Chris Douglas

What became of the Republican Party my parents knew?

Filed By Chris Douglas | June 20, 2006 5:43 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics

I have now sat in several official gatherings of Republicans, the last being this week in Convention, my head bowed in a group prayer that became as inappropriate in a civic gathering as it is in a corporate gathering, inappropriate for its exclusive references to but one religious tradition. I remember when Jewish citizens, for instance, could feel at home in the Republican Party in Indianapolis, respected as equal citizens. No jewish citizen would have felt equal and respected in either of the gatherings I attended. Nor would have any Hindu American or Chinese-American, or Japanese American, nor even any American Indian. None would have felt, I think, that the podium any longer sought to unite with them as Americans in a common journey. And no American even of Christian Tradition should reflect warmly on the cold impositions of the Christian religious political activists in the Republican Party today.

Having grown up in Washington Township, attending Springmill elementary, Northview Middle School, and North Central Highschool, and grown up in the fashion of prepdom of the early 80's, I used to joke that children in Washington Township only rebelled within the context of the Republican Party. Democrats in my awareness were few to be found.

But the Republican Washington Township of old did not lack diversity. For example, Springmill elementary included

children of most ethnicities and religions and the school had festivals and class exercises in which we brought to school emblems and traditions of our families. It was at Springmill that this Methodist became acquainted with Judaism, Hannukah, and the Dreidel, and the garb of fashion of the Greek Orthodox Church, with its red boiled eggs, for instance. From the first grade on in Washington Township until I graduated, I was in presence of African American kids indistinguishable in intelligence, wit, and work ethic from everyone. The only divisions that I might remember were between the well-behaved majority and a few kids who consistently misbehaved. Of those misbehaving, I recall no unifying characteristic but their misbehavior.

On the playground and in the classroom, we played games oblivious to the idea that differences were of any importance. That the religion of this child was of lesser importance than of that child, or that the race of this child was of some superiority to the race of the other I don't recall ever crossing my mind, or being discussed. I don't recall in school any supposition that Christianity, for instance, was innately superior nor of higher precedence in America. Rather, the supposition was that the one unifying lesson of our history was that America's unique greatness was as a container in which all could find life and happiness in a state of civic equality. Those were the civics of Springmill Elementary and of the Republican Party of my parents in Washington Township, a culture of clarity about what it meant to be American.

How polluted that clarity has become. I have heard the podium of the Republican Party speak of the value of diversity, but saw a party platform before me that as a matter of official policy seeks to alienate gay citizens from the equal protections of the Constitution and of the courts that enforce it. I have heard the podium speak of respect for all, but disgrace itself with a recurring and insulting indulgence in sectarian prayer.

The founding fathers pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to establish a society of rights. To any Republican who might read these words, indeed to any Hoosier, I hope you are aware that you have an obligation personally to combat the prejudice that in your name to seeks to dominate the levers of government in Indiana, a prejudice which is achieving a historic level of influence. How can you honor the founders, indeed the troops that seek to establish rights abroad, if you yourself do less to protect freedom from the threats brewing here?

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Something I wrote a few weeks back:

The Republican Party in Indiana is becoming less and less friendly for social moderates and libertarians. If you are in favor of a government that stays out of your pocketbook *and* out of your bedroom, today?s Republican Party is not for you. This is not the Republican Party in which I was raised. This is not the Republican Party of Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower or Rockefeller. It?s not even the Republican Party of Goldwater or Reagan. It?s something else. The theocratic wing of the party is taking over. They want an end to abortion. They want their version of Jesus Christ in the classroom, the courthouse, and the State House. If science conflicts with their preconceived notions, they want it out of the public discourse. Evolution must be diluted and placed along side Bible-friendly pseudoscience. Medical opinion on the beginnings of human life must be put aside in favor of religious dogma. Sex education must be abstinence only, even if it?s ineffective. Gays must be condemned, not tolerated, and certainly not treated as equals.

I think I recall reading your post then, Doug, and replied with "theocratic wing"? I thought they had already taken over the whole mansion!

Check out the Libertarian Party of Indiana. Our activists are of all stripes including Jewish, African-American, Gay, Methodist, Independent Baptist, Scottish, etc., etc. We believe we should be able to live our own lives, not the lives dictated by others. Check us out.

Marla R. Stevens | June 20, 2006 11:05 PM

Well, the DLC has made the Democrat Party I knew and loved much like the Republican Party of old -- minus the hope and ideals. You aren't the only ones despairing. I'm not suggesting you troop over to the Dems. The chaos that we love would drive y'all nuts -- just commiserating.

Marla R. Stevens | June 20, 2006 11:09 PM

Mark, real Republicans actually believe in good governance. Part of the neo-neo-con nonsense is a form of libertarianism that a real Republican finds too selfishly abandoning of our mutual responsibility to our fellow humans. The Libertarian Party would thus not be a particularly good fit for them.

Chris Douglas | June 21, 2006 6:18 AM

Mark, I'll second Marla's observation. The Libertarian Party, as I understand it, while it opposes an amendment to the Constitution banning same sex marriage (and imposing a definition on all religions, by the way) does not stand behind the principle of a civil rights code that has been key to the advancement of African Americans and Women in America. Am I incorrect?

The Agonist has a good post on the various flavors of conservatism. He divides them into 7 factions which overlap to one degree or another:

Theocons - Bible thumpers.

Neocons - Idealistic military adventurists.

Corporatecons - In pursuit of the bottom line.

Richcons - The aristocracy.

Libertariancons - ProGOP Libertarians.

Paleocons - Your father's Republican Party.

Militarycons - Hated Clinton and the military reductions of the 90s.

Much more elaboration at:

Marla R. Stevens | June 21, 2006 11:45 AM

Michelle Goldberg has a new book out, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, just released on May 15.

Kingdom Coming has been termed "a powerful expose of the religious right's agenda, highlighting how frighteningly far they've come in their campaign to hijack our democracy." Editors Weekly has called Goldberg's book, "a potent wakeup call to pluralists in the coming showdown with Christian nationalists."