To The Editor:
I miss the Republican Party. I miss the party whose first Presidential candidate ran on a slogan of “Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Speech, Free Men, and Fremont.” I miss the Republican Party founded in opposition to the expansion of slavery, and later its abolition. I miss the Republican Party that gave us the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution placing equal rights for all in one of our founding documents. I miss the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant who restored our union and abolished slavery. I miss the Republican Party of Teddy Roosevelt, one of the founders of the modern environmental movement. I miss the Republican Party of Dwight Eisenhower who led the west to victory over forces of genocide and totalitarianism in Europe, and warned of the military-industrial complex at home. I miss the Republican Party of Everett Dirksen, who allied with Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson, and Martin Luther King to pass the landmark Civil Rights acts of the 1960s. And I miss the Republican Party of Gerald Ford, who helped heal the country after the shame of Watergate. Most of all, I miss the Republican Party that preferred to compete with their opposition on the basis of their ideas, rather than trying to stifle their speech, the control of their own lives, and their right to express themselves at the ballot box.
Mary Kimm was spot on in her editorial “Reenacting A Dark History?,” relative to efforts by Republicans in Richmond to restrict speech, access to the ballot box, and the control women have over their own reproductive health. Placing these efforts in a historical context was very effective, and reinforces how important it is to be vigilant about protecting access to rights guaranteed by the constitution, that nevertheless had to be fought for by succeeding generations. That this is occurring is obvious. What is not so obvious is why.
Why would the party of Grant and Dirksen, pass a bill whose only result will be to restrict the ability to vote of minorities and the elderly? Why would a party founded on the right to control one’s own person and property, pass a bill requiring women be subjected to an unnecessary medical procedure against their wishes? Why would the party of Teddy Roosevelt, push continued dependence on fossil fuels, and deny the truth of global climate change? And why would a Party founded on a dedication to freedom of expression, call out the riot police to quash a peaceful demonstration of women trying to advocate for these rights? In my opinion the answer is fear … fear that in our increasingly diverse country, the ideas that have propelled them to power since the 1980s, will no longer resonate with a true majority. So rather than trying to bring conservatism into the 21st century, they try to force Virginia and the country back to the 19th. They force clearly unpopular restrictions on fundamental rights to privacy and speech, while hoping to restrict access to the ballot box of those they know will reject their ideas. This strategy will work in the short term, but in the long term is a recipe for disaster for the Republican Party … and that makes me sad.
As a lifelong Democrat I recognize the importance of a vibrant two-party system. It is good for the country to have two parties with different ideas for achieving common goals, compete for power. That only works though, when both parties are more interested in doing what is beneficial than in maintaining power. It only works when both parties respect certain fundamental rights, including privacy, speech, and access to the ballot box. No party is perfect. The Democratic Party has struggled with this in the past.
Even FDR had to cater to the wing of his party that had not yet conceded losing the Civil War. It’s not too late for Republicans to come to the party. It is possible to be conservative without restricting access to the ballot box. It is possible to be conservative without infringing on rights to privacy. And it is possible to be conservative without rejecting scientific advance. I hope they get there soon, because I miss the Republican Party!