Election 2004

Bush Ain't No Republican

As they prepare to cast their vote on Tuesday, traditional Republicans must ask themselves whether this administration is truly the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower.
Republicans look at this election as a test of loyalty to the standards of their party. What many do not understand is that the party, and its leader who demands their fealty, no longer exists. The principles that have defined Republicanism for the last 100 years are being rapidly eroded by an administration that seeks to promote an extremist right wing agenda and profoundly redefine the character of this country.

In the last six decades of observing and participating in presidential elections, I cannot remember one that has offered Americans such a stark choice over the future direction of their democracy, such a clear opportunity to reject extremism and embrace reason.

Traditional Republican John Eisenhower, son of President Dwight D. Eisenhower said recently that, "Today's Republican Party is one with which I am totally unfamiliar. To me, the word Republican has always been synonymous with the word 'responsibility,' which has meant limiting our governmental obligations to those we can afford in human and financial terms. Today's whopping budget deficit of some $440 billion does not meet that criterion.

Responsibility used to be observed in foreign affairs. That has meant respect for others. America, though recognized as the leader of the community of nations, has always acted as a part of it, not as a maverick separate from that community and at times insulting towards it. Leadership involves setting a direction and building consensus, not viewing other countries as practically devoid of significance. Recent developments indicate that the current Republican Party leadership has confused confident leadership with hubris and arrogance."

Talking about the Bush administration's economic recovery policies, Pete Peterson, former secretary of commerce under President Richard Nixon and founder of the Concord Coalition, has said, "Over the next decade these tax cuts will add about $5 trillion of deficits. We sit around and talk about all these cuts and we say it's our money, your money and mine, [and] I do not think they are being honest with the American people. In the first place, it's our debt and it's our children's debt. But more importantly, a tax cut isn't really a tax cut long-term unless you reduce spending. Because then it becomes a tax increase on your children. So we're inflicting this awful bill not simply on ourselves but most importantly on our kids."

As they prepare to cast their vote on Tuesday, traditional Republicans must ask themselves whether this administration is truly the party of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. Are principles that have defined their party for generations still being respected? Is the Republican Party still the defender of economic responsibility, and an advocate for the environment? Can women continue to trust the party that fought to win them the right to vote? Are historic commitments to a well-reasoned multilateral foreign policy, and rational policies of national defense still being honored?

I do not believe that they are. I am concerned that a campaign of fear and intimidation is being used as a defense to justify governmental encroachment on the hard fought constitutional rights of American citizens. I am convinced that millions of Republicans are looking at this administration and quietly asking themselves whether this is the president they want to represent their party and defend their country.

Many believe they are alone – but they are not.

Respected pollster John Zogby, president and CEO of the polling firm Zogby International, has said, "when I talk anecdotally to moderate Republicans, it's very hard to find one who is going to vote for Bush. On the other hand, it's not showing up in our polling." In fact, Zogby's latest polls show 87% of Republicans backing Bush. "I'm just watching and waiting and saying to myself maybe there's something going on here, because I'm hearing it."

Using Zogby's figures, 13% of this country's approximately 56 million registered Republicans could crossover to support John Kerry. This is a potential of seven million voters, and, if Zogby's professional intuition is accurate that number could be much higher.

These voters could easily represent the margin of victory in next week's presidential election.

It worries me that many of these Republicans will choose, out of frustration, to stay at home on Tuesday, and in doing so re-elect an administration they know does not represent their beliefs.

Many of these Republicans are making their decision based on an inaccurate understanding of many of the Bush administration's policies. A recent survey showed that three out of four self-described supporters of President George W. Bush still believe that pre-war Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) or active programs to produce them. This survey shows that a similar number also believes that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein provided "substantial support" to al Qaeda.

Millions of Republican voters also believe Bush administration claims that the 1.7 million jobs they have created are comparable to the millions of jobs that have been outsourced overseas. Instead we are seeing what the New York Times recently referred to as the "Wal-Martization" of the American economy, a situation where $30.00 an hour jobs are being replaced with jobs that pay no more than $9.00 an hour.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush mesmerized many of his party's centrist members with talk of "compassionate conservatism," and a desire for bipartisan cooperation.

"President Bush's rhetoric during the 2000 campaign held the promise for a significant change of direction," said Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI). "There was a strong bipartisan desire for mutual respect and cooperation – for the good of the country. We were exhausted by the bitter partisan infighting, but this administration's behavior has only made the problem worse."

Of greater concern is the Republican's apparent willingness to wage a divisive campaign of fear, personal attacks and persistent inaccuracies. Such tactics denigrate the credibility of respected party principles.

In 1950, freshman Republican Sen. Margaret Chase Smith delivered what has come to be known as her "Declaration of Conscience" speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Sen. Smith made the decision to publicly confront Sen. Joseph McCarthy's charges that those who disagreed with his version of patriotism were, "giving ammunition to America's enemies." Similar implications have been leveled at Sen. John Kerry and many Democratic candidates for congressional office around the country.

In a quiet voice Sen. Smith made the following observations, "I speak as a Republican, I speak as a woman. I speak as a United States Senator. I speak as an American.

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who by their own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism: the right to criticize, the right to hold unpopular beliefs, the right to protest, the right to independent thought."

As Republicans make their decision over the next few days as to who to vote for for president they should remember that by voting for President Bush, they are giving him the power to change the face of the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal judiciary for a generation. They will empower Bush to amass an enormous federal deficit that will fall on the backs of their children. And, they will run the risk of undermining the Social Security system and Medicare, programs they have paid for and are relying on as integral components of their retirement.

These are not the principles on which their party was founded. These are not policies they have to support. This election could well be a defining moment in the history of the Republican Party if traditional Republicans turn their backs on neo-conservative ideologues, regain their voice and become major players in setting the party's political agenda for future generations.
Michael Cudahy is a political writer and analyst from Massachusetts. He was a former national campaign staff member for President George H.W. Bush, executive director for Elliot Richardson's Committee for Responsible Government, and national communications director for the Republican Coalition for Choice.
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