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The 2020 GOP: Not the Republican party I remember

Written By | Sep 1, 2020
Republican, GOP, Divisiveness

I remember a Republican Party quite different from the one we see at the present time.  I was involved with that party for many years, beginning in college. The Young Republicans I joined were committed to ending segregation,  which then existed throughout the South.  It was then Democrats promoting segregation. In Virginia, Democrats were ready to close the public schools rather than integrate them. In 1957, Republican President  Dwight D.  Eisenhower sent federal troops to integrate the schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was Democratic governor Orval Faubus who resisted integration, ordering the National Guard to prevent African American students from enrolling at Central High School.

In law school, I did a law review article about the laws against miscegenation,  inter-racial marriage, which existed in Virginia and throughout the South. Again, all states controlled by Democrats.  Until I began to study this subject, I did not know that the Nazis defended their Nuremberg racial laws, by pointing to the law against inter-racial marriage in Virginia.

Democrats in those days had little regard for individual freedom.

As someone who considered himself conservative, I questioned what right any state had to tell men and women whom they might marry or restaurant owners and hotel operators whom they might serve.

Later, I worked in Congress for a number of Republicans, for whom I had, and have high regard.  These include Reps. Phil Crane (R-IL), Jack Kemp (R-NY), and two members of Congress who went on to be president, George H.W. Bush, and Gerald Ford.  I never heard any of them speak ill of their Democratic colleagues,  much less mock them or call them names.  Their goal was to form coalitions with Democrats and convince them of the merits of the legislation they were proposing.  Beyond this. They were gentlemen.

Republicans in those days had a philosophy of what government should and should not do.

They believed in the Constitution,  which reflected the fear of government power which the Framers shared.  They believed in the division of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. And they were particularly concerned about an all-powerful executive.

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They believed in free markets, free trade, and balanced budgets.  America us unique, Republicans thought. Made up of men and women of every race, religion, and nation.  They embraced the idea “If you shed a drop of American blood, you shed the blood of the whole world.” 

They understood that we are all immigrants to these shores.

In the world, Republicans believed in American leadership.

They were strong proponents of NATO, which has kept the peace in Europe. Since the end of World War ll.  They understood the evil of Communism and the goal of world domination pursued by the Soviet Union.  Many on the left had sympathy for what they viewed as the Communist “experiment.”  I remember that when I was a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security subcommittee, we held a series of hearings about religious persecution in Communist countries.

These hearings were criticized by, among others, the World Council of Churches.  I remember writing them a letter asking, “If there is religious freedom in Communist countries, would you please tell me the address where Bibles are published in the Soviet Union, Romania, Hungary, etc.”.

I received no reply.

In our two-party system, we have traditionally had the concept of  “loyal opposition.”

The parties have differed on a variety of subjects. These include how to best provide health care, how to, provide for the poor, and how to maintain the environment.  In the past, not all Republicans and not all Democrats agreed with the “official” party position.  The President’s own party often challenges his policies.

What the Republican Party stands for today is difficult to understand.  We have the largest budget deficits in our history.  While Western Europe, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, and other countries have brought the coronavirus pandemic under control,  it is still raging here, with no national, plan to deal with it.

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Whether or not those who use it understand, “America First” was the slogan of a group that opposed U.S. involvement in the war against Adolph Hitler.  It is the opposite of the leadership, and magnanimity,  the U.S. has traditionally exhibited.

Race relations have been exacerbated by a series of police killings of unarmed black men and women.

The need for real police reform is clear.  A Republican President, one would have thought, would try to bring a divided country together.

In my years of observing elections, I have never seen so many members of one party, the Republican Party, embracing the candidate of the other party.  These include former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, former Governor of Ohio John Kasich.  There has always been a handful, of members of one party supporting the candidate of the other party.  But this is a stampede.

(Editors note: Democrats, including but not limited to NJ Congressman Jeff Van Drew, the Iron Range Mayors of Minnesota, Georgia State Representative Vernon Jones, as well as a historic number of black voters, have crossed party lines to support President Trump.)

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We need a Republican Party that represents the values which once,  indeed, made it the party of Lincoln.

In the open give and take of a free society, a president should be prepared to be criticized.  Every president I remember, of both parties,  has been subject to it.  No one other than our current president,  however, has lashed out with vituperation and insult at the slightest criticism.

Whether or not the Republican Party wins the November election,  its future is open to serious question.  The things it once stood for all seem to have been abandoned.  Those who still believe in those things will have to decide what to do next, no matter who wins in November.



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Allan C. Brownfeld

Received B.A. from the College of William and Mary, J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary, and M.A. from the University of Maryland. Served as a member of the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia and the University College of the University of Maryland. The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, he has written for such newspapers as The Houston Press, The Washington Evening Star, The Richmond Times Dispatch, and The Cincinnati Enquirer. His column appeared for many years in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in The Yale Review, The Texas Quarterly, Orbis, Modern Age, The Michigan Quarterly, The Commonweal and The Christian Century. His essays have been reprinted in a number of text books for university courses in Government and Politics. For many years, his column appeared several times a week in papers such as The Washington Times, The Phoenix Gazette and the Orange County Register. He served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, as Assistant to the research director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to members of the U.S. Congress and to the Vice President. He is the author of five books and currently serves as Contributing Editor of The St. Croix Review, Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and editor of Issues.