Janus was the Roman god of gates and doors, often pictured looking back and looking ahead. Wendell Berry has said, “The past is our definition. We may strive, with good reason, to escape it, or to escape what is bad in it, but we will escape it only by adding something better to it.” This blog is about understanding the past and adding something better to the present.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Why I Plan to Vote Democratic - Part 1
How I Might Have Been a Republican
is the first in a series of blogs on my intent to vote not only for President
Obama, but a straight Democratic ticket at the national, state, and local
levels. I plan to look at issues that are important to me and I believe important to the American people.
welcome your responses, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or something
else. I will publish whatever comments you have unless they are mean-spirited or
do not speak directly to the issue addressed in that particular blog. In this first segment I write about my Republican roots, I invite you to
share your stories of how you have come to the political affiliations you have;
or if you don’t have any at all.] [10/03/2012 Updates: See Susan's story in the Comments and Bert's story following mine.]
Had I followed in the
footsteps of my father and mother, aunts and uncles, their parents and
grandparents, I would have been a Republican. As far as I know, they never
changed their Republican affiliations. A second cousin is a Republican
Representative in the House.
If it weren’t for my
Republican great grandfather, Amos Lancaster Thornberry, I might still be in the Republican fold. I assume
he was a Republican because before he was old enough to vote he left his
Confederate-believing family in Kentucky to join the Union Army in the Civil
War. He was a supporter of Abraham Lincoln’s effort to save the union and he believed slavery was wrong.
He fought through the war, was wounded, and after the war returned to Kentucky
only long enough to marry his fiancé, and go to Texas. He never had contact
with his Kentucky family again.
While I was told the
story about great grandfather as I was growing up, my grandparents and parents
told it with some pride; despite the fact that they had been born in
Texas and held views on race that were typically southern. I'm not sure they knew that the Republican Party had been founded in 1854 by anti-slavery activists. In school I tried, really tried,
to fit in by identifying with the racial views of my peers, but in the
background there was always the memory of my great grandfather. His middle name was given to me and I was proud of it.
When the Civil Rights
Movement erupted in the 1950s, my family members were vehement in their
condemnation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and regarded him as a “communist agitator”
just like they viewed President Franklin Roosevelt - in spite of the
fact that FDR probably saved their farms and ranches during the Great
Depression and Dust Bowl.
As a class assignment,
I went to hear Dr. King speak at a voter registration rally in Dallas in 1960. It was as if my great grandfather were speaking directly to me, saying that
he would have been a part of the Movement, not a part of the white opposition to it.
It was a life-changing and a party-affiliation-changing moment in my life. Of
course, I was surrounded by southern Democrats and Republicans whose views were
mirror images of those of most of my family and the people with whom I grew up.
I was grateful for
Republican President Eisenhower’s sending the federal troops to Central High in
Little Rock in 1957 to ensure the safety of the first black students, but when
I came to the first opportunity to exercise my right to vote I believed that a
John Kennedy administration would be a better friend of the Civil Rights Movement
than one of Richard Nixon. There were still liberals and progressives on race
issues in the Republican Party, but Nixon was not Eisenhower, and neither were
like the party that nominated and that elected Abraham Lincoln a hundred years
I would like to think
that I would have joined with my great grandfather in 1860, but in 1960 I think
he would have been a Kennedy Democrat. That was good enough for me. Since then,
the progressive wing of the Republican Party has been excommunicated and their
policies on race have continued to narrow and harden. There have been Democratic
policies I didn’t like over the years, and there have also been some in the
Obama administration. I’ll tell you about them in subsequent pieces in this
series. But compared to candidates and policies Republicans have offered over
these years, for me there has been no comparison.
My great grandfather
is one reason why I plan to vote Democratic in November. What about you? How
did you become whatever you are?
UPDATE: Bert's Story
Why I am a DemoCrat/republican/socialist.( republiCratist?):
I grew up in a working class family which struggled to make ends meet,
but a family that believed in and supported unionism and collective bargaining
that allowed workers to share in the proceeds of their
productivity. Thereis no question that those early years, wherever we come
from, stick with us wherever we go. I believe that the Capital C in Crat, is a
vital element of a society that professes to be democratic--that allows
all voices to be heard: the willing. the unwilling, the sick, the
lame, the haves, the have nots, the owners, the disowned. I am a Crat who
believes that upward mobilitycomes through a society's commitment to education,
training and open institutions that allow those with tenacity and talent to
rise beyond humble beginnings to achieve above the class and status into which
they were born and to and make a contribution to society, not just take from
Part of the repubIican (our nation is a republic,
after all--the small r is purposeful) in us all, is the acceptance of the
rule of laws, which should reflect an expression of the values, norms,and
goals of the populace--something our founders expressed very well.
Law, along with social norms, is an important factor in regulating
human conduct--as long as the law supports and reinforces trends toward
maintaining and improving the human condition. When the law denies human
progress, when it excludes rather than includes, it is cause for
political revolt, peaceful or otherwise. Another side of the republican
component of my belief is the importance of the private business
sector. It must be profitable, it must be innovative, it must be
competitive while being socially and environmentally responsible. To be
these things, it must be properly regulated so that it contributes to society
as a whole, not just to those who may be investors, board members, or high-paid
executives. It must be taxed.
Finally, I am socialist, who has great respect for
those mature countries which have devoted energies to improving the quality of
human life by providing basic levels of support, including income,
educational and social services, and health care. I believe
they are way ahead of countries which have not yet come to terms with
the inherent conflicts between unbridled capitalism and the human need for
safety, security, and freedom of expression. Yes, I am a
demorepubliist-- or a repubsocialdemocan, or a something like it, that hopes
and even prays that we Americans can get it all together.