Confessions of a former Republican
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Yes, believe it or not, I once was a Republican.
I was raised by conservative Republican parents during the Great Depression and the Roosevelt New Deal years, but I began to question my convictions a few years after my discharge from the Navy in 1946.
In the 1950s, I was torn between the popular Eisenhower administration on the one hand, which created the Interstate Highway System, passed civil rights legislation and was willing to enforce it by sending federal troops into Little Rock, Ark., and on the other hand, the character-assassination witch hunts fomented by Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy and his Republican cohorts.
Who to vote for in the 1960 election was also a head-scratcher. I was suspicious of Democrat John Kennedy, who though a winning personality, came from a wealthy, politically ambitious family. But I was equally suspicious of Republican Richard Nixon, with whom I just did not feel comfortable, and ended up voting against – a decision vindicated by the Watergate scandal and his resignation in 1974.
But that was only the beginning of a series of “neither of the above” elections for me, and I became an independent:
1964: Lyndon Johnson (the Vietnam War) vs. Barry Goldwater (extreme conservatism)
1968: Hubert Humphrey (an unexciting candidate) vs. Richard Nixon (oh, him again)
1972: George McGovern (far too liberal) vs. Richard Nixon (not again!)
1976: Jimmy Carter vs. Gerald Ford (both good guys, but neither one inspiring)
My displeasure with the Democrats was due to their getting us into the Vietnam War and running up the national debt. Then in 1980 came the Reagan years, and the false “trickle-down” theory that major tax cuts would boost the economy, which accomplished little more than to double the national debt from $2 trillion to $4 trillion. That convinced me that the Republicans no longer espoused my financially conservative beliefs.
So in 1992 and 1996, I voted for Bill Clinton, who turned out to produce the only balanced budgets since 1969.
George W. Bush’s unjustified, reckless decision to start a costly war in Iraq and at the same time cut taxes, increasing the national debt by another $4 trillion, firmly convinced me that my decision to leave the Republican Party was correct. Now it was Republicans instead of Democrats who were getting us into wars and running up the national debt by refusing to pay for them, so I became a Democrat.
So where do I stand in the upcoming 2012 election?
In 2008, I voted for Obama with high expectations, as did a majority of American voters. But like many others, I am disappointed in his performance, which has not lived up to my hopes. Granted, his administration was dealt a devastating blow by the economic collapse that hit the country in the months prior to his inauguration. It put the country into a recession that has turned out to be nearly as stubborn to recover from as the Great Depression.
But I believe that if Obama had capitalized on the public mandate that he had when he became president with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, he could have been more effective. Since then, he has been hampered by a Republican Congress whose avowed goal is to make him a one-term president.
Today’s Republican Party is not my or your father’s Republican Party. The ultra-conservative Tea Party faction that now dominates party policy has driven the party too far to the right. Extreme positions, such as pressuring members of Congress to swear to vote against any tax increase, makes compromise, which is an essential part of the democratic process, impossible.
So I am now confronted with a conflict between the direction the Republican Party has taken, which goes against my democratic values, and Obama’s trillion-dollar deficits, which go against my fiscal conservatism.
My hope is that both parties will begin to realize that we must put an end to these runaway deficits, and see that cannot be done without both cutting spending and increasing revenues.
I am seriously concerned that as long as Republican policy is dictated by the Tea Party faction, measures to balance the budget will be limited exclusively to spending cuts, and that the spending cuts will be made with little regard for those affected by them. That would be devastating to millions of Americans, and might well be a blow to economic recovery.
I once again find myself facing the dilemma of whom to vote for.
– “As I See It” appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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