Why have the main political parties gotten so wacky (that it’s scary)?
“Aren’t you afraid your son might grow up to be gay?” asked a now-former friend one time when my only offspring was still in grade school (many years ago). “Nope,” I answered breezily, “I’m more afraid he’ll grow up to be Republican.” Though my main aim was to be both truthful and amusing with that reply, there is a large grain of truth in that statement (because his sexual orientation didn’t concern me and shouldn’t have concerned my former friend. People are who they are and love/are attracted to whom they are, so it’s a non-issue to me). On the other hand, although I am a lifelong Democrat voter (daughter of a staunch, outspoken, active Democrat woman, a liberal until her dying day) I did tell my son that he was free to form his own political views, as well as views and perspectives on everything else independent of what my views are…because he’s an individual with his own active mind, and I respect that.
Imagine my being a bit surprised when, maybe a couple years ago, he told me he leans toward being a “Congressional Republican.” Since I try to limit my exposure to media, I was not aware of this term, so I Googled it. Apparently it means people who believe in ideals, have a platform of values, that were — in the Republican party’s earlier years — very similar to the current Democrat platform. Sadly some of the original ideals of the old Republican Party seem to be forgotten or thrown to the wind nowadays by the Republicans; for example, they used to believe in helping people with social safety nets (see the Republican Party platform explained in a few paragraphs). Even though there were and still remain those hard-line conservatives still don’t support social programs: “ God forbid we have Socialism here!!!” they scream, and then say, “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”, a term I’ve always hated, since I realize some people don’t even HAVE bootstraps (that is, the tools and the tool box needed to get ahead in life). Of course these are the people who don’t have to worry about their next meal and if there will be one, which is a real concern for millions of poor people currently in America.
Anyway, because I’m a former newspaper reporter who was raised in a strongly political family, I have listened to/read political news and views for probably most of my life. I’ve covered many elections, met with many candidates as well as elected officials. We had wonderful discussions in my family of origin about the latest state of affairs in Washington D.C. Over the years a lot of people have asked why I pay attention to politics and I give them this short, sweet and to-the point-answer: “For the comedy value.” For real!! In the political environment of, let’s say, the past 20 years (maybe even more), it appears to me that the two “major” political parties, Republican and Democrats, have both been going — for lack of a better word — a bit wacky. The evidence supporting my point is everywhere.
First, some perspective: according to an article in Politifact concerning a Facebook meme from a few years ago regarding the similarity of the Republican Party platform from 1956 to the Democratic Party platform of today. There are many similarities, the piece said, though a few differences as well, partly because it was 1956, a booming post-war, pre-feminism time period. That platform was as follows: 1) provide help for low-income communities; 2) protect Social Security; 3) provide asylum for refugees; 4) extend minimum wage; 5) improve the unemployment benefit system so it covers more people; 6) strengthen labor laws for workers can easily join a union; 7) assure equal pay for equal work, regardless of sex. Naturally these beliefs and aims are something a stubborn Blue voter such as myself can identify with and support. I came to assume this was the Congressional Republicans with which my son agreed, that being the same political ideology which I strongly support.
Almost anyone who actually pays attention to the non-biased political news (that is, assuming it exists) will know that the Republican party in general nowadays have gone a bit more to the far right, with sharp differences and divides against the beliefs of the Democrats. Ever since the advent of the Tea Party faction of Republicans, they as a group seem now to be more unkind and ungentle towards, for example, people in need; I reference the formerly-mentioned “bootstraps” quote. And speaking of wacky, does anyone remember John McCain’s running mate of 2008? Or Michele Bachmann of MN, former senator and presidental candidate? Both women were Tea Party-ers and both women evoked cringes every time one of them opened their mouths.
In my view, the Republican party as a whole has gone from a mindset of helping the needy among us to helping the corporate fat cats get fatter … ensuring the huge income gap we now see in the U.S. and have had for several years now. President Ronald Reagan and his merry band of corrupt staff and cabinet members may have begun the ball rolling (as if it hadn’t been rolling already, Reagan just gave it a shove with a well-polished presidential shoe) towards the de-humanification (my word) of his political party. Anyone recall his infamous “trickle down theory” of the economics which was supposed to be such a good thing. And yes it was: for corporations and the people who own/head them. Not so good for low- to mid-income folks for whom Reaganomics was a dismal failure and resulting in the current huge chasm between the haves and have-nots.
In the current state, most (not all; I’m sure there are still a few of their party who actually have a heart and some compassion) of the Republican party faithful appear to be against unions, against equal pay, against anything that might attract good people to good jobs because they are gutting the wages and other benefits to help save the corporations’ bottom lines …in other words, they appear to be anti-worker, pro-employer. Which might help explain why so many companies are having trouble getting workers, because of their low pay/benefits, toxic cultures and patriarchal work environments with “top-down management.”
Although, as I said, I am sooooooo not a right-wing supporter in any sense of the word, I will admit there was a time — probably 25 or more years ago — when I probably did vote for the Republican candidate because, for example, he was from my home area and actually espoused some of the ideas of the 1956 platform. The Republicans of my younger days were not quite so angry or divisive or wacky. I’ve actually met a few who were soft-spoken, intelligent-sounding men. Otherwise, since about 2000 (maybe earlier) I’ve seen that the “red party” seems to be heading in the direction of being just downright laugh-out-loud comical (witness the current POTUS, a sad commentary on the party if there ever was one. It utterly bewilders me every day of my life how anyone can support him).
Unfortunately, some Democrats are also operating in a theatre of the absurd. While the Republicans have divided up into a few different camps, so have the Democrats. We have the moderate Democrats, the Progressive Socialist Democrats, the Blue Dog Democrats, and I’m-not-quite-sure what else Democrats. Some of the groups support same-sex marriage, some don’t. Some are all for the Affordable Care Act (which Trump has been hell-bent on dismantling since the day he took office), and others don’t. Some would like to see Universal Health Care enacted, as they have in many other developed countries, and others prefer a different approach to medical care insurance coverage. It’s no longer a singular mindset unifying the party but there are divisions where people in the same party are taking up different sides. I’m not too sure this is a good thing but it is what it is.
Now that we’re in a presidential year election, we are now hearing some of the wackiest stuff coming out of the mouths of politicians. In the case of Trump, well, he’s been wacky since the get-go. Apparently Democrat presidential hopeful Joe Biden has recently chimed in with his own wacky (or ill-thought-out?) comment, as I read in the headlines this morning. With apologies to anyAfrican Americans who might be reading this, Biden’s comment in which he said “you ain’t black” literally made chills go down my spine. I shook my head and said, “Oh, Joe, say it isn’t so!!” But … it is so, he did say that. Ugh … or as my Norwegian ancestors would say, “Uff da!!” When it comes to politicians, sometimes it seems as though there’s a race to see who can be the more newsworthy, or quotable (in other words, wacky). This is sometimes actually funny though other times it’s (palms forehead and groans) “Seriously?? Did he really say that??”
By the way, I am perfectly aware there are corrupt Democrats as there are in every other party. I’m all too aware that our elected people here and in the world at large are “financed” by their party donors, lobbyists and corporate sponsors. This sadly is politics. Most people are aware that government — no mater which party you support — is no longer “by the people, for the people,” but “by the corporate interests for the corporations’ benefit.” I know greed, corruption, and just plain mean-spirited, non-compassionate people occupy political seats on both sides of the aisle. I also will acknowledge that I know there are decent Republicans (just not anyone who is in power right at this moment). I am not a PollyAnna with her head in the sand.
On the surface it would seem the Democratic party powers-that-be are trying to shoot the party in the foot with the people it has nominated in at least the last two election. In 2016 it was Hillary Clinton, who in my view is a perfectly suitable candidate for president, but I knew she didn’t have a ghost’s chance in hell of winning because of all her haters. Now we’ve got the former vice president from Barack Obama’s presidency, Mr. Biden, already coming up with the cringe-worthy stuff that we used to see more often from “the other side.” I have heard speculation about which Biden has dementia, but that was Facebook and I don’t put a whole lot of stock into what I read there, preferring to get my political news from more reputable sources.
So, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of wackiness we have to look forward to. As we draw closer to November, it will come out in force. For better or worse, to make us laugh or cry, the wacky speech will continue. I just pray that Biden can learn to stem his tendency to being wacky and get his foot pried out of his mouth. Time will tell….