Thursday, August 23, 2012

Once I was young and a Democrat

[from billlifka] It was a fine time and a good thing to be. I had many friends and relatives who were Democrats. In fact, most were. Now, most of them are dead but I have new friends and relatives who are Democrats, although not so many.

I was a Democrat longer than I was Independent and that longer than I was Republican. However, I wasn’t registered as a Democrat which may be like Bill Clinton’s having smoked pot but not inhaling. Barack Obama has inhaled with pleasure, which may explain a lot. The point is that my credentials as a past Democrat may be questioned but, I assure you, Democrats of my age would recognize me as a kindred spirit. I was born as a Democrat as I was born as an American and a Catholic, all being quite compatible at the time. I chose to be a paper boy and a Cub Scout at the age of nine. These were the first observable signs I had started to think on my own although there’d been covert outbreaks of latent Libertarianism from the age of three.

I never thought much about why I was a Democrat other than as a blessing of birth. When FDR ran for his second term as president, my mother explained that all should vote for Roosevelt because, “He was for the poor people, like us.” Being six years old, I always accepted what my mother told me so long as it didn’t interfere with my plans for that day. Even then, I thought it was a strange argument since I didn’t feel particularly poor. Starting with my being a paper boy, it seemed even stranger since all I needed to do to have money in my pocket was to do a little work and just doing the work made me feel good about myself, also. Then too, I found it hard to understand why FDR was great if he was for losers. At the time, I was for the Chicago Cubs but in those days the Cubs won two pennants so I didn’t think of them as losers until I got a little older. If my mother had said FDR was going to turn losers into winners I would have understood it was like hiring a new manager for the White Sox.

Despite my confusion at an early age, I did come to understand why people would vote for FDR even if they weren’t born as a Democrat. In fact, I think I would vote for him, if I were over twenty one at the time because he did talk a good story and engaged the federal government in a lot of activity, especially for a guy who needed to operate out of a wheelchair. Now I know that activity shouldn’t be mistaken for progress, but in those days it caused most people to feel better even though the depression just went on and on until the war. When it came to the war, FDR was one of the better presidents because of his ability to convince Americans all would turn out well in the end. It also helped that he picked an outstanding leader for the military forces and was convinced, mostly by his wife, to let businessmen lead industrial mobilization. Like his cousin, an earlier president, FDR was not comfortable with the private sector and distrusted all who were in it; they just wouldn’t kowtow to his economic ideas and lack of experience in their field.

By the time Harry Truman came along, I was learning things that caused doubts about FDR but, still a born Democrat, I would have voted for Harry if I were twenty one because Tom Dewey’s moustache made him look sneaky to my eyes. On the other hand, it seemed clear that Harry was straightforward and outspoken and I liked the sign on his desk, “The buck stops here!” He was a guy who took responsibility for his actions and had made tough decisions without flinching over what people might say about him. Even then, I knew those were important traits for a leader. He made some mistakes but if I were transported back in time with my present knowledge, I’m sure I would vote for him and not because I was born a Democrat.

My family never got anything from the Democratic Party, even though FDR was for poor people. Mostly, the Party functioned in the large cities, like Chicago, and they got people work. This was a good thing that people had to work for their money, like being a garbage man. It was true that higher ups might be building inspectors and depended on bribes for extra money but they had to support their families and come election time they had to work hard for no pay in “getting out the vote” which meant getting people out to vote. This is harder than it might seem, especially when some people lived in cemeteries. On a national level, FDR did find work for many in the CCC where they built forest preserve shelters and other public works. My relatives found work for each other like when my father introduced his brother and two brothers-in-law to his boss. That didn’t stop them from being good Democrats even if they made a living on their own

Even though I was a born Democrat, Ike seemed to be an obvious choice over Adlai Stevenson. Adlai was a very bright guy and witty speaker but had the real world depth of a driveway puddle. With Eisenhower, I drifted away from my Democrat birthright but only to that place in between called Independent. I don’t blame Independents for giving up on both Political Parties. Both have earned that treatment. On the other hand it’s sort of like the idea of Purgatory, a place neither heaven nor hell. I can understand why one might choose hell for all the fun that comes before or heaven for all the fun that comes later. Choosing the in-between is hard to fathom. Nevertheless, I felt comfortable there and then John Kennedy came along.

In retrospect, I should have suspected all wasn’t right about Kennedy. But he looked so good, had such an endearing family and talked so convincingly, it was easy to succumb to his charm. By that time, I had forgotten I was born a Democrat, but not that I was born a Catholic and was offended that the presidency had eluded Catholics and the previous one who had tried had been rejected primarily because of his religion. JFK was assassinated and, therefore, deserves to be an “American Saint.” If he had served a full two terms, he might well be remembered differently.

Ronald Reagan came upon the scene. Admittedly, he was running against a guy who had failed in his first term miserably. Nevertheless, he was dismissed as an actor, forgetting his success as Governor of California and as President of the Actor’s Guild, a working job. As an Independent, I had no problem voting for him and became converted to the Republican Party during his time in office while retaining the right of occasional dissent over peripheral items of dogma. I think I have learned how to judge an effective leader of my country based on his past performance in responsible jobs and his character traits as displayed in those positions. I listen to what he says he will do and strongly discount what others say he will do, especially those who have reason to lie about him. I give no thought whatever to whether we share a political party, religion, ethnicity or the many peripheral social preferences that exist in abundance.

Most importantly, I imagine how this blessed country of ours will fare under his leadership. I’ve been around for the great depression, being totally unprepared for WWII, engaged in five other major military adventures and countless minor ones and many social and economic crises. All has not yet been manifested, but we are in the midst of what I believe will be the greatest testing of America in its history. The foundations of our government, economic system and social structure are under siege without restraining influence of experienced leaders with the prudence and wisdom to chart and navigate safe passage through dangerous reefs for the ship of state.

My purpose in this writing is to convince those who choose the Democratic Party as theirs to vote for the opposition candidates, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and that, in their doing so, they will act to save their Democratic Party as well as their country. I write as one who once shared membership in their party, although in simpler times, and one who has voted for rational reasons and for not-so-rational reasons, for candidates of my party and for candidates of another party.

Like many Republicans, I disagree with some opinions of my fellow Republicans. I believe most Republicans respect members of the Democratic Party and accept that contention between the two major Parties is important to the well-being of America. I believe most Republicans accept that elected officials from the two parties must find a way to conduct the business of the country in a manner that addresses major needs of the country without violating reasonable and critical beliefs of either Party. It goes without explanation that many of the less important desires of both Parties may not be agreed upon but can be subjected to continuing debate. Such debate should be open and with courteous regard for opposing beliefs. I believe that Democrats in my youth displayed many traits that are consistent with my beliefs and exist today in many members of the Democratic Party. These include patriotism, importance of the U.S. Constitution, belief in open debate and legislative process, personal responsibility, the value of work, the opportunity for all to improve their status in life and that it’s wrong to set one group of people against another group of people in open warfare. If you share these beliefs, you should vote for Romney and Ryan and for legislators who have demonstrated the same beliefs, regardless of their party affiliation.

It’s dangerously foolish to assume Barack Obama, in a second term, will change his stubborn march to turn America into a second class nation subject to domination by world organizations. He will continue to violate the Constitution as necessary to further his totalitarian ambitions. His acolytes in Congress will continue to block open debate to provide the excuse for government by executive order and bureaucratic mandate. He will continue to pit one group of Americans against another and seek majority backing through mindless wealth transfers that drive the country ever faster into bankruptcy. It’s dangerously foolish to assume that a very large minority of the public will accept this without resisting in ways that will result in widespread violence. At least worst, the Democratic Party would lose it’s acceptability as a governing body. At the very worst, the country would be torn by violence that would rival that in the American Civil War.

On the other hand, there is Romney and Ryan. Romney has proven he can govern effectively in an overwhelmingly Democratic State and obtain support from egotistical foreign Olympic czars. Ryan has proven he can work across the aisle and prefers reasonable compromise to mindless contention. Both know the solution to America’s critical problems lies in economic actions of the type in which both are highly experienced. They are good people, just like most Democrats.

1 comment:

Ira Glickstein said...

THANKS billlifka for an excellent account of your metamorphosis from a youthful Democrat to a mature Republican.

Reminds me of the joke on the old Hee Haw TV show where one hayseed guy tells another "My puppies are Republicans." The other objects, "But, last week you told me they were Democrats?" "Yes," replied the first, "But their eyes are open now!"

I too was born and raised in a liberal Democratic family. A photo of FDR hung prominently in our Jewish Brooklyn bungalow kitchen.

I owe my own metamorphosis to the City College of New York. As a pubic college in New York City, CCNY was known for its leftist orientation. As an engineering student, I mostly ignored student politics until the Student Government made a momentous decision to increase "diversity". The student politicos noticed there were no engineering students among their ranks so they decided to reserve two seats on the Student Council exclusively for engineering students. Kind of an early go at "affirmative action". A fellow engineering student and I ran for those two seats. Lacking any competition, we won.

I was appalled by the lack of logical reasoning on the part of my fellow student councilpeople. They were mostly nice girls and boys who had come from lower-middle-class backgrounds similar to mine, but they seemed to blindly follow a few socialist-oriented activists who were members of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) see here.

The first motion I proposed, at Thanksgiving time, was that we were thankful for being Americans. I was careful to leave out any mention of God in my motion, but, nevertheless, it was soundly defeated. I learned that Parliamentary Procedure could be used as a weapon against democracy, but also that I could use it as well to propose a series of motions (seconded by my fellow engineer) that forced them to discuss the issues before my SDS opponents and their naive liberal pawns voted them down. I later ran, unsuccessfully of course, for President of Student Government.

The following year I became Co-Editor-In-Chief of VECTOR, the CCNY engineering magazine. During my term of office, VECTOR received no publicity in either student newspaper, both of which were totally on the leftist side. which proved two things to me: 1) Leftists talk about diversity and democracy and free discussion, but they really are elitists who think most Americans are idiots and easily led, and they are happy about that, and 2) that my efforts in Student Government made a strong enough impression on them that they decided upon retribution against me, despite the harm they did to the totally innocent, non-combatant members of the VECTOR staff, and the fact that VECTOR was totally apolitical.

Ira Glickstein

PS: I should also give credit to my dad, the first member of my family to vote for a Republican when he supported Eisenhower in 1952. My first chance to vote came in 1964 when I put an AuH2O sticker on my car and voted for Goldwater. I've been a Republican since