Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Republican't



First the shocker: until I was 23, I considered myself a Republican.

You probably find that hard to believe. If you've ever read this blog or had a conversation with me, even if it was when I was in high school or college, you'll knit your brow at this confession. Funny, you never seemed like a Republican. And certainly since graduate school, when I abandoned the party once and for all and started calling myself an independent (I only officially affiliated with the Democratic party in 1991), there's been no question about my political persuasion. Even in college, while still clinging to the GOP label, I found myself leaning socialist.

I blame my parents. In fact, most young people I know adhere to their parents' political ideals up to the point when they are developmentally motivated to declare independence. In the 1970s, my parents were a variety of Republican that no longer exists: socially progressive, really New Deal Democrats at heart. Theirs was the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford--and, until his Watergate dealings became public, Richard Nixon. Ronald Reagan was another matter: in him, my parents saw their party changing direction, walking away from compassion and good sense, turning to war-mongering and tax cuts. So it ceased to be their party, just as it ceased to be mine.

Had my 18-year-old self believed the things my 53-year-old self does, I would never have registered as a Republican. But looking back, I still feel reasonably comfortable with that choice. The GOP of 1979 may not have been a hotbed of liberalism, but at least it had both a heart and a brain.

Which brings us to 2014, when the only organ still functioning in the Grand Old Pachyderm appears to be the liver, which is working overtime generating more bile than this country can handle.

The news item that ticked me off on this particular rant is right here: the state of Idaho will not permit a 74-year-old Navy veteran to have her ashes buried next to her deceased wife. This is one of those small-minded expressions of conservatism that is so blatantly bigoted it's hard to imagine anyone defending it. Yet millions of Republicans do, and will, because they believe that gays, lesbians, and transgendered individuals do not deserve the same rights as straight people. Common sense compassion is trumped by homophobia.

This week has seen the Supreme Court coming down on the side of Hobby Lobby, opening the door for both corporations and non-profits with a conservative bent to deny their employees the same birth control coverage accorded all US citizens by the Affordable Care Act. This is, again, a Republican issue, as is the constant whittling away of abortion rights (which, I must point out, Republicans were just as likely as Democrats to favor back in the days when I was registered with the GOP).

And please don't get me started on gun rights. You know how I feel about that--an opinion I've held since childhood. Just to avoid vagary, I'd be very happy if every gun in America was gathered up and melted down.

I'm aware not all Democrats are of a mind on these issues, but they're certainly more likely to be on the side I favor than Republicans. They're also more likely to favor progressive taxation, universal health care, liberal immigration policies, environmental protection, and expanded benefits for the poor and homeless.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this and is startled by my initial confession that I'm a lefty on all these issues, and that I consider the official Republican position on every one of them to be wrong. I'm not alone in this: on almost all these issues, Americans are heavily in favor of the Democratic position. Unfortunately, gerrymandering and the two-senators-per-state clause conspire to create a Congress to the right of American majority opinions. This can't last forever--at some point, Congress has to catch up with the ethos of the nation--but for now, it is the principle reason we can't pass sensible legislation. It's also why Congress is as despised an institution as it has ever been.

I'd like to think a loss in the polls this November might cause the GOP to wake up, but that didn't happen in 2008, and it certainly didn't in 2012; and besides, all indications are that the idiosyncrasies of this particular election will consolidate Republican power, even as Republican positions are representing less and less the opinions of Americans as a people.

Come on, elephants. You're on the wrong side of history. If you're not careful, you're liable to be hit by a mass extinction event.

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