In ten words or less, I think the GOP has strayed from their roots.
Let me first just delineate – with bullet points – what I do not want my government to do:
- Don’t tell me what to believe. Whether or not I believe in God (or multiple Gods, as the case may very well be) is my business. If there really is a hell and you think I’m headed there, don’t try to save me.
- Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do with my own body. Sure, it begins with abortion, but it also includes tattoos, piercings, dying my hair, and/or anything else I want to do. Provided I’m not doing anything that can harm, maim, or kill another cognitive being, let me do what I want. (And if you really want to split hairs and tell me that early fetuses are cognitive beings, well, see the first point above. That’s a whole other discussion.)
- Don’t tell me who I can and cannot love. I’m lucky. I fell in love with someone who loved me enough in return to marry me. The fact that he happens to be of the opposite sex is irrelevant. If you’re lucky enough to fall in love with someone who loves you back, go for it! Life’s too short to live in fear of recriminations in an afterlife. (Also, see the first point above.)
- Don’t marginalize me because I’m different. I may not be white or male or a billionaire, but I’m still a person entitled to the same basic rights called out in the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The points above represent a complete reversal of what the GOP’s platform used to be. Why do I say that? Let’s take a quick history lesson and review the Grand Old Party, shall we?
In my opinion, the Republican Party of today shares absolutely nothing in common with Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party. Back then, their slogan was “Free Labor, Free Land, Free Men”, and they were the champions of the Little Guys, the poor farmers who couldn’t compete with the rich plantation owners, the slaves who were treated as property instead of people. Back then, they worked hard to keep the government together and were in favor of adding federal laws that chipped away at the individual states’ rights.
They were the party that fought for the Little Guy. I totally would have voted Republican, all the way down the ballot.
After the Civil War, there was a split in the party’s ideology, where one side supported the greed and corruption that was rampant within Ulysses Grant’s presidency, and the other side demanded reforms. They’ve always supported business, but not just Big Business. In the 1890s, the GOP backed the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Interstate Commerce Commission, both designed to help small-business owners and independent farmers. Teddy Roosevelt supported laws designed to regulate business, and he promoted the Conservation movement, which Americans can thank for our National Parks.
Meanwhile, the other party remained elitist and exclusionary. Woodrow Wilson, a Southern Democrat, introduced segregation into the Federal government to appease his Southern friends. Jim Crow laws were prevalent throughout the South, and the Republican Party sought to fight these state and local efforts to discourage people, usually blacks, from voting.
The GOP was the Small Business party, and the party for disenfranchised minorities. I totally would have voted for (almost) anyone on their ticket.
Then came the Great Depression. Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Teddy’s cousin and a Democrat, secured the “New Deal” in an 2-step effort to get the country’s economy back on track. Republicans were largely on board for the first New Deal, but they criticized the second New Deal, calling it “socialist”. What came out of the second New Deal, though, were laws no one would dream of overturning today, including Social Security and the Fair Labors Standards Act.
Not long after World War II ended, blacks were challenging the notion that segregation was constitutional, and it was ultimately struck down in the Supreme Court in Brown v. The Board of Education in a case ruled unanimously the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Earl Warren, a former Republican governor and a Republican president’s appointee. Despite his decision to place Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II, Governor Warren supported the integration of Mexican-American children into white schools in California, and as Chief Justice, he later led the Supreme Court in decisions that outlawed school prayer in public schools (Engel v. Vitale) and revised the First Amendment to include a basic right to privacy (Griswold v. Connecticut).
And then there was the 1960s, ushering in a young President named John F. Kennedy and an eloquent Baptist minister named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., both talking about freedom, liberty, and equality for all. It’s quite possible the tide began to shift before the 1960s, but this was when the GOP most notably began shying away from the ideals that it had when it was formed. It was no longer the party that opposed corruption and aristocracy; it became the party that some would arguably say defined it. Nixon’s Watergate scandal was synonymous with corruption; Reagan’s economic policies favored the rich, and the Bush presidents exemplified the Political Aristocracy.
The Tea Party faction seems to have come about as a means to cancel out the accusations of corruption, but their grassroots organizations promoted efforts to make the voting process more difficult, especially the poorer, marginalized Americans. Their elected officials use the political stage as a kind of pulpit, speaking out against things they consider immoral and “against God’s will.” I have nothing against religion; I was raised Catholic. But just because I believe something doesn’t mean that everyone else needs to, also. One of the greatest tenets of our Constitution is the freedom of religion, and the Founding Fathers considered that important enough to make it the very first law of our Constitution.
And yet, the rest of the Republican Party does nothing to keep the Tea Partiers in line. Rather, they seem afraid of them.
I fear for the future of the Republican Party. There are lots of good men and women who align themselves with the GOP, and there are lots of bad people who align themselves with the Democratic Party. But the Republican Party has presented itself as an exclusionary party, like the group of snobby popular kids in school who wouldn’t invite you to a party unless you were wearing the right clothes, drove the right car, and/or could get front row tickets to any concert at a moment’s notice.
Newsflash: There were always way more kids like me than there were kids like those, and there always will be.
So, to the Grand Old Party, you’ve got two years to sit in a corner and think about what you’ve become before the next mid-term election. Unless you want to lose more seats in the Senate and lose control of the House, I seriously recommend you consider retooling your position. You may also want to muzzle some of the Tea Partiers to make sure they don’t say anything that can and will be used against your party in the future, or you could consider asking them to leave your party and create one of their own. Since they seem so intent on dialing back the clock to the 1950s, perhaps they can dial it back further to the 1860s. And I would recommend enacting laws that benefit people instead of corporations because, although corporations can donate as much money as they’d like to your campaign coffers, they can’t vote.
And there are still more people like me out there than there are corporations.