Readers: this blog is set in the future (sometime after the year 2020). Each entry assumes there has been a 5th revolution in the US — the Revenge Revolution. More about the Revenge Revolution and author, Entry #1. Most entries are formatted as conversations. Characters appear in a number of entries, with many entries building on previous conversations.
Occasionally I break from the normal formatting and do a “sense check.” Auditing one’s own work is problematic but I try to be objective. Entries #300 and #301 are the most recent standard “sense checks.”
This is second consecutive unanticipated entry. In entry #310, “Will Kavanaugh Accelerate the Revenge Revolution?” I indicated I had voted for Republicans in the past. A reader asked me to elaborate on why I left the Republican Party. This entry addresses the question.
As noted in #310, my reference point is a Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln, Everett Dirksen and Jacob Javits. The attitude of that Republican Party could best be described using a slogan from Bush 43’s 2000 presidential campaign, “compassionate conservatism.”
Why that reference point for the Republican Party? I grew up in Illinois with very early years on the north side of Chicago but formative years in Central Illinois. Central Illinois is an interesting mix of agriculture and manufacturing with the center-point the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. For those unfamiliar with the area, the soil is stunningly productive for farming – corn, soybeans and many other crops. Throw in a seed and a plant grows. They soil color is coal-black and crumbles easily in your hand. The soil is not gray, not reddish-brown but black.
The farms ring a number of medium-sized towns that provide the center of commerce for farmers. For many years, the towns were supported by manufacturing plants, and in some cases corporate headquarters — Caterpillar in Peoria, for example. Populations for most of these towns ranged from 25,000 to 75,000. Population mix was mostly western European and a smaller percentage of blacks, many of whom had migrated from the south. Religions leaned more toward Protestant than Catholics and some towns had a surprising number of Jews. In our neighborhood grammar school, for example, about 20% of students were Jewish.
In our particular town – population approaching 50,000 – the public school system was top-notch with quality teachers in all grades. High-school students had a choice of three tracks and could switch between tracks for a limited number of classes – college prep, general education, technical training. The town produced a disproportionate number of famous and successful people in a wide range of occupations – education, entertainment, medicine, military (early astronaut), science and industry.
Like most school districts years ago, busing was limited to outlying areas that could not support a school. Most everyone attended a neighborhood grammar school and a middle school that was reasonably close. There was one very large, well-equipped public high school (and a parochial high school). And guess what? As a student, you needed to figure out how to get to high school on your own.
As far as fiscal attitude – conservative. If a family was wealthy, it was expected to be discrete about displaying wealth. Everyone was expected to share with others to the extent possible. A description for sharing can best be described by Nike’s tagline – just do it…and keep quiet about it. Shouting and bragging were definite no no’s.
This town was part of the ellipse in Illinois where Lincoln spent most of his time before heading to Washington. While the area was solid Republican, the voters were not tribal Republicans. Most people, from what I recall, voted a split ticket.
And, no, the town was not Mayberry II, although there were many of these same attitudes. The town did have its problems. Most blacks were clearly on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. While doubtless discrimination existed, I do not recall the discrimination being overt and certainly no signs at restaurants, drinking fountains and other public places. Further, different groups seemed to work together to address problems.
So that’s a description of the Republican Party I grew up with and use as a reference point for those running for political office. Such a Republican Party no longer exists. When I hear a Republican call it the party of Lincoln, I shake my head and want to scream. Most of today’s Republicans have no clue about the values of the party of Lincoln.
Back to the reader’s question, “What made me leave the Republican Party?” Based on my reference points for the Republican Party, I didn’t leave the Party, it left me. While I’m still a compassionate conservative – compassionate socially and conservative fiscally – I’m now branded a screaming liberal. What happened to Republicans’ social conscious and fiscal conservatism? The party now can be described as bi-polar…and not taking medication. The Party has shifted to the extreme ends for social issues and fiscal recklessness.
The slide from fiscal conservatism started under Ronald Reagan. How can that be, you say. Reagan was a fiscal conservative.
I share the view of many economists that a very good way to assess the potential impact of debt for a country is to measure outstanding debt as a percent of GDP (gross domestic product). Think of it this way. Pretend you’re a banker. Two people walk into a bank and want to borrow $25,000,000. One of them is someone like you…and the other is Warren Buffet. The bank decides on loans based on income and assets. For someone like you, the $25,000,000 is likely to be multiples higher than your income and assets. For Warren Buffet, the $25,000,000 is considered chump change. Thus, a large amount of debt isn’t necessarily bad if you have a large income and/or large asset base, which the US does. The US government owns lots of land and buildings.
Following WWII and up to the Reagan Administration, debt as a percent of GDP declined. During the Reagan Administration debt as a percent of GDP increased from about 30% to about 50% — a relative increase of 60%. Under Reagan, the relative increase in debt was only somewhat less than experienced during the New Deal under FDR. Under Bush 41 relative debt percent increased over 25% beyond Reagan. Under Bush 43, relative debt increased over 40% from the Clinton years. Under Trump, despite a very strong economy the Federal debt for FY2018 was the highest in 6 years. The deficit under Trump is expected to balloon to over $1,000,000,000,000 annually because of the gigantic tax cut that reduced taxes primarily for the wealthy.
What about debt increases under Democrats? They were even worse, right? Well, no. Throughout the Clinton Administration, debt as a percent of GDP decreased a little over 12%. During some years under Clinton, the US ran a surplus. Under Obama, relative debt climbed about 35%, even with the combination of fiscal stimulus required to avoid another Great Depression and the introduction of the Affordable Care Act. Debt under Obama, despite all the cries from Republicans increased less than under either Regan or Bush 43. So, which party is more fiscally conservative? If you look at fiscal policies under Republicans, one term comes to mind – red ink.
Let’s look at social policies since Reagan. Policies to concentrate wealth, as have been implemented by Republicans, negatively affect the general well-being of the populace. Tax cuts primarily for the rick, aka “trickle-down economics,” does not work, nor has any Republican provided any empirical evidence of it working in any developed country. As more wealth has flowed to the top, there has been less wealth in the middle.
Further, Republican have resisted increasing the minimum wage. When Reagan was inaugurated, the minimum wage in real terms (adjusted for inflation) was about $10.00 per hour. Today’s minim wage is $7.75 per hour, a decrease in real terms of more than 20%. The decrease reduces further the ability of lower-skilled, entry-level workers to earn enough to exceed the poverty line. What happened to the “compassion” of the Republican Party?
Adding to the lack of “compassion” is the effort by Republicans to take away individual rights…at least for people who don’t buy into the Republican doctrine. According to Republican right, the US is a Christian country – just forget why the Pilgrims left England. Therefore, all laws should follow what the religious right believes. Take Roe v Wade. Forget the rights of the mother, she does not matter. Forget that the baby cannot survive outside the womb until much later in the pregnancy. All abortion must be banned…despite the First Amendment.
Just in case today’s Republicans have not read the Constitution, as is abundantly clear from listening to President Trump, the First Amendment reads as follows, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press (see the press is not your enemy but protected!), or the right of people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
While Republicans want to deny individual rights with regard to abortion…and ignore the First Amendment…Republicans insist that the Second Amendment is all about individual rights. Well, individual rights are OK as long as guns are involved. The Second Amendment reads, “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
What does the Second Amendment really mean? The wording allows individuals to own firearms. In Central Illinois, most households, including ours, had some type of firearm. In fact, I have the same rifle I purchased at about age 14.
At the time the Constitution was written…for all the “Constitutionalists in the crowd” that was 225+ years ago…the United States had a very small “standing army.” The defense of the country relied on “well-regulated” state militia – think National Guard. Members of the well-regulated militia were “citizen soldiers” and expected to provide firearms, as implied in the Second Amendment. Over time the US created a permanent military for “the security of the free state,” thus the standing army eliminated the need for citizen soldiers.
With the advent of a standing army, a strict interpretation of the 2nd Amendment might have banned citizens from owning firearms. But citizens have been allowed to retain firearms. With a standing army there is absolutely no need or justification for military-grade weapons to be held outside the “well-regulated” standing army. Weapons such as military-style assault rifles and higher-caliber rifles, especially a .50 caliber rifle, are designed to kill as many people as possible.
These weapons are not designed for deer hunting or target shooting. Yet, thanks to the NRA and some politicians, an individual is able to own a military-style assault weapon, and even worse, a .50 caliber rifle. For those not familiar with these weapons, a .50 caliber rifle will blow a hole in the side of a brick building. You don’t need that much firepower to take down a herd of charging elephants, which are not common in most US neighborhoods. If you want to go play with these type weapons, then go join the US military.
Now, what about consistency? Republicans state that since one must register and get an ID to drive, have an ID get on an airplane, have ID cash a check, and probably register your dog, plus who knows how many other instances, then one should have to register and show an ID to vote. All the registrations and ID are for your safety. OK, then following that same line of thinking, surely Republicans would support mandatory registration of individual firearms – for your safety, of course. Mmm, so what’s the big objection?
I could go on but it should be clear why I no longer vote Republican. The Republican Party of today is not compassionate, not conservative…and not consistent… and certainly does not hold the same values of Lincoln, Dirksen and Javits. Your comments welcome.