IT'S TIME FOR THE REPUBLICANS
Thursday, April 7, 2005
I was raised in a family of "blue collar" Democrats. My first political memory is the dramatic upset victory of Harry Truman over Thomas Dewey in 1948. My grandmother, an old suffragette, literally jumped up and down and yelled "Hallelujah" when we heard on the radio that Truman had defied the Gallup Poll and won! I ran out the back door to tell someone. I can remember all this quite vividly. The first person I met was the lady next door. "Truman won," I shouted to her in childish glee. I can still see her face, though I was only seven years old at the time. She did not smile. She said grimly, "We were for Dewey." I never looked at her the same way again! They were the only people I knew who were Republicans.
As a teenager, in the 1950s, everyone I knew was for Stevenson, not Eisenhower. They told us that we would have to go to school on Saturday if Ike won. Needless to say, I felt crushed when Stevenson lost both times to the Republican candidate.
When Nixon and Kennedy held their debates, I thought Richard Nixon was dangerous. I was reluctantly for Kennedy, even though our Southern Baptist pastor preached against his Catholicism. But I never really liked Kennedy. He seemed too rich and self-assured to me, as a "blue collar" Democrat.
I was glad when Lyndon Johnson became President. He seemed like "one of us." But, as the Vietnam War escalated, I grew more and more disenchanted with him. In 1964 I went to a Young Republicans rally and heard Barry Goldwater in person. A huge crowd of young people chanted "We want Barry! We want Barry!" Goldwater gave an absolutely spine-tingling speech. He said that the Democrats were running the war wrong - that we should fight to win the war quickly and get it over with. I then heard Ronald Reagan introduce Goldwater on TV, at the Republican National Convention, held that year in San Francisco. I bought a Goldwater lapel pin and wore it every day - and I voted for Barry Goldwater. I had become a Republican. From that moment until now I have never voted for a Democrat for national office. I have been a dues paying member of the Republican Party. I even supported Nixon - all the way through Watergate - and long after that. I still think he was a far better man than they said he was.
My whole family finally joined me in voting for Reagan in 1980. We loved him because he, like us, had made the change. As he put it, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. They left me."
But I must confess that I have often questioned the Republicans, especially on the issue of abortion. I wondered why Nixon was silent when the Roe v. Wade decision was made by the Supreme Court in 1973. I wondered why Reagan only made a telephone call, broadcast over loudspeakers, to the huge pro-life rallies in Washington each January, on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. "Why didn't he walk across the street, at least once, and address that rally in person?" I wondered.
The years dragged on - for three decades - and all we got from the Republicans was a wink and a nod - and a couple of sentences in the State of the Union address each January. This year we didn't even get that! Pat Buchanan and Peggy Noonan, and a few others, noticed this omission. I knew something was wrong. The Republicans talked about being pro-life, but when were they going to do something about it? You see, to an old "blue-collar" Democrat-turned-Republican, right to life is the most important civil rights question America faces today.
By now about 45 to 46 million children have died in the Abortion Holocaust. The Republicans sent troops into Iraq quickly. No problem. They put through the oil pipeline in a national park in Alaska quickly. No problem. But somehow the Republicans just can't seem to do anything about abortion. There are a great many of us who have gnawing questions about this. Pro-life Republicans and "swing vote" Democrats are not going to wait much longer. I sense that it's time for the Republicans to "put up or shut up."
Christianity Today (April, 2005, p. 30) quotes John Kerry, in a January, 2005 speech, saying, "I don't want abortion. Abortion should be the rarest thing in the world." In that same Christianity Today article, Howard Dean, the leader of the Democratic Party, said, "We are not pro-abortion! There is not anyone I know who is pro-abortion." And the article quoted Hillary Clinton describing abortion as "a sad, even tragic choice." Last week Jesse Jackson, a leading Democrat, went and stood outside Terri Schiavo's hospice, and plainly spoke in favor of pro-life. Are the Democrats finally coming around? Are they willing to change - to get back our "blue collar" votes? Time will tell.
But I know this - I have waited forty-one years for the Republicans to stop the killing - first in Vietnam, and then in the Abortion Holocaust. I sometimes feel deeply betrayed. Surely I am not the only one. Will I feel, in a few years, like I did in 1964 when I voted for Goldwater to end the Vietnam War "swiftly and honorably"? Will I go back to my grandmother's party? I don't know. Time will tell.
Two elderly Baptist preachers told me today that, since the Terri Schiavo incident, they are thinking about voting for a Democrat again. I am not alone. It's time for the Republicans to put up or shut up.
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