As one who was born into the Republican Party almost a century ago, I do not even recognize the party as it exists today. My family hated Franklin Roosevelt as rabidly as the Tea Party hates Obama today. Despite the fact that the nation was deep in the depression before he took office, my parents and their neighbors detested every measure that President Roosevelt took to correct the situation. My father was deeply humiliated when he had to accept the first box of government-distributed food so that his children could eat.ã
You see, the Republican Party had real principles then. It was not considered a shame to be poor so long as you worked hard and were an honorable person. If you needed something that you could not buy, you offered to work for it. If you could not work, the neighbors would come in and do your work so that you would lose neither your work nor the eventual benefit of what you had worked so hard to accomplish.
It was not a shame or an honor if you happened to have the good fortune to enjoy plenty, so long as you had earned it by your own honest efforts and refrained from flaunting your wealth by ostentatious living. The boss and the hired hand were expected to work together at the same job and under the same circumstances. This was not a religion, as such, but it was held as deeply as the people held their Christianity.
In that light, they opposed the idea of going to war to "save Europe," yet when war was declared, they lined up at enlistment offices to "do their duty." The same men who refused to allow their sons to sign up for the Civilian Conservation Corps or the Works Progress Agency took them to the bus station and proudly sent them off to serve their country in such numbers that the earlier ones had to help finish construction of the camps where they were to receive their basic training. They bought War Bonds to help defray the costs and the children saved their pennies to take to school to buy a ten-cent "savings stamp" when they had contributed enough pennies. These stamps were placed in a book and a full book would be exchanged for an $18.75 War Bond that would return them $25 "someday."
Worn-out implements, old aluminum washing machines, broken bicycles, broken farm equipment, and any other useful metal found its way to the nearest rail yard for shipment to the aircraft plants and shipyards. Even the old cannon that had sat in the courtyard square since a much earlier war went to the the railroad to be melted down and re-used. Gas, food, and any other essential goods were tightly rationed, prices and wages were frozen with the intent that nobody would become rich by contributing to the war effort and it was accepted by the people as a necessity.
When this century turned, the world was suddenly upside-down. The new president came into office with delusions of inherited grandeur and cronyism ran rampant. The only contribution asked of the people was to provide their sons to the war effort and then to "go shopping." When our lauded "all-volunteer military" was insufficient, the National Guard was pressed into service. Mercenary soldiers were hired at great expense so that the sons of the rich were not needed -- except as officers, of course.
Now that "the cows have come home," our nation is financially broken, our jobs have been sent to other nations, another depression is on our shoulders, and another president is trying to set us back on the path to recovery. The same resentment is being demonstrated by the Republicans but not in the same way. They travel in droves to locations in order to meet, carry signs that would have put them in jail during the Bush years; they disrupt President Obama with insulting remarks during official addresses and, in general, behave like a roomful of spoiled brats in kindergarten.
Of course, having lived the life of privileges that were denied to all too many of us, they feel they are entitled to the same preferential treatment they have always received. They have no knowledge of -- or desire for -- the miserable sacrifices that were made by their parents and grandparents in order to guarantee their very existence. They somehow have the idea that they, and only they, have the right to force those less "worthy" to suffer for the continuation of those privileges.
At one time the Republican Party was one that believed in spending no more than you could afford. However, another tenet of that belief was that one must pay the bills before discretionary spending for things like food and clothing. The watchword was, "make it do, make it yourself, or do without." Today's quazi-Republicans should sit down with their older generation who will describe the differences between then and now, and why this ain't your daddy's Grand Old Party.
When I turned 21 in 1951, I proudly marched to the polls to help elect "Ike," our hero of World War II. General Eisenhower could have been elected by running on either party but he declared that he had always been a Republican, having grown up in Kansas and considered it his home. Kansans supported him overwhelmingly, both as a native son and as a representative of their brand of Republicanism. History agreed with us as he became probably the most successful president of the twentieth century and we still feel his presence in our daily lives, whether or not we actually think of it.
The nation was in the usual post-war slump with a war to pay for, mills and factories to convert back to peace-time manufacturing, and with foreign nations looking to us for help with their reconstruction. We had the most massive military machine of that time in history to relocate and re-allocate, veterans to educate, house, and heal to get them back to their previous status. Demand for housing soared as new families were added to the population, and we successfully met their demand for home financing, student assistance, and relocation.
President Eisenhower recalled the difficulties encountered in moving materiel
across the country during the war and decided that our highway system was
antiquated and deteriorated. At the same time we were paying for the
just-completed war while still maintaining a military presence all over the
world, he determined that we should have a nation-wide network of "super
Being a good Republican, he adhered to the notion of first paying the bills, and so tax increases were necessary. Tax rates on the upper brackets of income soared to the 90-percent range, but people paid it and still prospered. Ike also presided over the extension of Social Security Disability Income coverage to handicapped and disabled people and approved the first steps to establish civil rights for African-Americans.
In recalling the halcyon days of Eisenhower, marked by the first positive
actions in furthering our United Nations efforts to keep the peace in Korea, and
the rumblings of the Communists in Vietnam, he -- and we -- continued strong in
our determination to build a better world, no matter the cost. In that light,
the Republican Party of today becomes an oxymoron.
Eisenhower realized that a prosperous America depended on a happy and healthy populace who would be ready and able to mobilize in support of whatever national emergency should arise. Today's Republicans show absolutely no empathy with the plight of the working man, much less the poor and the aged. They operate on the Golden Rule: He who has the gold -- rules.
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