New GOP message: a blast from the Democratic past

By Donna J. Wade (August 2000)

Like many life-long Democrats, I've been glued to CNN and CSPAN keenly watching the Republican National Convention.

From the first gavel, I got a feeling of dejavu, because this "new" Republican party line sounds surprisingly like the old Democratic one. Speeches extolled the virtues of inclusiveness, of creating "a bigger tent". Promises to leave no child behind by strengthening education, and the endless parade of speakers from ethnic minorities are Democratic standbys.

But this year's RNC had a big surprise for me. An openly gay Congressman from Arizona addressed the convention, and no one even heckled, much less walked out in protest!

Anticipating a good sound bite, reporters beat a path to Jerry Falwell for his reaction to this affront to fundamentalist Christians. Falwell offered an amazingly benign remark about having no problem with the speaker because he was there to talk politics, not discuss his lifestyle.

As an open lesbian, accustomed to Rev. Falwell's periodic fire and brimstone condemnations of our community, I must admit that his restrained response had me wondering if the Rapture had happened and I slept through it..

These gestures toward broadening their appeal do not sit well with Pat Robertson and others who are hoping for some sign that the grand old party has not forsaken a "true" conservative agenda. The staunchly conservative platform was a victory of sorts. But I'm sure the reports that some of the party faithful were assuaging pro-choice delegates by declaring the platform more a formality than a serious plan of action gave hard-line conservatives reason to question the party's commitment to their ideals.

Further evidence of the GOP's attempts to promote a less-controversial image came through Sen. John McCain. He uttered nary a word about campaign finance reform, the issue that fueled some of the more rancorous primary debates. Maybe McCain and Bush really did set aside their differences, even become friends, but after the sheer animosity exhibited during the campaign, I doubt it. For me, McCain's closing statement was most telling: "I have such faith in you, my fellow Americans, and I am haunted by the vision of what will be." So am I, John, but for very different reasons.

It terrifies me to think of Bush as the one to alter the face of the Supreme Court for generations. There is little doubt that Bush's appointees will make as its first sacrificial lamb a woman's right to choose whether or not she bears children.

While Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell, don't harass" policy failed miserably, I cannot support someone for Commander-in-Chief who would deny the opportunity of military service to patriotic Americans solely because of their sexual orientation.

Bush's tapping of conservative standard-bearer Dick Cheney as his running mate was a slick move, and dangling the carrot of Colin Powell as the possible Secretary of State was more astute than I'd thought him capable. Still, I have to wonder about a candidate whose appeal seems based more on the quality of his proposed support personnel than on his job qualifications.

Regardless of whom our President selects as advisors, s/he must possess a working knowledge of the complicated and often volatile dynamics of international and domestic realities. George W. has not demonstrated this critical understanding.

I see Bush's plan for drastic tax cuts and increased defense spending as an irresponsible path back to a trillion-dollar national debt. As appealing as the thought of more discretionary income may be, can we afford a repeat performance of the previous Republican administrations' fiscal ineptitude?

Can we support candidates who have lived lives of privilege so long that they have lost their frame of reference for the daily struggles that confront simple working folks? When did Bush or Cheney last live paycheck to paycheck, or pray no illness befalls them because they can afford neither health insurance nor medical bills? When was the last time they shopped for their childrens' school clothes at thrift stores, or fed them with food stamps?

Shouldn't we also question entrusting a nuclear arsenal and the lives of a global community to someone whose unwillingness to intervene in even the most questionable of executions is anything but compassionate? George W. is pro-life only when it comes to unborn fetuses.

Unlike many political talking heads, I found Dick Cheney's acceptance speech mind-numbingly dull. "The wheel has turned!" he intoned. Indeed it has, Mr. Cheney, and if you get your way, it'll run flat over the middle class, while the rich get richer still. His performance made it abundantly clear to me that Republicans want so desperately to regain the White House, they'll do anything, even mimicking that which they so vehemently railed against four short years ago.

When Cheney asked his audience if they really believed anything would change under Al Gore, I thought 'probably as much as I believe that the party of the privileged has been reborn as its antithesis'. It remains to be seen if the GOP can back up its pledge of inclusiveness with the action required for its realization.

Sure, Clinton was no saint. His sexual compulsion resulted not only in his personal ridicule but in demeaning the presidency. Is that Gore's fault? Bush consistently urges us to assume personal responsibility for our actions, because blaming others for our troubles makes us a culture of victims. Yet he remains curiously silent as Cheney lays Clinton's character failings at Gore's feet.

My money's on Gore, a reasoned, compassionate man with a track record of fighting for the impoverished and disenfranchised, so that they, too, might realize the American dream. He helped to shepherd in an unprecedented era of prosperity, and is someone for whom the concepts of equal opportunity, and equal treatment under the law for every American are not mere campaign catch phrases, but cherished elements essential to a thriving democracy.

Regardless of your political affiliation, please vote in November. We can only have a government "of the people, by the people and for the people" if we participate in making it so.

Donna J. Wade
Freelance Commercial Writer
Graphic Designer / Print Media Consultant

Phone: (909) 338-9778

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