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OP-ED | Not My Father’s GOP

by | Jun 26, 2015 8:00am () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Analysis, Congress, Opinion

Since my mother passed away suddenly earlier this year, just 16 months after Dad, my siblings and I have been dealing with the painful process of clearing out her apartment for sale. Mom was both a packrat and the keeper of family history, so there is much to sort through — with a wealth of memories and emotions encountered in the process.

In 1979, my parents hosted a fundraiser to raise money for the presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush. I just found this thank you note from the late Malcolm “Mac” Baldrige, who was later appointed as Secretary of Commerce by President Reagan. I also found my father’s Republican Presidential Task Force pin, which I gave to my son, a political science major and avid observer of world affairs, to wear “ironically” because he often asks me how I could have ever been a Republican.

“This isn’t my father’s Republican Party,” I tell him.

“Do you think Grandpa would still be a Republican?” he’s asked me more than once.

Even before Dad died, I wondered. We lost my father to Alzheimer’s, and thus were robbed of the intense political discussions, and sometimes vehement arguments, which helped form the woman I am today.

How would my father have reacted to hearing Lindsey Graham say, in the wake of the racially motivated shootings in Charleston, that the confederate flag “works” in South Carolina, or that he’s only seen this kind of hatred “in the Middle East.” One is forced to wonder if Sen. Graham wanders around in dark glasses and earplugs when he isn’t traveling to the Middle East.

As if that weren’t enough, what about Rick Perry saying that the shooting was an “accident” or Rick Santorum calling it “an attack on religious liberty”?

I wonder what Dad would have made of Rand Paul telling the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference that the shooting of people studying the bible in a church was due to “people not understanding where salvation comes from.”

Would Dad have struggled as I do with the hypocrisy of Sen. Ted Cruz, who makes the rounds of Orthodox synagogues proclaiming his undying support for Israel, while at the same time accepting campaign contributions from an noted racist and anti-Semite, Earl Holt III, of the Council of Concerned Citizens. (See also, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Senators Jeff Flake, Rob Portman, and Steve King, who have also taken Holt’s contributions).

My father was a reader and thinker — a man of action, while at the same time an intellectual. I cannot help but think he would have been horrified by the party’s embrace of anti-intellectualism. I wish I could ask Dad what he thinks about Bobby Jindal, the guy who, after the GOP’s 2012 electoral defeat, rightly called for the Republicans to “stop being the stupid party.” I agreed with the Bobby Jindal who said, “It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments — enough of that . . . We’ve had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters.”

But in 2008, this same Bobby Jindal, a Rhodes Scholar and Ivy League pre-med, signed into law a science education policy written by the Louisiana Family Forum, in consultation with the Discovery Institute, a pro-intelligent-design think tank. When questioned on this at CPAC in 2014, Jindal used a familiar dodge: “I’m not an evolutionary biologist.” Then how about you leave evolutionary biology education to the biologists, and stop playing politics with the education of American children?

I’ve been talking to a fellow disillusioned-with-the-GOP friend, John Ford, who was raised in New York City as a Rockefeller Republican. He describes the kind of Republicanism of our fathers thusly:

“What that sort of Republicanism meant was a combination of self-reliance, a pro-business, pro-growth philosophy, the unquestioned assumption that everyone could share in the prosperity of the greatest nation on earth, and belief in a strong America, with the understanding that democracy carries with it a moral responsibility to help those who are, whether temporarily or permanently, unable to help themselves. Law and order, yes, but in the context of creating and maintaining dignity for people of all races and beliefs. Personally, I believe that government should be a model of efficiency (where perhaps it can take lessons from certain private industries), assist everyone who needs a helping hand, and perhaps more importantly, subsidize nobody who doesn’t. It should pay its own way during the good times, and spend what it needs to in order to help maintain a basic standard of living in the bad. Government is absolutely the answer to some problems, but by no means all of them.”

I started my political life as a Republican, became a Democrat, and am now unaffiliated. In the current polarized political environment, it’s hard to know where people like John and I can go. When John explained to a conservative friend that he is a small government liberal, it didn’t go well.

“The fact that he said that there could be no such thing was a sad pointer to so much of what is wrong with the political discourse in the country today. When did it become mandatory that a lean, efficient government had to go hand in hand with such terrible smallness of spirit? If it made Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and Rocky wonder why they’d bothered, I’d understand, But a huge part of their greatness, in why we can hold them in such tremendous respect, lies in that they wouldn’t wonder for a second, because they were Republicans who stood for what was right — and not just on the right — whatever the cost. Where is that today?”

Good question, John. I so wish I could talk to Dad about it.

Sarah Darer Littman is an award-winning columnist and novelist of books for teens. A former securities analyst, she’s now an adjunct in the MFA program at WCSU, and enjoys helping young people discover the power of finding their voice as an instructor at the Writopia Lab.

DISCLAIMER: The views, opinions, positions, or strategies expressed by the author are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or positions of CTNewsJunkie.com.

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(5) Archived Comments

posted by: miketcha | June 26, 2015  12:18pm

Interesting that Susan Bigelow and you submit stories hoping for a better republican party in CT. Can’t argue with that dream. Just a couple of nit-piks. First, both parties are pro-business, and businesses have quite successfully taken control of our national politics. The difference between the parties is minor. Second, there is scant evidence that Republicans are more fiscally conservative than democrats, especially reviewing the state of our nations economy by presidential terms. Both parties have failed to adequately tax and spend that revenue on rebuilding our infrastructure. Third, the fantasy that a government should be managed like a business, is just that, they are not the same. Also, where is the proof that running a state government like a business is a successful model, certainly not in Kansas or Wisconsin. Finally, the pro-growth model has limitations and ultimately is unsustainable. That thinking has lead to suburban sprawl and all of its attendant woes.

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | June 28, 2015  8:45am

I agree with you that thinking a “businessman” is always a good politician is flawed - particularly if that businessman is a CEO. Unfortunately we seem to value qualities in business - and politics - that aren’t consistent with ethics, treating people with respect, valuing diverse opinions. And so the GOP ends up with Trump as candidate. And now they are scared by how well is doing in the polls. You reap what you sow, Republicans.

posted by: SocialButterfly | June 28, 2015  5:50pm

The GOP may have changed but so have the times and people. However in weighing the scale against our present Socialist-Action Democrats I find that newer Republicans as even those in the Tea Party more acceptable to save us from the Democratic-Party Obama-rule that is sinking America. What Independent candidate would you consider voting for Sarah?

posted by: Sarah Darer Littman | June 29, 2015  12:00pm

“The GOP may have changed but so have the times and people.”

I’ll say, and not for the better. My father brought me up to respect the office of the POTUS, even if you don’t agree with the man in it. I totally disagreed with many of Bush’s policies, and felt like he was acting in an unconstitutional manner (which, as it turned out, he was) but you never, EVER, heard me referring to him getting a bullet in his head. I wouldn’t dream of saying such a thing, because as vehemently as I disagreed with his policies (and yes, I did, and yes, he was acting in an unconstitutional manner!) he was still the president of my country.  Yet current GOP officials are posting comments to that effect on Facebook without recrimination from the party. About the president of the country my father served, both in the Army and in other, equally dangerous ways, with no recriminations from the party my father served in public office. It is a disgrace and it makes me sick and ashamed. And these are the people who claim to be “conservatives”. They aren’t “conservative”. They are radicals. *I* am more conservative than them, because I respect the laws of this country and the office of the President, no matter who is in it, not just if it is a certain party.

posted by: Norm DaPlume | June 30, 2015  11:03am

Although I agree with the sentiment of the Op/Ed Headline I believe that the true problem with Government/Politics is captured in a hubris that some seem to have of “I’m right and they’re wrong” and a general polarization of BOTH political parties.

Ironically this Op/Ed seems to assert that views of the Republicans cited are “wrong.”

While I disagree with most (all?) of the GOP views cited in this commentary, I don’t believe the opinions of others are right or wrong – they are simply their opinions, and as an advocate for a GOP “big tent” I feel I must still be as welcoming to those with differing opinions as I would like them to be of my own views.

Ultimately the voters get to decide whether these politicians and their policies will have a chance to continue in office. If so called “northern” opinions aren’t reflected by the voters in the south on issues such as Intelligent Design, so be it (such that those religious or moral opinions of a “rule by majority” doesn’t infringe on the rights of minorities.)

The GOP also does not have a monopoly on hypocrisy in political fundraising.  There is no shortage of examples of BOTH parties saying one thing, doing another, and accepting money from whoever seeks to use campaign funds to influence political decision making.

Indeed I believe the TRUE problem with BOTH parties is that their goal is winning election, rather than actually solving problems, which requires collaboration with a diversity of individuals with a diversity of views.  Indeed, solving problems only eliminates an issue or platform on which to launch a bid for election, thus our system has developed a strong DISINCENTIVE for compromise and collaborative bipartisan solutions, and gridlock ensues, ensuring that the problems faced by “my father’s GOP/Democratic Party” remain unsolved today and likely will be for the foreseeable future.

In short, if people are upset at the DIFFERENCES between the two parties they should be ENRAGED by the SIMILARITIES! 

Sadly, both parties are controlled by those with views that appear to the majority of centrists that appear extreme – be it to the far left or far right.  Yet the centrists also have no one to blame but themselves for their lack of political involvement. 

Whether it be through the creation of a third Centrist party or through more active centrist involvement in the existing parties, WE all bear responsibility for the “small tent” that both parties seem to embody, as well as the ensuing gridlock and lack of progress, and WE, the majority of centrist voters, possess the ability to change our political system.

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