I was sitting at home recently working on an acrostic puzzle, the strange offspring that apparently resulted from mating a crossword with a game of Hangman. It's a second-tier puzzle, usually relegated to somewhere in The New York Times Magazine between the really expensive real estate listings and a recipe for something inedible like sea urchin ceviche.
One of the clues caught my attention: "Foe of a Democrat." The answer was obvious and I realized it shouldn't be. Democrats and Republicans weren't meant to be enemies; they were meant to balance perspectives, to give voice to competing ideologies so that the country could ultimately move forward in a way that worked for all. Not so anymore.
Full disclosure: I'm a Republican, but not in the way the word is used today. I'm a Republican in the way Republicans were until well into Reagan's second term, when the more conservative elements began to hold sway. In rebellion I've defined myself as a "Consiberal."
The Republican Party, founded in the middle of the 19th century (Lincoln was the Party's first President), was a party of fiscal conservatism and social moderation. The Party’s first slogan was “free labor, free land, free men.” Free labor referred to rights both of workers and businesses, free land referred to the Party’s opposition to a plantation system that favored the wealthy, and free men referred to the Party’s loathing of slavery. These platform planks clearly outlined what is often forgotten today: that the Republican Party began as a socially open-minded, socially responsible, socially inclusive and socially progressive assembly.
Ironically, the first "fringe" of the Party--referred to as the Radical Republicans--were considered so because they were too liberal.
In addition to fiscal conservatism and social moderation, Consiberals also believe in the pre-eminence of states' rights, the importance of economic growth, and the value of individual freedom and liberty.
Not long ago the conservative voice was very different than it is today: we had Barry Goldwater, who famously said "You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to shoot straight." We had William F. Buckley, Jr., who said (when referring to many conservatives at the time) "intelligent deference to tradition and stability can evolve into intellectual sloth and moral fanatacism."
We need that kind of dialog again, that kind of reasoned intellgence.
With respect to all of the above the Consiberal may feel Party-less; the Democrats still want to "help" too much and the Republicans have planted their flag in a false Patriotism laced with social issues designed to target us emotionally. But, as it turns out, there are a lot of Consiberals out there. A lot. We are the new silent majority, but silence isn't working. Silence has only gotten us where we are today.
By the way, if in reading this (or my book), you feel that I've been unduly harsh with the GOP, then you're right. You only hurt the one you love, and I'd dearly love to have my Party back.