The Need for a Political Realignment


The following is a revised text of a piece originally written during the 2004 election campaign.  While the format used is that of a polemical tract, the content is, I believe, basically analytical and intellectually honest.  Had I written the piece at the end of George W. Bush’s second term I probably would not have used the joke.  But were I to write a similar piece after January 20, 2017, about the Trump Administration, such a joke would not have been out of order.  

                               THE NEED FOR A POLITICAL REALIGNMENT

                                  THE MUSINGS OF A MAD REPUBLICAN


                                                 By John Howard Wilhelm


It had never been my practice to pass on off-color jokes.  But prior to the 2004 presidential election I received a copy of such a joke from my uncle which I passed on to others because I though its punch line about the Bush Administration too insightful to pass up.  The joke reads as follows:

                                  Subject: What does your father do?

Little David was in his 5th grade class in a school in Washington,     D.C. when the teacher asked the children what their fathers did for a living.

All the typical answers came up — Fireman, policeman, salesman, etc… David was being uncharacteristically quiet and so the teacher asked him about his father.

“My father’s an exotic dancer in a gay cabaret and takes off all his    clothes in front of other men.  Sometimes, if the offer’s really good,     he’ll make love for money.”

The teacher, obviously shaken by this statement, hurriedly set other     children to work on some class assignment, and took Little David aside  to ask, “Is that really true about your father?”

“No,” said David, “He works for the Bush administration, but I was too embarrassed to say that in front of other kids.”

For an alienated Republican like myself, I do not understand how traditional Republicans can fail to see how perceptive the punch line is about the troubling nature of the Bush Administration.  That Administration has surely become one of the most, if not the most, incompetent administrations in living memory and a terrible embarrassment as the joke implies.

While it may have made after 9/11 two correct strategic decisions in the case of Afghanistan and Iraq, its tactical follow-up has been so poor as to put the success of those endeavors in jeopardy.  And even before 9/11 its international voice was so shrill and its behavior such as to belie its 2000 election promise to lower the level of America’s international rhetoric.

One does not have to be a Paul Krugman to realize that its policies such as the unwise expansion of prescription drug benefits on top of an already unsustainable Medicare program or its policies of unwise tax cuts represent the total abandonment of fiscal responsibility.  Nor does one have to be a liberal, in the positive sense of the term, to realize that its policies and response to problems in the corporate sector have been a total abandonment of the independent individual, the backbone of traditional republicanism, in favor of special corporate interests.

For a traditional republican it is hard to see how this situation can be anything but extremely painful.  The record of the Republican Party in the 19th and 20th Centuries in terms of its support for the empowerment of Americans as independent individuals has surely been impressive.  It led the struggle to free the slaves, it promoted the Homestead Act, initiated the Sherman Anti-Trust legislation, gave the country a Square Deal based on opposing great malefactions of wealth, and gave the country a Chief Justice who was surely the greatest civil rights leader of the 20th Century.

Historically the personal quality of a number of individuals associated with the Party had been truly outstanding.  Surely its first president represented the greatest American of the 19th Century and two of its members, Hubert Hoover and Earl Warren, represented two of the three greatest of the 20th Century.

But the sad situation is that at the beginning of the 21st Century the Party has become one dominated by Dixiecrats and fundamentalist Christians who eschew traditional Republican values with no credible place in the Party for those who support these values.

Although prior to the impeachment process I had increasingly supported Democratic congressional candidates, afterward I found that, with one exception, I could not vote for any Democrat. The reason is simple.  After thinking about the reluctance of Democrats to hold one of their own to account as Barry Goldwater and other Republicans held one of theirs, I concluded it would be wrong to support Democratic candidates.  In light of this and in light of the fact that even after the last Clinton scandal, the pardon  outrage, Democrats continue to consult with Bill Clinton on political strategy, I do not see how a thinking person can fail to understand that the Democratic Party is deeply corrupt and dishonest.

While I do believe that income differentials are a legitimate issue in this country, I find Democratic concerns for the less well-off, especially American Latinos and Blacks, less than convincing given their support for immigration which undoubtedly has done much to keep wages for these groups low. In addition to issues like this, Democratic candidates seem loathed to candidly discuss, which their last nominee at one time seemed willing to do, the issue of how policies of affirmative action have actually come to be practiced in this country.

It is outrageous that native born Americans can legally be discriminated against in employment and school admission based on not having the right type of surname, sex or color.  On this score, given what is at stake in terms of Supreme Court appointments, it is difficult to see how the majority of native born Americans can support in their own interest a Democrat for our highest office.

When I think about the role of the Democratic Party in the 20th Century, I find it difficult to be very positive about its contribution.  Its leaders got us into our most disastrous wars of the last century, the First World War and Vietnam.  The Party did a lot, especially in the House of Representatives, to engender the type of excessive partisanship that lead to a Newt Gingrich on the Republican side–Thomas Foley’s laudable reversal of the dishonest voting procedures in the House coming too late to avert this.  And it promoted policies to deprive large segments of our native born population, Blacks in the early part of the Century, Whites under affirmative action in the later part of the Century, of equal rights for its own partisan benefit.

For Republicans committed to things like the principles that an Earl Warren stood for, the Democratic Party simply does not represent a viable alternative to a president who has eschewed many traditional Republican values including, as Paul O’Neill’s revelations illustrate, a respect for high professional standards in the conduct of the public’s business.

For two years before the 2000 presidential election I tried to convince people of the late  Reform Party that an effort needed to be made to institute an election reform to allow voters to better express their preferences and open up our political processes to responsible third parties.  I am convinced that the institution of approval voting in our elections would do this. Under such a system, each voter can give one vote each to that candidate or candidates he or she approves of with the candidate having the most votes winning.

Had such a system been in place in the 2000 presidential election, Gore surely would have won in Florida and the spoiler role of third party candidates would have been avoided.

Given the situation we face with our two major parties, we sorely need to push for election reforms to open our political processes up and to bring about the creation of responsible alternatives to the Republican and Democratic parties.

On this score, traditional Republicans would do the country a great service by quitting a party which no longer has a place for them and joining forces with the solid core of the initial Reform Party and elements of the Concord Coalition to form a National Renewal Party to work on establishing a viable alternative to the Democratic and Republic Parties.

If somebody like a George Soros were to put his resources into supporting efforts to establish viable third parties and needed election reforms, perhaps we could get a true independent in the White House next time and improve our governance beyond our current dismal prospects.