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December 18, 2015


An internet professor has authored a blog in which she notes that she ran for Congress in 1980 as a Republican along with Reagan and laments that the Republican Party of that day and the party now would not be recognized by the “fathers” of Republicans who are in charge of the Republican Party these days. Now a Democrat, she asks for commentary on her observation of the sea change in the party of that day and the party of today. Following was my response.

I well remember the days when I as a Democrat was tempted to vote for a particular Republican since it was sometimes difficult to tell the difference between the two platforms. Republicans comprised a version of FDR’s New Dealers up until the clueless Reagan, who invited trickle downers and neocons (read fronts for defense contractors) in to run our economic and international shows, and wages, for instance, have been stagnant ever since.

Nixon is best remembered for Watergate but he was a liberal by many measures, including one that modern-day Republicans would regard as anathema. Nixon, in trying to cope with complaints about welfare (human, not corporate) proposed a GAW, i.e., a guaranteed annual wage! That was probably a bit too socialistic for even liberal Democrats of that day, and it withered on the legislative vine. Today with a Bernie on the stump and younger people talking like socialists, perhaps the GAW will be re-inaugurated as a serious policy proposal, but don’t hold your breath what with a gerrymandered House likely to remain Republican until the next decennial count.

While I liked Ike, I voted against him twice. He presided over a government with a tax of over 90% at the top and never once sent a proposal to the Congress that it be lowered. As a military man and accustomed to government spending along Keynesian lines, he spent a bunch on infrastructure (read the interstate highway system), did nothing to contain unions or their right to organize etc. Both he and Truman were exponents of FDR irrespective of party and America enjoyed a golden age in their administrations where the income and wealth turned out by the economy was fairly and equitably shared between labor, investors and corporate managers. The result? Aggregate demand zoomed and millions of Americans were added to the middle class, as opposed to today’s tepid demand and the exodus of millions of the middle class into poverty.

But back to the point, voting for a Republican by a Democrat and vice versa was not unknown in those days, but the Republican Party has become a hostage of extremism these days whose sole purpose seems to be ruling and not governing, the very antithesis of the democratic values the Founders had in mind when they started this “experiment in democracy.” The theory Jefferson and Madison (via John Locke) had as applied today would tell our senators and representatives that they serve at our pleasure (consent of the governed) and are to represent our interests (not those of Wall Street, the Kochs and other deep-pocketed campaign contributors).

Indeed the Republicans of today are not anything their fathers would recognize, even adjusted for different issues and intervening events. Their “fathers” correctly surmised that government should work for all of the people, not narrow interest groups who use government for purposes of self-enrichment. As a lifelong liberal Democrat, I agree with the fathers of today’s Republicans, whose vision of America and its people did not have to go through an ideological funnel as their progeny require today. Father did know best!    GERALD    E

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