Thursday, May 11, 2006

Slippery Slopes and Rubber Rulers

Democrats and Republicans. Yes, there is too a difference. We’re right and they’re wrong? Well yes, there’s that – but it goes without saying. And let’s not be cynical. Skeptical, yes – it’s appropriate sometimes, but cynicism is just adolescent. As for what these parties stand for, well, in theory, strength abroad and opportunity at home from one, and social justice and alternative lifestyles from the other. Oh … did I give myself away? I really am trying to be fair-minded. Do the Dems stand for something else, too? I didn’t want a laundry list – just a pair of most-salient traits, and these are what suggest themselves to my poor brain.

But issues are not fixed to labels. Who is, and who was, isolationist? Who was, and who is, for military intervention? Consider Truman, who doesn’t seem to have been tormented by being the only human being in history, so far, to have ordered the use against enemies of (two) nuclear bombs. He ordered the sort-of unprovoked invasion of Korea. He ordered a purge of communist sympathizers from government positions. He oversaw the creation of NATO abroad and the NSA at home. There might have been no Israel, without him. Sounds like Regan, doesn’t he. Sounds like Bush.

Consider JFK, who authorized the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. He faced down the Soviets in the Missile Crisis and blockaded Cuba. He sent more and more advisors and Special Forces to South Vietnam to resist communism. In his Inaugural Address, he affirmed that “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.” He said, “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” He said, “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” Hardly watchwords of contemporary Liberalism.

Of course Truman was a liberal of his day. He advocated universal health insurance. He vetoed the Taft-Hartley Act, which regulated labor unions. He was for higher taxes. Kennedy protested the building of the Berlin Wall but did nothing to stop it. He gave untold tax dollars away as foreign aid. He thought the UN would be a positive and useful thing.

But neither of these men were “pro-choice.” Both would have been scandalized beyond a capacity for speech at the idea of “gay marriage.” Both would have expressed public outrage at the common fare of prime time television – it would have been outright smut, to them, and they would have arrested and prosecuted its purveyors. Some of this is a function of their era. But that's as much as to say nothing at all. They were the men they were.

So now, we look at the positions of the Republican Party. There is much overlap with the Democrats of two generations ago. You might almost say that the one has simply taken the platform of the other – without taking its history. Contemporary Democrats have very little in common with their namesakes of the past. Perhaps this is progress. Perhaps it is degeneracy.

It may be, perhaps, that in a generation or two the Republican Party will be solidly pro-abortion. If that is so, it will only be because the Democrats would be agitating for cannibalism, “birth control” up to age seven, and mandatory incest. Being conservative doesn’t mean holding on to the past. It means holding on to the present. Beyond what I’ve said here, I don’t know what being liberal means.



Will C. said...

"Contemporary Democrats have very little in common with their namesakes of the past. Perhaps this is progress. Perhaps it is degeneracy."


Jack H said...

I'm notified via email when there's a comment on an older piece. Sometimes I go back and re-read one. Coming to them with new eyes, I'm surprised at how good they are. I'm so damned wonderful I can hardly stand myself. But I remember how I wrote those last couple of lines. They just came to me, as the obvious conclusion. Isn't that great? They're just perfect. I'm terrific.