Republican Rarities

Once upon a time, before the 21st century, the Republican Party had some worthwhile persons in their ranks who had at least a nodding acquaintance with responsibility to the nation’s citizens.  Of course there were considerably more of them before the religious right managed to infiltrate and pollute principles of even handedness, justice and honesty that was exemplified by the most noble Republican of them all, Abraham Lincoln.  For sure, there is no Republican in Congress today that could come anywhere close to filling  Mr. Lincoln’s shoes.

And there was Teddy Roosevelt who, despite his predilection for shooting up any defenseless animals, went out of his way to protect the nation against unscrupulous tycoons.  Roosevelt was sworn in as President in 1901 after President McKinley was assassinated.  One of Roosevelt’s first notable acts as president was to ask Congress to curb the powers of large corporations–called “trusts.”  His aggressive opposition to “trusts” during his two terms as President earned him the nickname of “trust buster.”

Calvin Coolidge, Republican President 1923-29, succeeded Warren G. Harding, and helped restore public trust in democratic government after the corruption and scandals of the Harding administration.  Coolidge observed: “No person was ever honored for what he received.  Honor has been the reward for what he gave.”  Doesn’t sound much like today’s Republicans, does it?

A bit closer to our own times, and something of a part-time prophet, was Senator Barry Goldwater.  By the 1980s, with Ronald Reagan acting as president, there was a growing involvement of the religious right using less than noble means to commandeer the GOP and so-called conservative politics.  In 1981 Goldwater was more than a little alarmed at what religious radicals were doing, prompting him to give a speech about American politicians being bullied by religious organizations, and he would “fight them every step of the way.”  Unlike the radical right Republicans we see today in the early 21st century, Goldwater was a passionate defender of personal freedom and recognized that hard-line religions were an encroachment on individual liberties and personal privacy.

After his retirement in 1987, free to speak with total candor, Goldwater stated his alarm that the Republican party had been taken over by “a bunch of kooks.”  There were indeed a mounting number of abrasive “kooks,” among them Jerry Falwell, a fundamentalist Baptist pastor engaged in evengelical Christian-oriented political lobbying.   The nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor to the U.S. Supreme Court was publicly opposed by Falwell who said, “Every good Christian should be concerned.”  Goldwater went on public record to say, “Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.”  And Goldwater’s assessment of the  Reagan/Bush involvement with the Iran-Contra affair was summed up as,  “…the goddamned stupidest foreign policy blunder this country’s ever made.”

With the “kooks” in control of his Party, Goldwater was irritated at the shallowness of their alleged conservative patriotism. In the 1990s he was appalled at the waste and hypocrisy in their rabble-rousing over the Clinton Whitewater “scandal.”  And he had no truck with the military ban on homosexuals who wanted to serve their country.  He mused publicly on the point, “You don’t have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.”  He would later say to the right wing element, “You are extremists, and you have hurt the Republican Party much more than the Democrats have.”

If Goldwater were still alive, or Teddy Roosevelt, or Calvin Coolidge, they would be numbed to see those Republican extremists on TV as they systematically betray the citizens they are supposed to represent.

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