For forty-four years, I was a Republican. My family roots go back to the very start of the party. We were there in the beginning, and my Mother’s family helped organize the party in Illinois in the 1850s. I heard tales from my Great-grandmother about a fella her Grandfather knew named Abe Lincoln.
As a child, my family home was behind and up the alley two houses from George Ryan, who later would serve as Governor of Illinois. I would ride my bike over to his house, and pick up campaign literature. Then on my trusty Schwinn English Racer, I travel the town, going door-to-door handing out literature.
If I have walked one mile for GOP candidates, then I have walked at least one-thousand miles for them. I hammered campaign signs into the frozen ground and marched in parades and manned booths at fairs.
It was training for a life in politics. Once upon a time, in another life that seems like an eternity ago, I worked in national politics in Washington, DC. Much of it at the highest levels.
Even when I was playing in the Republican stratosphere, I continued to walk for GOP candidates, right up to my departure from the Republican Party. The photo is of me at a parade in my hometown. The one-time author of policy documents that became part of the national platform felt it was as essential to toss candy to kids on a parade route in Bourbonnais, IL, and show the GOP flag, as it was to think up manipulative political positions.
I left the party in disgust and joined the Democratic Party. You can read my reasons why here in my article, "44 years a Republican, 1 year an Independent, today I'm joining the Democratic Party."
Democrats are fond of telling the world what Republicans are about, and they do not hold back their words. In many cases, they are misguided in their proclamations. Let me discuss a few of the most common themes that are not entirely accurate.
Republicans hate the poor and are cold-hearted. This statement just is not true. Republicans do care about the poor, and they do not want them to be poor. They believe the best way to eliminate poverty is with a job, and not with a welfare program. For the GOP, economic expansion into high unemployment areas is their answer to the Democrat’s Great Society Programs.
The GOP is quick to point out that in fifty years of the War on Poverty, it appears that poverty has won. Democrats argue back that the programs are temporary, and a leg up for the downtrodden until they can finish an education, and find a job. My liberal friends are quick to point out an emerging African-American middle class that did not exist fifty years ago as evidence of a good harvest from the seeds sown by Lyndon Johnson.
The GOP believes in a more direct approach to helping the poor. I was in Davenport, Iowa in the late 1970s and was helping organize for the upcoming 1980 Presidential Election. A large Evangelical Church ran a social services program that rivaled the Federal Government efforts in the area.
Many Republicans, and especially the Evangelicals, believe we are “called” as individuals to help the poor. Within the mega-church structure, individual members of the church collected clothing and food and distributed it to the poor. Doctors gave free services, as did lawyers in the congregation. The church did not care what you did as long as you did something to help those in need.
The church members felt as though their tax dollars went to support a bureaucracy rather than the poor. If one looks at the Federal Budget closely and computes the amounts appropriated vs. the dollars that find their way to the poor, they have a point about inefficiency.
The flaws in their arguments are apparent to many, and they are looking to help local people, which is noble, and I admire them for their kindness. This church is not in every city and village in America, and departments of human services are in every corner of the nation.
I retold the story of this church many times in Washington. Finally, George W. Bush launched his faith-based initiatives program. Democrats cried out about separation of church and state. I support these programs. Feeding the hungry, providing shelter to the homeless, and helping people improve their lives should be something Republicans and Democrats should work on together, and without the partisan bickering that seems to infect every initiative undertaken.
Republicans are bigots and racists. This sweeping generalization is also incorrect. There are racists and bigots in the GOP. In the photo above are young African-American girls marching for the Republican Party. Believe it or not, there are Black Republicans, and that is their choice. They tend to be upwardly mobile and seek to grow their businesses. The GOP is not one big Klan rally despite our side saying that might be the case.
I have encountered racism in the Party all my life. When I saw it, I spoke out against it. Many in the GOP do the same and are appalled by Donald Trump’s courtship of the alt-Right. However, they remain committed to GOP economic principles and do not leave the party. Like Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, they are fighting against the things most of us see as wrong in the party. I also met GOP civil rights champions, like my own father and mother.
White working-class men have recently joined the GOP. They constitute a significant constituency in the Trump base. In my party capacity in the 1980s and 1990s, I used to reach out to this base often. We identified a trend late in the 20th Century and exploited it quite successfully. We saw white working-class males were frustrated, and increasingly feel as though they are invisible to the Democratic Party. They think that LGBT, women, people of color, and even the spotted owl are more important to the Democratic Party than they.
They see Affirmative Action programs as racist. If someone is white and poor and is in competition for an educational grant, scholarship, or job with a minority, the white applicant is at a disadvantage. They understand the racial discrimination of the past and believe it is wrong. They also think racial mistrust and hate will not be fixed by what they see as more racism.
Level the field, and let all compete in a color-blind world is their argument. That is a beautiful view; only that world does not exist. The poor in the GOP do like programs such as SNAP, the food stamp program because it is economics based.
Ideology is getting in the way of the GOP and Democrats tackling significant problems in America. There is common ground on nearly every issue, but we are not seeking resolutions. Instead, we get caught up in much theoretical jibberish that offers no solutions, but plenty of division.
It is not up to the parties to drive us to bipartisanship. That is not in their best interests. The division we live with today works best for clinging to power. We need to force the parties, and we can drive them into compromise. We need to stop being their cheerleaders for ideology, and start pushing them to reach across the aisle, or leave.
We need to put the stereotypes aside, and ask ourselves, “What are they really saying?” It is often not what we assume. We should continue to pass out literature, walk precincts, argue our points, but also be open to the other sides message, and not be afraid to compromise.
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Tags: affirmative action, bigots, bipartisanship, campaigns, colorless society, Democrats, Donald Trump, Donald Trump Base, Evangelicals, faith based initiatives, George W Bush, GOP poor, GOP stereotypes, GOP working class, Racism, reach across the aisle, Republicans, the poor, white poor