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.