“It’s ironic that race was the issue that created the Republican Party and that race could very well be the issue that destroys it.” -David Brooks, New York Times Columnist
As if the Party of Lincoln wasn’t in enough trouble under the stewardship of the erratic and twitter snapping Donald Trump, the surprise announcement last Tuesday of US Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) that he will not seek re-election in 2018, could not come at a worse time for America.
Senator Flake is one of the last voices of reason in the Senate. One of the last statesmen. A man who understands that America and Americans need leaders who will go against the grain. Sometimes part ways with their political party, and be willing to go it alone if it is in the best interest of “We the People”.
President Donald Trump and his army of angry fringe misfits like Steve Bannon, have destroyed the Republican party I once knew, and was once proud to call my own. They have turned it into a torch wielding, race dividing, angry, backward looking, openly hostile party to anyone who is not white, male, religious or a true conservative. The problem is these men running the “Grand Old Party” today, is that they are not republicans at all. Thomas Jefferson was a republican. The “original republican” in that he believed in and fought for a small government run by the people, not a centralized form of authoritarian government run by federal bureaucrats unaccountable to the people. James Madison likewise believed in this form of government, and used it as a basis to form our great Constitution.
Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. Teddy Roosevelt was a republican. Dwight Eisenhower was a republican. And Ronald Reagan was a republican. None of these men acted like or governed like President Trump. Who if truth be told, has never been a true Republican.
I have watched my party slowly drift further and further to the fringe since I first became a member as a college sophomore in 1988. I remember meeting George HW Bush in 1992 at a party in honor of then OPM Director Constance Newman. An African American woman. One of the many high-level Bush appointees who were people of color. It is one of my most treasured memories.
President Bush was the last Republican President to gain a decent share of minority voters in the 1988 campaign. I remember talking to him and being awe struck at the kind of man he was. A good man. A true war hero in World War II. A soft-spoken self-described “kinder gentler” Republican. And then there was the late Congressman Jack Kemp, who I aspired to be like. I met him when I was an intern for former US Senator Pete Wilson (R-CA) in Washington. He was a spark of hope. A man of conscience. And a man who understood that if the “Grand Old Party” he loved did not begin to embrace people of color, and urban communities, offering them a way to wealth, opportunity and prosperity, that it would fade. And more than that, lose its legacy of greatness.
As I listened to Senator Jeff Flake give his stirring speech on the floor of the Senate last week calling us to stand against the politics of degradation and Senator John McCain on TheView a week ago talk about “lifting our politics”, I hoped that they would join forces and lead some kind of GOP revolt. And retiring Republican Senator Bob Corker once again had to respond to more attacks from his own Party’s president on Twitter, by saying that President Trump was simply “untruthful” and “bad for America”.
I am saddened that one of our two great political parties, the republican party is clearly unraveling right before our very eyes. And that the level of vitriol has grown so severe that honorable statesmen are walking away. Now is not the time to walk away Republican Senators. Now is the time to say in the arena and fight with courage for American values. Where is this Republican Party’s Margaret Chase Smith as she stood in the Senate Chamber in the summer of 1950, when she railed against McCarthyism. Smith stated the basic principles of "Americanism":
- The right to criticize;
- The right to hold unpopular beliefs;
- The right to protest;
- The right of independent thought.
In the final analysis, we the people have to demand something better for ourselves. And from the President and our Congress. It doesn’t have to be the way it is, if men and women of conscience will rise up and rise above partisan politics. The American people are tired. They are sick and tired. They are angry. Fed up. And Rightly so. People are hungry. People are without healthcare. People are barely making ends meet. People fear they will have nothing to leave for their kids. There is a lot of fear out there. Fear that has overtaken us in our public discourse.
If we want this last great Republic on earth to last another 241 years, we must make some decisions. First, we have to stop turning on one another. Stop letting immoral men and men who want to return to our past divide us. Whether it be by race, gender or class, we are in this together. Secondly, we have to stop the fringe elements of both parties from taking over the center which is where most of us sit politically. Third, we have to get engaged in citizenship by studying the constitution, being informed, voting in our elections, and running for office at all levels. Democrats should not take heart in the misfortunes of the Republicans. Because they are not much better off. Our politics are broken, and they can only be fixed by us.
All of us. E Pluribus Unum: Out of many, One.