pockets.

My husband and I had worked hard, raised 6 wonderful children, given back to our church and our community. Yet, by no fault of our own, but by act of Congress, we would face the last of decade of our working lives suddenly terribly poor. Sadly, we weren’t alone. Most of the American shoe industry faded away at the same time.

Our money disappeared, but I recognized right away that it hadn’t disappeared totally, merely shifted to other pockets. The poor people in China suddenly had jobs. American importers saw their business options and their profits soar.  All Americans now had access to a wide variety of cheaper shoes. They could spend the money they saved on products of other companies.

While I was shivering in my cold house, I had to face the fact that the government action that was so devastating to us might actually have produced more benefit than loss. I was willing to accept that. But I also thought that the government had an obligation to notice that what they had done was very painful for us and many other long term workers in the American shoe industry. Fortunately for many workers there was unemployment to help ease a transition to other work, a government helping hand. Since my husband owned his own small business which had failed, he wasn’t entitled to such assistance. We were almost entirely on our own.

Still, the government funded other small projects, one of which actually did help us. It subsidized a program that gave money to small private companies to provide services to homebound senior citizens. So I was able to get a job cleaning homes and apartments for the needy elderly in my area. It was the only job I could get quickly, a government supported job, and I was grateful to have it.  But I didn’t make enough to restore us to the middle class.

So what did I learn from this painful experience? Government actions always transfer money from one pocket to another, they always have, and they always will. This principle applies as well to general legislation as it does to tax laws.

The key issue isn’t that government does this. Nothing we do can affect this reality. The key issue is who or what any law benefits and whether or not government actions help more citizens than they harm.  Surely, as a country, we should have some sympathy, and perhaps a helping hand for those the government decided to damage. 

For decades, government has been ignoring this vital principle in most of their actions. Leaders have listened to the interests of the few who are rich and powerful and ignored their obligations to the majority of Americans who are neither rich nor powerful.

This November, we can actually make  government listen to us. We must vote in overwhelming numbers, and we must vote only for candidates who understand their obligations to those without wealth or power. We must ensure that when government reaches into our pockets, they act only for the greater good.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Horrid Burden of Hate

The Horrid Burden of Hate

This week we have all witnessed hate exploding into violent action.  We have seen clenched fists, twisted faces, and rioting mobs. We have mourned its victims.

I learned about hate many years ago. As a child, I lived in a place where racial hate was sanctioned by government actions and by the silence of religious people who hated while they taught that hate was a sin. People could be hated, not because of their anger or their cruelty but because the essence of their beings came wrapped in a dark package.

During these early years, I only encountered black people on sidewalks and in busses, brief encounters that didn’t give time for hate to fester.  Besides, I knew that hate was a sin. But I was very much afraid of them, at least until I actually came to know one of them. One morning, I was shocked to find a young black woman in my house. Mary had come to clean, and would return every week from then on. Once I got over my fear, I found that Mary was kind, and patient with me. She smiled a lot as she worked away during our hot Maryland summers. No matter how hard she was working, she always had time to answer questions from this pesky child. She banished my fears, and I came to love her. As I could never hate Mary, I could never hate her sisters and brothers because they too were black.

But when I was starting seventh grade in the University Park School, I did learn to hate. For the first time in my life, I learned what a powerful feeling hate provoked in me.  That year a new student named Herbert arrived in my school, a tall dark haired boy, a smart student, but there was something odd about his manner. He smiled a lot, but there was no humor in him. He preferred to annoy the girls at recess than to play baseball with the boys. He projected a sense of superiority and entitlement.

All of this was annoying, but no more. Irritation began to grow into a much more intense and dangerous feeling the minute Miss Burdett moved Herbert to the seat behind me. Immediately, the harassment began. First it was nasty and scornful comments whispered in my ear. Then the attacks became physical. Herbert delighted in pulling my braids so hard that my head would be yanked violently in an unexpected direction and my scalp would hurt. I didn’t dare report this to Miss Burdett as it was clear to all of us that she didn’t want to hear anything bad about Herbert.

I hated Herbert. I recognized this new feeling for what it was, but I didn’t know how to deal with this overwhelming new emotion. It was as strong in me as love. It came with me wherever I went. It even brought me pleasure. I enjoyed thinking of all the bad things I would do to Herbert or accidents that would make him suffer.

For a while, hate seemed like fun, a way to exact revenge. But slowly I realized that the other pleasures of my life, my puzzles, my books, my piano, could be ruined by a passing thought of Herbert or something that reminded me of the sound of his voice, or a word he frequently used. Finally, I realized that my hate for Herbert had given him control over my life, my joys. Hate was becoming a horrid burden. The only way I could get my life back was to give up my hate. I knew that banishing hate would take hard work, that it would require me to use my brain to subdue this emotion. But if I succeeded I would be free of Herbert’s power. This would be my ultimate victory.

This experience took place may autumns ago. But, as you can see, I have never forgotten Herbert.  How could I forget the critical lesson that I learned from the time we spent together. I hated Herbert for his cruelty and meanness. Others in our class hated Herbert not for his skin color but for his religion, the same sort of hatred that has been on display this week. 

But hatred for skin color is still on display as well. We have but to look at the hatred directed toward our black president. Haters now are more subtle than they were during my childhood. Now they excuse their hatred on the grounds that it isn’t based on his race, but on what is inside him, on what is the character of his heart. He is a cheater who lied his way to power; he is a traitor who loves and supports our enemies; he is a weak and stupid leader for these hard times.

Most Americans know that this portrait of President Obama is a fictitious invention, designed to give the gullible permission to hate him. But lying about President Obama is a useful tactic. By rousing such an intense emotion, people can to motivated to act from passion rather than careful thought. The people of our country can be divided into hostile groups. Then, leaders lacking an ethical or moral core can rise to positions of power.

Now is the time for all of us to cast aside the horrid hate, be it religious or racial, that is flowing across our country. I know it is possible to push hate away. I learned that in elementary school when I met Herbert. I know all of you who carry the burden of hate can do so as well. We can do nothing else that will be more personally liberating or beneficial for our country.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Beloved Politician

A Beloved Politician

I have been thinking a lot about John Martin today. This day marks the passage of 200 years since he took his first breaths in a small Irish cottage in the townland of Loughorne in County Down. John was the much desired heir of a prosperous Presbyterian family.

While this might be interesting information for those of us who share parts of his family tree, this anniversary would seem to be of little interest to the general public. But the terrible years through which he lived and how he conducted himself provide clear lessons for us in our painful times.

Let me explain how he deserved the title of “Beloved Politician” that I have given him as well as the title by which he was known during his life, “Honest John Martin.”  If it hadn’t been for the Irish Famine that devastated Ireland when he was a young man, he would have remained a private small landowner, much loved and admired by his friends, neighbors and tenants for his kindness and generosity. When he saw his nation’s need, he gave up all he cherished to help.

John was a man of strong principles that governed his life, principles that are useful to remember today.

He believed in doing the right thing, not just when doing so was easy, but especially when doing so was very hard, when the price for doing so very high. Ireland was ruled by the English Parliament, and the laws to deal with the Famine were passed in London with little influence from the Irish. First John protested, then John joined those who were actively resisting British laws. The English government considered him a great threat, had him arrested and charged with treason. He was convicted in a rigged trial and sent off to exile in Tasmania.  This injustice did not make him bitter. He knew he had done his best to do the right thing for his country. He only regretted that he hadn’t succeeded.

John believed in the obligations of citizenship. He was first a landlord with responsibilities to the tenants who worked his farm. He would not allow them to starve during the Famine though paying for their food forced him to mortgage his land, reducing him from financial comfort to financial distress the rest of his life. 

For him, citizenship meant more than a call to serve his friends, and neighbors. It was an obligation to country as well, to serve his country, not fight for power. There came a time late in his life when he was the most powerful and most respected man in Ireland. For a few months, he enjoyed the acclamation of his countrymen. But when others stepped forward, he stepped back. But he didn’t step away. He continued to explain the Irish point of view in the English Parliament of which he was then a member.

Finally, John believed in the obligation to lead a moral and ethical life. No one could ever provide a better example. Like many others, he was an active member of his Presbyterian church, but he always went the extra mile. When the church needed land to build a manse for their minister, John gave them the land. He followed his religion’s call to serve the needy, using his medical training to provide free medical care for the poor.

This belief guided his political career as well. He would never participate in any project that wasn’t ethical. So people recognized that whatever project John Martin participated in was a worthy one. He never hated his opponents, even those who had attacked and belittled him. When he ran for a seat in Parliament, elections were bought by the powerful. John required his supporters to run a totally honest election, no bribery, no intimidation of voters, no slandering of his opponent. His victory shocked England, Ireland and America.

I often think about the leaders of today, and how much better we would all be if they followed John Martin’s pathway, leaders who did the right thing, leaders who believed in the obligations of citizenship, and who always strove to lead moral and ethical lives.

So Happy Birthday John. How I wish I could have spent an hour in your presence. How I wish that I could have given you just one hug. On this special day, as we remember you, I make you a promise. Those who so admire you will never allow you and your exemplary life to be forgotten.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Jobs, the Romney Plan

Romney has promised to create millions of good jobs if he is elected. Wonderful news.

But how will he do that? If creating jobs were that easy, surely the Democrats would have created them themselves.

From the little information that Romney has provided, the Romney plan is the son of the Bush plan, and the grandson of the Reagan plan. It has three parts, reduce taxes on the rich “job creators”, free them from intrusive regulations, and increase military spending. Oh, and they will cut away government programs to end the budget deficit.

Reagan followed this same plan. There weren’t millions of new jobs then. Even though he signed tax increase legislation, which no Republican would do now, the national debt increased dramatically.

Twenty years later, George Bush was elected president on the same platform. And he came through as promised. He gave huge tax reductions to the “job creators.” He let them roam unfettered in their economic world. And he fought two wars, one without cause. So military spending went up hugely.  And so did the deficit.

So now Romney is promising to return to the good old days of Reagan and Bush. The problem he has to face is that we know how these plans turned out. There weren’t millions of new jobs, only trillions of dollars of new debt and a huge financial crisis. It turns out that the “job creators” weren’t careful managers of any finances but their own.

There is one different element this time. Romney and the GOP now promise they are very concerned about the debt they created. Now they really promise to carry out their three economic ideas and reduce the budget deficit at the same time.  If they actually carry out their plans, the cuts they would have to make to just dent the deficit would be disastrous for most of us. The last time this plan was implemented in 2001, we were in a very different place with a balanced budget and many years of surplus revenue awaiting. Now with Americans still suffering from the huge financial loses we experienced in the great financial collapse, this might not be a good time for a third try.

You don’t have to take my word about the dangers and pitfalls of the Romney plan. We have but to look to Europe to see how the old plan works in our new situation. Countries there piloted the GOP austerity plans Not surprisingly, jobs have decreased and the economic options have shrunk. Unemployment has increased to double digits.  Even worse, their economies are again in recession.

Copying Europe as the Romney job plan intends to do would produce similar results here. More government jobs would be cut to reduce government red ink. Services that provide a lifeline for the newly unemployed teachers, police, food inspectors, highway workers would have to be cut away to make up for reduced federal revenue and reduced federal spending.

Those people made richer by the Romney plan are already wealthy. They could already be investing in new businesses that would create jobs. But they recognize that there are too few middle class customers to make new businesses a wise investment. The Romney plan would reduce the number of middle class jobs, and so reduce the pool of available customers.  

Despite conflicting evidence, the Romney plan expects the private sector to create jobs, so it will drastically reduce the role that government plays in job creation or in helping those already suffering. We would be left to sink or swim as we are. This hands off approach would actually increase unemployment almost immediately and would push a return to prosperity many years into the future.

This is the Republican plan, the Romney plan. It sounds to me rather like standing about, waiting for a forest fire to burn itself out.

Now the Democratic Convention is getting underway. I’m most interested to see what their job program for the next four years will look like.

We’ll talk again after the last gavel falls in the Democratic convention.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Republican National Convention

Republican National Convention

Soon after I accepted the reality that I would never be a movie actress, famous or otherwise, I turned to a new ambition that seemed slightly more realistic. I wanted to attend a Republican National Convention.

Back in those days, political conventions were very exciting events, something to look forward to every four years. Granted, they weren’t very democratic affairs. There was a great deal of deal making that took place in unseen quiet rooms. But they were very exciting to listen to and later watch, because we didn’t know how they would turn out.

I tried to organize my days to max out my time hunched by the radio, or later on peering into the tiny black and white TV screen in my living room. The speeches from people I admired were always interesting, they gave me a sense of what new ideas the Republicans had come up with.

All of these preliminary steps led up to the call of the role of the state delegations. This was truly time to bite the nails. I always tried to keep track of the votes as each state chairman gave them, but I usually fell behind along the way.  Pundit predictions had a way of falling apart as the actual voting took place as well.

Most often, there was no winner on the first round of voting. A recess would take place for more negotiating. The minutes before the next roll call would seem endless The Philadelphia convention in 1940 was the first one I can remember. There were 6 dramatic rounds of balloting before Wendell Willkie was nominated. This was high drama indeed. My ambition to attend one day was alive and well.

But conventions of both parties are very different today. They are mainly glitzy infomericals with little substance. Rich and powerful men, at least mostly men, meet with candidates for office in lavish private gatherings that most delegates aren’t invited to attend.

My desire to attend has long faded into oblivion. So I intend to find something else more important to do than watch the 3 hours that will be televised. I have some books I could read, or packing dishes for the move I will soon make. Both will be more interesting than the convention.

But I suggest a challenge for voters who do watch the Republican Convention or the Democratic Convention that will follow. It is a sort of test. When the last balloon has been captured or popped, see if you can remember even 3 policies important to you that either party convention promised voters, concrete actions we will get if we vote their way.

Remember, promising millions of jobs, uniting our country, or creating a grand future America doesn’t count.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Death of a Proud Tradition

The Death of a Proud Tradition

I’m just back to my computer after a trip to Ireland. While I was there, I chatted with a number of friends and family members. All of them were most interested in our election and hungered for assurance that Romney would not win. They have experienced with great pain the contractionary  policies the Republicans are planning to enact in America. If we copy Europe, we will make any kind of recovery here and there more difficult.

The down side of pleasant weeks in Ireland is a long, dull airplane trip home. On the plus side of hours spent crunched into a small space and uncomfortable seat, I had a lot of time for contemplation. Most of that thinking was centered on a puzzling and distressing change that came after the 2008 election. Let me share with you my thinking as it formed up by the time my Aer Lingus flight began its approach to Boston.

I have lived through a number of shattering episodes of national crisis. The attack on our country on 9/11 is just one example.  We have always come together as one nation, as a united people at such dire times. No matter which party controlled the government in Washington, the opposition party and its supporters always joined with the majority to face the problems with the strength of a unified country.

When the election took place in November 2008, our country was facing one of the worst challenges of my lifetime. Our financial system was in collapse. Hundreds of thousands of middle class workers were suddenly losing their jobs every month. Families, used to a life style where a house, a vacation, education for their children were not impossible achievements, were discovering these goals had become wild fantasies. Too many of them had lost their homes and began living in their cars. Children went to bed hungry. If ever our tradition of unity was needed, this was clearly the time.

But this time was different. This time the Republicans decided that something was more important than uniting to help our struggling citizens and strengthening our country. They would ignore their absolute ethical obligation to help repair the economic disaster their policies had created.  The radical right Republicans had such a hunger for power that our suffering people and endangered country did not matter.

Tossing aside this critical tradition seemed of no importance to many members of this party. They were deeply shocked that the majority of American people would ever vote to elect a black man with a foreign sounding name President of the United States. Disbelief was followed quickly by fury. It was totally unacceptable to them that a black family should occupy the White House. So President Obama must fail no matter the cost to our country. These racists were new Republicans, refugees from the segregationist Democrats of my childhood.

At this critical moment, I expected Republican leaders would come forward to help these new members overcome their historic intolerance. Instead, the leaders of the Republican party fell silent, and then fell in line. There would be no leaders in the party to bring these new outliers of the party back to reality.

These words are painful for me to write of the party I have always supported. But the intense efforts of Congress to defeat every action of the President, no matter the extent of the suffering of so many of our fellow citizens, are well documented. They opposed measures they had always supported, great ideas that came from an earlier version of their own party. All Lincoln Republicans must face reality.

Now we are facing the most critical election of my lifetime.  The Republicans are running on one issue, that the President has failed.  They bleat endlessly about the failure of the President’s policies, policies that they made sure would never be enacted. They tell us little about what they would do if the voters fall for this line. They recognize that if voters knew what they planned, they would lose the election. So all we know is that they will cut taxes on the rich, free the powerful from regulations, and increase spending for defense. This was the platform they ran on in 1980 and enacted when they gained power. These were the years when our national debt began to get out of hand.

These ideas didn’t work any better in the first decade of this new century. Republicans enacted tax cuts, reduced regulations, increased military spending as they promised. But they turned a budget surplus into a huge deficit, and vastly increased the national debt in the process. And worst of all, their policies produced our terrible financial crisis. Now they are trying to win on the notion that this time their principles will produce millions of jobs and prosperity for all.

These are the actions of a Party not fit to lead in good times, never mind ones that are so dangerous.  These people truly believe that government is the enemy, so shrinking its ability to act on our behalf is a good thing. They want to ruin the government that the efforts of millions of Americans over many centuries have created.

In the last two years since the radical Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives, we have gotten a clear picture of what our future would be like if they win control in Washington in November. By violating all the norms of good governing, they have frozen government in place. They have discovered that a gridlocked government is almost as useful as one they actually run. Compromise is the life-blood of a democracy. Yet, the radical right Republicans view compromise as an unproductive weakness. No government can function when either party believes this extreme idea.

This election, voters must reunite to send a clear message to this new radical party, “We reject you and your ruinous plans. We need a functioning government that will act for the middle class, not one that serves only the rich and powerful.”

To achieve this, we must vote in historic numbers, and we must vote to remove these Republicans from office. The next election may be too late.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Conspiracy of Disloyalty

I’ve been doing research in our Town Hall for the past few months on a crucial period in our local history. A great struggle was taking place over how our town should be governed. Citizens, and family members often took opposite sides of the issue. And the town was awash in anger.

This last week, I reached decision time when the people of Ipswich were choosing between two different forms of government.  As I was working through a large notebook of primary source information, I found this quote.

“In this great country of ours, one of the foundations stones of our government is the belief that we are governed by the will of the majority. . . Yet our administration for the greater part of that time (the last 3 years) has been continually and constantly attacked by a conspiracy of disloyalty to our laws and to our government.”

“The opposition has shown little understanding of the problems of modern government, little regard for truthlessness, and an overwhelming ambition to possess political power. They have shown a willingness to distort and to slander to achieve their goals. They have offered us nothing constructive. They have talked about democracy and have given us examples of the most irresponsible kind of democracy. They offer us nothing- except to go back to what we have already repudiated. “

I was stunned by the simple power of these words and how perfectly they applied to our situation today. I was deeply grieved that they were describing the current actions of the Republican Party I had supported for so many years. Surprisingly, these words were written 58 years ago.

When the Republican party lost the election in 2008, the country was facing a terrible financial crisis. Banks had gambled away most of their money. The plunge in property values had cost most American middle class families 40% of their net worth. Hundreds of thousands of people were losing their jobs every month. Surely this was the time to honor our national tradition to unite for the good of our people and our country. Surely this was a time to honor our democratic foundations and respect the choice of the American people. Following this path was the absolute obligation of  Republican leaders.

I have had some experience with the concept of unity in time of crisis. I can still remember one special Sunday afternoon though it was many years ago. I was listening to a Redskins football  game on the radio. Suddenly, I could hear in the background an announcement that crew members of a certain ship should report to their ship at once.  This first announcement was followed by a second and then another and another. Something big was clearly going on, but no one knew just what that could be. This was well before instant news, so  some hours passed before we got the explanation. Our country had been attacked at Pearl Harbor by Japanese airplanes. Many ships had been sunk and many people killed. We all knew that we were now at war.  The idea of war was very terrifying to a timid child like myself.

The country rallied together. Young men flocked to enlist. Businesses worked night and day to change over to war production. For the first time in my life, I found that I was useful, that I had a significant part to play in achieving victory. I helped collect scarce materials like tin cans and used rubber tires. I did extra chores around the house, so I could buy my own War Bonds. The children in my school raised enough money to pay for a jeep. And one wonderful afternoon, a jeep arrived at our school, and we proudly rode around our playground in it. 
When Civil Defense was organized, I was given the job of airplane spotter. I had to memorize the outlines of the German planes so I could report kind, number and directions of German planes making the dreaded attack on Washington. During air raid drills, I sat at an upstairs window with a cool pair of binoculars scanning the dark sky. Surprisingly, having important responsibilities made me much less timid. Nothing builds self confidence quicker than being useful.

Because the people of our country had united to face the crisis, we were confident that we would prevail in the end, no matter how much we had to sacrifice along the way. And so together, we got to celebrate that wonderful moment when our country achieved victory. By that time, I was many miles from Washington, and now in high school. My friends and I squeezed into a car and drove a few miles to the nearest large town to participate in the celebration. Thousands of joyous people shouted and sang, glorying in what we had achieved together as a nation. It was the experience of a lifetime.

Fast forward to 2008. Instead of joining in a united effort to overcome the financial crisis and to support the government that the American people had chosen, the leaders of the GOP took the path of division and confrontation. As we now know, on the night President Obama was inaugurated, my party entered into a “conspiracy of disloyalty.” They have not wavered from that path since. They have divided our country into angry segments. They have done everything they could to prevent the democratically elected government from governing in time of crisis.  They have deprived us of the empowering effects of working together for the benefit of the country. They have put our country in a very different place today than we would have been had  they put country ahead of ideology. They failed to fulfill their democratic obligations.  

We cannot honor their failures with political power.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

This Must Be a Secret

An intense interest in leadership, power and politics has been the hobby of my lifetime. So as usual, I am following the campaign of 2012 closely This election cycle there seem to be an extra supply of young, attractive and apparently wise pundits of all political persuasions. They seem to feel it their duty to interpret the meaning of the unfolding election drama for those of us too dull or too indifferent to figure out what is going on for ourselves.

So how come they haven’t figured out what this election is really all about? Or perhaps they are just keeping it a secret?

No matter. I’m about to send the secret flying about the internet.

We are endlessly told that this election is a great battle between the Democratic President Obama and challenger Republican Governor Romney.  That isn’t really true.  We are actually watching a struggle for survival within the Republican party. The GOP now contains two  factions, the remnants of the Lincoln Republicans, and the Radical Right Republicans  who view traditional Republicans as RINOs, Republicans In Name Only.  Many Lincoln Republicans have fled the party, to become Independents, the route I have taken, or moderate Democrats, the path that political leaders tend to follow.  President Obama, though listed as a Democrat, actually governs as if he were a Lincoln Republican. So, in a way, voters will get to chose one of two Republicans, as the Radical Right Republicans have chosen Governor Romney to be their candidate. With their votes in November, Americans will take sides in the Republican family feud. And decide whether or not the Republican Party will continue to exist as one of our major political parties.

Let me first make my case that President Obama, despite his party label, governs as a Lincoln Republican. If people paid attention during the campaign of 2008, they would have noticed that Barack Obama held centrist positions. He didn’t keep them secret. It was also clear that he held Lincoln’s view of the role of government, views that President Lincoln made clear at the dedication of the Civil War Cemetery in Gettysburg. “We highly resolve . . . that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not parish from the earth.”

So according to Lincoln, government has an important role in helping our citizens, and that having government on our side makes us more free.  Clearly, this is what President Obama believes is the proper role for government.

I’ll offer one example to start. President Theodore Roosevelt, a Lincoln Republican, believed that having access to health care was a right that came with our citizenship. Yet for over a century, this idea remained a remote dream. Only people with jobs offering health care as an attractive benefit, or those wealthy enough to buy policies for their families had health care. Finally, the government created a new form of health insurance for our retired population when they passed Medicare.  Later, Medicaid provided help for our poorest citizens.

President Obama agreed with President Roosevelt that health care was a right of citizenship. He campaigned on that issue, and with his election, he intended to fight for legislation that would ensure that everyone had access to health care. But instead of having government take the responsibility for insuring health as most of the Democrats wanted, President Obama supported the Lincoln Republican form of health care, requiring improved coverage and access, but letting private insurance companies supply it and reap the benefit from millions of new customers. The government would not run hospitals or insurance companies.

Democrats grumbled at the President; the Radical Right Republican opposed the legislation with every procedural trick they could find.  Miraculously, after a long and protracted battle, the bill passed. President Obama signed the Affordable Health Care Bill into law, a full century after President Roosevelt first proposed it. Congress had put into law the basic idea that access to health care was a right of citizenship.

So everyone was happy, right?

Not likely. Liberal Democrats weren’t happy. Many wanted the government to run health care. And the RRR were horrified. They don’t believe that Americans have a basic right to health care. And one of the distressing characteristics of the Radical Right Republicans is that their ideology trumps anything else. That being the case, there is no lie they won’t tell to destroy anything counter to their dogmatic fantasies. And so the Affordable Care Act became “Obamacare,” a law of “death panels,” and lost jobs.

So, now we come to the current election. Sorry, Democrats, you have a choice of voting for a Lincoln Republican or Radical Right Republican for President. Or you can nurse your grievances and stay home and by so doing ensure that our government will be controlled in all its branches by the Radical Right Republicans whose only goal is to ensure that government is of no help to those who aren’t rich.  Besides there are many liberal Democrats running for Congress who could really use your support. Sitting out this election is of no help to them. The idea of clearing  the Radical Right Republicans out of power should be reason enough for voting this time. That would restore power in the party to the Lincoln Republicans who know how to use it for the good of the country.

Let me just lay out for voters, a bit of the ideology of the Radical Right Republicans which they hunger to enact into law, if we should elect Governor Romney and allow his Radical Right Republican supporters to control the House and the Senate. We have but to look at Republican controlled states to see the results.

*Government is our enemy. It must be reduced in size until it is insignificant.

*The Constitution must be altered to ensure our beliefs become permanent.

*Our rich and powerful supporters must be liberated from taxes and regulations that reduce their freedom.

*None of us have any obligations to any other citizen, not the poor, not the sick, not the disabled.

This new concept of government would overturn the work of generations of patriotic men and women. In this year, we are called to put our country first, as many other patriots have done throughout our history. By our votes in November, we must send the Radical Right Republicans and their wild and dangerous notions to the footnotes of history where they belong.

Get Involved, Investigate the Issues, Vote.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Family Tradtion

There were times, years ago, when I attended political meetings and stood in crowds holding political signs. But I’m too old to do that any longer. But that doesn’t mean that I am excused from participating in the most important election in my long life. I can still type away at my computer, and share what I have learned about government, and the responsibilities of citizenship with others. Hopefully, a few of you in the outer world will find what I write worth spending a few minutes reading from time to time.

So a bit of a bio by way of introducing myself.  All my ancestors came from Ireland, one at a time or in small family groups, beginning before America was America, and ending a century and a half later. These immigrants have been Republicans since Abraham Lincoln founded the party in 1856.

My great grandfather Michael Harshaw was the first in the family to cast a ballot for a GOP candidate. When the party was created, Michael was  a Presbyterian minister in southern Illinois. This was a dangerous place, as many advocates of slavery lived there though it was supposed to be a free state. Some of these men formed a vigilante group, The Knights of the Golden Circle, and rode about in the night attempting to frighten other citizens into turning in escaping slaves. 

Michael was not easily intimidated and continued to run a station on the Underground Railroad.  However, at the time of the first election with Republican candidates on the ballot, the Knights added a new threat. They issued a decree that anyone voting for a Republican would be severely dealt with.

The people of Cutler IL voted in the small local schoolhouse, a place easy for the Knights to control. On election day, they surrounded the school with their members.  At that time, Michael was a tall, strong, red-haired man. He had always done hard manual labor from the peat bogs of Ireland, to the Erie Canal in New York, to the granite quarries of Pittsburg. Though he had become a minister, he still had to run a farm to supply his own food. On voting day, Michael rode his horse to the schoolhouse and found it surrounded by hostile Knights. Michael dismounted, tied his horse to a tree and approached the apparent leader.

With a bit of Irish lilt still remaining in his speech, he addressed the mob. “I am a citizen, and I intend to vote as I wish. It will go poorly with anyone who tries to stop me.”

The Knights recognized their problem and gave way as Michael strode toward the schoolhouse. So Michael became the first person to cast a ballot for the Republican party in that part of Illinois.

The Harshaws weren’t my only link to the Republican Party. My mother’s father, Stewart Gamble, grew up in County Cavan before emigrating to the United States and settling in Minneapolis MN in 1881. There he established a successful business, and quickly joined the Republican Party. The party held its convention in Minneapolis in 1892. I presume Stewart was there, but have no proof.

Stewart did attend two Republican Conventions, one in St. Louis in 1896, where he was an official doorkeeper, and one in Chicago in 1904 where he was an alternate delegate pledged to President Roosevelt. At this time, the Republicans supported such things as women’s rights, meaning the right to vote, and equal pay for women and men.

President Roosevelt added such issues as conservation, and increased power for presidents. He made great use of Presidential Orders. He believed in “the vital importance of the modern regulatory state.”

So it seemed to me part of my DNA that all members of the family were strong supporters of the party down through the succeeding generations.  My parents lived in Maryland, a short distance from Washington DC. Every election day, my father and mother would go to our local school to supervise the voting for the local Republican party. So not surprisingly, I was very proud to cast my first ballot for the Republican candidate for President, General Dwight Eisenhower. I stood for hours along Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington to watch him drive by with President Truman on the way to his inauguration. It was a proud moment in my life.

Today, the Republican Party is controlled by a group of Radical Right Republicans whose view of government has disavowed the ideas of Lincoln and the others who built the party. None of my ancestors would be welcome in this fringe party today. I don’t feel welcome either.  Something is terribly wrong with that.

I firmly believe that the Republican Party of Lincoln is worth saving. I hope this blog will help restore the party, so that we return to the days when two strong political parties competed by presenting good ideas, openly and honestly, and trusted the voters to choose wisely.

This is my plea to citizens this year. Get Involved. Investigate the issues. Vote.