Why I Am A Democrat
BuzzFlash

REBECCA KNIGHT

May 9, 2002

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"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts."
Abraham Lincoln
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I remember a time when I respected the Republican Party. I hate to admit it now, but I have even voted for Republicans in the past. However, over the years the Republican Party has become a powerful political force that espouses moralistic attacks for the sole purpose of winning. As I watched this happen, my respect for the Party dwindled, not over political policy or issues, but over political strategy. Why? Because of the hypocrisy. There are no innocent politicians. They have all compromised their integrity at some point. Politicians must compromise on issues and legislation or nothing would be accomplished. But political parties have an obligation to represent their beliefs and their philosophies with honesty so that Americans can cast their votes with confidence. The Republican Party chose a tactical path of duplicity. They chose power over integrity. Honor had ceased to matter. Winning was the only thing. They steadily built their power by accusing the Democratic Party of the very things they themselves were guilty of.

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"The coming battle for the hearts and minds of Americans is ultimately a battle between civilization and barbarism."
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A little history is evidence of my contentions. Think back to when the Republican Party was strongly anti-Communism and Communism's destruction was the primary issue of their campaigns and their governing. It was a key element in the election and administration of President Ronald Reagan. The Reagan/Bush administration, in their zeal to rid the world of Communism, became embroiled in the Iran/Contra scandal. During that period, Republicans were willing to overlook the subverting of the Constitution, breaking of the law, lying to Congress, and shredding of evidence. Their anger at being faced with such charges led them to accuse the Democrats of scandal politics. They were determined not to let 10 years of anti-Communist policies be discredited by Democrats with a vendetta against Reagan. So, the Republican Party determined that breaking the law was excusable in the fight against Communism. Henry Hyde defended the lies of Oliver North in the name of a higher moral good. Hyde said, "All of us at some time confront conflicts between rights and duties, between choices that are evil and less evil, and one hardly exhausts moral imagination by labeling every untruth and every deception an outrage." So much for truth, justice, and the American way, Henry. The result was that the Republican Party endorsed lying under oath and obstructing justice on a critical matter of NATIONAL SECURITY. The lesson of Iran/Contra for the Republican Party was that constitutional principles and civility in politics could be sacrificed for the achievement of their righteous goal of ridding the world of Communism. Their ends justified the means; even though their means went against everything our system of government is based upon.

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"Making a good-faith effort and being ideologically sound will be less important than advancing the goals of the movement."
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Next came the Reagan nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, which was the culmination of a strategy to force a right-wing economic and social agenda on the country through judicial appointments. It was a part of a secretive legal network called the Federalist Society, which was devoted to restricting privacy rights, reproductive freedoms, rolling back civil rights gains, and cutting back governmental regulation of industry. Members of the Federalist Society who worked in the Reagan Administration were Edwin Meese, Theodore Olson, Kenneth Starr, and Clarence Thomas. They believed in stripping away civil rights, voting rights, and environmental and consumer protections. They also supported discriminatory practices by cities, local schools, and religious institutions. Democrats and interest groups gradually rallied support against the Bork nomination by portraying him as a judicial extremist whose conservative views would roll back the country's commitment to civil rights, privacy and individual liberties. Bork may also have hurt his own chances with an emphatic defense of his views, instead of taking a conciliatory approach, while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Bork was rejected 58-42 by a full Senate vote in October 1987 following a fierce four-month confirmation struggle. Republicans were appalled and accused the Democrats of a smear campaign. They took away from the Bork episode a no-holds-barred attitude and felt it gave them license to mount a campaign of revenge and retribution against liberals.

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"We will maintain a constant barrage of criticism against the Left. We will attack the very legitimacy of the Left. We will not give them a moment's rest."
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The rise of Rush Limbaugh played a vital role in cementing this fundamental change in the Republican Party strategy. Limbaugh found his niche during the Reagan years by delivering outrageous right-wing commentary on the radio. He discovered there was big money in bashing the Left and he ran with it, calling himself a "journalist in relentless pursuit of the truth." In truth, he was a proponent of disinformation and somehow his listeners believed every word without bothering to check his factual accuracy. Limbaugh claimed no one was indicted in Iran/Contra, when in fact there were 14 indictments. Limbaugh suggested that Congress had opposed the Gulf War, when in fact both houses authorized it. Limbaugh cast the country as a war between "our" values versus "their" values; a hypocritical stance if ever there was one, since Limbaugh at that time was twice married and did not attend church. He played to cultural anger against women, minorities, and gays. And while doing this he proclaimed himself as "your epitome of morality and virtue." Limbaugh's chronic inaccuracy, and his lack of accountability, wouldn't be such a problem if Limbaugh were just a cranky entertainer. But Limbaugh is taken seriously. The Right welcomed him with open arms. William Bennett even called Limbaugh "possibly our greatest living American." The Right embraced what amounted to vitriolic, hate-filled, unsubstantiated rhetoric.

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"We will use guerrilla tactics to undermine the legitimacy of the dominant regime. We will take advantage of every available opportunity to spread the idea that there is something fundamentally wrong with the existing state of affairs."
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In the 1988, George H. W. Bush ran for President against Michael Dukakis. The Bush campaign, bitter from the Bork defeat, used wedge cultural issues to their fullest by employing strategists Roger Ailes and Lee Atwater. With the backing of big money and slick advertising, the Bush campaign managed to insinuate an entire vocabulary about the campaign into press coverage. The reporting on the Dukakis record on crime is illustrative. Here the Republicans secured the complicity of the press in renaming convicted murderer William Horton, in redefining the relationship between Horton's Maryland victims, in adopting such words as "torture" and "terrorize" to describe his actions while on furlough, in defining the furlough program's purpose as dispensing "weekend passes," and in talking of the policy as a "revolving door." Each of these acts of naming biased the discussion against Dukakis. Each was inaccurate. To the extent that the Republicans were able to set this language in place, however, they demonstrated the power of ads, reinforced by candidate speeches, and campaign hype, to manipulate the news. They unfairly painted Dukakis as not only unfit to be President, but also un-American.

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"The movement must be willing to appear obnoxious."
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George H. W. Bush became the 41st President while Communism was collapsing around the world taking away the Republicans' most reliable issue. They faced a time when they had to identify an issue other than Communism to focus on, one that would rally the Right. They determined that the big unfinished agenda was social issues, especially abortion. They championed the role of defending and fostering "basic American values" as if the ideals belonged solely to them, which is patently untrue. Movers and shakers of the Republican Party during this period were Paul Weyrich, founder of The Heritage Foundation, William Bennett, Jerry Falwell, and Newt Gingrich. Ironically the first victim of this new strategy was a Republican Senator, John Tower of Texas, and President Bush's nominee for defense secretary. The beginning of the end for Tower came on Jan. 31, 1989. On that day, Paul Weyrich testified at Tower's confirmation hearing that there were questions about his "moral character" and personal life that needed further investigation. This testimony supported the rumor that Tower was a drunk and a womanizer. Though the charges were unproven, they were believed, and they sunk Tower's nomination. His was the first rejection of a cabinet nominee in more than 30 years. Weyrich's testimony and the acceptance of his portrayal of Tower without validation fundamentally changed the way political battles were fought. It also energized the Christian Right, which for the most part had believed the private lives of politicians were fair game. Weyrich had demonstrated the power of sexual politics, of making unproven allegations, and of using judgment and character to discredit opponents. A new McCarthyism had reared its ugly head.

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"We must be feared, so that they will think twice before opening their mouths."
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Newt Gingrich rose to power by accepting these tactics and using them to their fullest extent. He found success, as did other Republicans, by using the culture war to demonize and condemn those who were "different." He was an opportunist. He was against government except for defense. He declared war on the domestic enemy, the Democratic Party, and the "corrupt liberal welfare state." He portrayed the differences in the two parties as moral rather than political and his approach permeated the Republican Party. He produced a list of hot button words to portray the Democratic Party as "sick, grotesque, loony, stupid, corrupt, anti-family, and traitors." It was so outrageous and so hysterically partisan it was hard to understand how anyone could take it seriously. Yet, the Republican Party did take it seriously. They built a political scheme based on hatred. They pursued it with all the vigor they could muster.

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"We must learn to treat leftists as natural disasters or rabid dogs. If we act as if this were in fact true (of course, it is not), we will not needlessly expend our energy on being upset with our opponents."
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The Republican Party most abusively applied these hypocritical strategies during the eight years of the Clinton administration. These strategies were responsible for the acrimony between Republican Congressional leaders and the Clinton White House, hampering progress, killing needed legislation, and taking the focus off the real business of the nation. It was at the very foundation of the many investigations into the Clintons' private and public lives. It was the shadow in the background of Congress regarding every move the Republican leaders made for eight years. It was the power behind the Starr Independent Counsel report to Congress. It almost brought about the removal from office of a duly elected President of the United States. One can debate the legal issues regarding the Clinton Impeachment and subsequent Senate trial, but one cannot deny that the Republican strategy of win at all cost was a monumentally divisive element for the Clinton Presidency.

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"This is not to discount the importance of reminding ourselves on a regular basis why we ought to hate leftist ideology, in order to keep ourselves motivated to better fight it."
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The hypocrisy was and still is astounding as many of the Right Wing lives secretly with the same flawed characters they denounce publicly. Eventually this became evident in the case of Newt Gingrich and other Republican leaders who have admitted they were not living up to these standards themselves and are no longer serving in their powerful positions.

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"We must reframe this struggle as a moral struggle, as a transcendent struggle, as a struggle between good and evil."
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If anyone should doubt that the Republican Party is accepting of the very elements they denounce in the Democratic Party, they need look no farther than the current Bush administration. Among the appointments made by President George Bush are two men who were heavily involved in Iran/Contra. John M. Poindexter, Bush's head of the Information Awareness Office, was convicted of conspiracy, false statements, destruction and removal of records, and obstruction of Congress. The convictions were overturned by an appellate court on the grounds Poindexter had been granted immunity in his testimony on the matter before Congress. Elliot Abrams, Bush's director of the National Security Council's office for democracy, human rights and international operations, pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress. President George H. W. Bush pardoned him. This is irrefutable evidence of the double standard that exists within the Republican Party. It does not take much imagination to understand what the Republican Party stance toward President Clinton would have been had he appointed two men with such backgrounds.

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"For example, we will go to public lectures given by leftists and ask them "impolite" and highly critical questions. We must, of course, be fully prepared beforehand for these sorts of excursions, and we must also be prepared to embarrass ourselves, especially at first."
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In my opinion, this type of vitriol by one political party routinely targeted at another is the worst aspect of American politics. The Republican Party has adopted a political strategy in which they knowingly and willingly, for the sake of winning elections and gaining more political power, embrace a policy of destroying the opposition through slanderous lies about personal lives or through a fabricated "cultural war." It has caused political discourse to sink to new lows. No political party is totally void of corruption and personal failings. But it is wrong of one party to sanctimoniously denounce the other party for some of the very things it is guilty of. It is the height of hypocrisy.

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"Our people must learn to have contempt and scorn for the wider society, and reject it in all ways."
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These are the reasons I will remain a Democrat for the rest of my life.

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"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it people will eventually come to believe it."
- Joseph Goebbels
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Quotes between paragraphs are excerpts of Republican tactical strategies from documents published on line by Free Congress Foundation, Center for Cultural Conservatism, The Integration of Theory and Practice : A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement.

Author of this article may be contacted at : tennessee_gal655@yahoo.com

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