Confession of a former Republican

   For many years I proudly identified myself as a Republican, the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and, more recently, Howard Baker. No longer.

   I don’t want to be associated in any way with the Republican Party. And it’s not just the president, it’s all those who toady up to him and do his bidding like puppets on a string when he goes about wrecking our country and trying to destroy our democracy.

   I grew up in a solidly Republican family. Our 2nd Congressional District in Tennessee has sent only Republicans to Washington since 1867, shortly after the party’s founding 1854. The party supported the Union and opposed slavery.

   When I worked for Sen. Howard Baker in Washington as his press secretary, the Republican Party had about as many liberal senators as it did conservative ones. Most, like Baker, were somewhere in the middle. Baker became known as the “Great Conciliator” because of his ability to bring the two parties and the factions within the parties together to get significant legislation passed.

   Baker considered what the country needed, not what the party wanted.

   But that is not the Republican Party of today.

   Normally sensible men who decried Trump as unfit before he won the 2016 election in the Electoral College have now become his sycophants, not only accepting his blunders and lies but trying to justify them.

   I am particularly disappointed in my old friend Lamar Alexander, the retiring senior senator for Tennessee. Lamar and I worked together in Baker’s 1966 campaign and in Baker’s Washington office. We even roomed together for a few weeks while I was getting settled in Washington. Our mothers, who lived withing a block or so on Ruth Street in Maryville, were close friends. I thought he had more spine that he has shown.

   Although I haven’t seen him in several years, I still consider him a friend. I don’t let politics interfere with friendship. Lamar is a very intelligent and thoughtful man. So why hasn’t he stood up to Trump? After announcing that he was retiring, what did he have to lose by voting to at least hear the testimony against Trump in the impeachment trial?

   For the record, let me state that I also don’t identify myself as a Democrat. I will vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the upcoming election, but I remain an independent.

   Prior to Baker’s election, a Republican had never been popularly elected to the U.S. Senate. Tennessee was a one-party state controlled by Democrats from West and Middle Tennessee.

In arguing for two-party rule, Baker often said that the ideological diversity of parties in those days was a healthy thing. He predicted that if the parties became split along conservative-liberal lines, it would be the end of the two-party system. Thanks to Baker, Tennessee became a two-party state. Now it is a one-party state with the Republicans in charge and doing, for the most part, a lousy job, in my opinion.

   I think Baker’s prediction that the polarization of the parties on liberal and conservative is coming true today.

   To many GOP leaders, you’re not a Republican unless you are fall in line on gun control, abortion, health care, immigration, gay rights, and a host of other issues.

   A party leader here in Knox County has raised a stink because a candidate who won the party’s nomination for state representative once voted in a Democratic primary. Never mind that in Tennessee, where party registration is not required, almost everybody has crossed over to vote in the other party’s primary.

   The Communist Party also has always demanded blind allegiance to the party line.

Even while still identifying myself as Republican, I long ago quit following the party line, voting for the candidates on all levels I felt were the best qualified and would do the best job for our city, state or nation.

Any remaining allegiance I had to the GOP ended when President George W. Bush launched the unjustified war against Iraq.

   I was pleased and relieved when the Democrats nominated Joe Biden and that he chose Kamala Harris as his running mate. I can support them enthusiastically. Had it been one of the more liberal candidates, I would have had a harder time.

   My hope now is that they can beat Donald Trump and Mike Pence by such a huge margin that there is no doubt about the outcome.

As H.L. Mencken, the famous journalist, essayist and English language scholar, wrote in the Baltimore Evening Sun (July 26, 1920):

   “As democracy is perfected, the office of the president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.”

   I think his description fits the present occupant of the White House, and I don’t think the country and world can stand four more years of his irresponsible governing.

   We must restore sensibility and decorum to the presidency. We need to get a national direction based on science not whim or wishful thinking to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. We need to mend our fences with our allies. We need to adopt an even better health care plan that covers every citizen in the United States. We need to restore the protections to the environment dismantled by Trump. We need to end the systemic racism everywhere in the country, but particularly in the police departments. We need to ensure that a good education is available to all, not just a privileged few.

   These are just a few of the things that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will have to do. It’s an enormous task. I hope we will get a Congress composed of men and women who will put national interest above partisan and personal interests and get these things done.

   If this happens, we can move away from the politics of fear and intimidation to a period of hope and progress at home and abroad.

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