Harry Truman had tried to pass single payer national health insurance, along the lines of modern Medicare, in 1948. He was defeated by the first Republican-controlled Congress since Herbert Hoover. Truman always publicly referred to Republicans as reactionaries; they were the party of no.
"The Republicans believe that the power of government should be used first of all to help the rich and the privileged in the country. With them, property, wealth, comes first. The Democrats believe that the power of government should be used to give the common man more protection and a chance to make a living. With us the people come first." -- A Government as Good As Its People (Harry S. Truman)
Franklin Roosevelt said it like this: "A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward."
The Republicans are famous for using emotional sophistry and fear to convince ordinary Americans to vote against their own interests. Harry Truman once said, "Don't vote for me, vote for yourself!" The labels of nut ball or whacko are as meaningless to the Republican horde as telling a pig it smells bad. Ronald Reagan was seen in his era as every bit as loony as Sarah Palin is today. The Republicans of that era, and still today, like threatening war with all enemies, real and imagined. Goldwater warned of a nuclear war with Russia and China if they would not give in to our demands. This is why the campaign ad run by Lyndon Johnson of the little girl picking daisies with a mushroom cloud in the background had such an effect.
It asked the simple question: Is this what you want for your children? Goldwater was at the far right end of the Republican Party, the end aligned with the John Birch society. At the other end of the Republican spectrum were the Rockefeller Republicans, people like George Romney and Gerald Ford, and of course, Nelson Rockefeller. They were economic Republicans, Republicans from Democratic-leaning districts who were soft on Republican hot button issues of the day like "forced integration" and strong on limiting the power of organized labor.
But since the election of Ronald Reagan as President in 1980, there has been a shift in the political landscape. Liberal became a dirty word and politicians of both parties ran for office on their conservative values. Since that election the American standard of living has gone only down, and American weapons of war have never grown dusty from lack of use. What we have seen in that time has been Republican wet dreams of cutting taxes for the rich and cutting wages for the working man.
We have a world-turned-upside-down scenario where Bill Clinton's welfare reform program was more conservative than Richard Nixon's. Bill Clinton was no more a liberal than Ronald Reagan was a moderate. The media and the Republicans like to label Democrats as liberals, but in point of fact there are very few actual liberals in Congress. We do have Dennis Kucinich, Barney Frank and John Conyers, but you couldn't fill a minivan with the actual liberals in Congress.
When Harry Truman ran for the presidency in 1948, the liberals had split the party because they wanted Truman to step down. The Southern Dixiecrats had walked out of the convention over Truman's strong stand on desegregation. Truman was a moderate Democrat; Kennedy was a moderate Democrat, so when judged side-by-side, Bill Clinton was almost as conservative as either Nixon or Ford.
But since the election in 1980 we have had endless, and in most cases needless, military conflicts, and the so-called liberal voices were mainly silenced.
"More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginning of all wars - yes, an end to this brutal, inhuman and thoroughly impractical method of settling the differences between governments." (Franklin Roosevelt)
"We prefer world law in the age of self-determination to world war in the age of mass extermination." (John F Kennedy)
Perhaps it is this generational difference that puts me at odds with so many of my fellow Democrats. I see war in the same light as FDR, Truman and Kennedy, that war is the failure of politics. It is a Neocon wet dream, bogeymen created to feed contractors and bury young Americans. There is no Al Qaeda. The Taliban are, after all, Afghans, and our troops are not. Just as there were no WMD's in Iraq, and prisoners were tortured to support the administration's lies.