I'm not a Republican and never have been. That said, for many years when someone asked me my political leanings, I would say that I was a social Democrat and a fiscal Republican. The latter description began to lose meaning under Reagan, and George W. Bush demolished any sense the words might have managed to retain. I mention this by way of an intentionally roundabout introduction to today's entry, a piece by guest blogger, friend, and leading SF writer, David Drake. Dave wrote the piece below, showed it to a few friends, and wondered in email about where to post it. I think it deserves exposure and offered to post it here. Dave decided to go for it, and for your consideration, here it is.
WHAT HAVE THEY DONE WITH MY PARTY?
The title comes from the question plaintively asked some months before the 2008 presidential election by a friend who's a businessman. Like me he's well on the wrong side of Fifty, and like me he was raised a Republican. I think we'd both describe ourselves as conservatives (note the small c).
Max Hastings, a right-wing British journalist, put it in a slightly different fashion when he noted during the campaign (I'm paraphrasing) that the Republicans had become the party of the poorly educated, superstitious, and rural. You only have to listen to one of Sarah Palin's campaign speeches to see that he has a point.
The Republican Party my friend and I identified with was the party of business. Republicans were neither exciting nor cuddly, but you could trust the economy to them and expect them to avoid foreign military adventures. We liked Ike.
In 1983 I became rewrite man for Newt Gingrich on the book which became Window of Opportunity. Newt is a very smart, very dynamic man; working with him was both an honor and an education.
In the course of our first meeting, Newt told me that he was going to engineer a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Thank goodness I didn't say, "Right, and pigs will fly," but I certainly thought it. I was colossally ignorant, though in 1983 most people would have agreed with me. The only smart thing I did during the exchange was to keep my mouth shut.
Newt continued to work from within to change the Republicans from a party of the elite and privileged (people like me, not to put too fine a point on it) into a real populist movement. In 1994 he achieved his end: Republicans took control of the House.
There has been quite a lot of movement since then, but not--from the vantage of hindsight--a great deal of progress. The House Republicans didn't seem to know what to do with their victory. Newt himself left the House and elective politics. His economic mantra had been, "Reduce the national debt." His majority spiraled into a wasteland of tax cuts and deficit spending.
The populist majority fell away, not so much in anger as boredom. Quite a lot of people dislike Bill Clinton, but very few would say that it was worth shutting down the government of the United States to delve into his sex life.
What remained isn't the Republican Party of Eisenhower (or Dewey and Taft): it's a populist fringe. It certainly represents a significant portion of the citizens of the United States, just as the Taliban represents a significant portion of the citizens of Afghanistan, but it isn't the business party, the Safe Hands party.
It's a party which has turned away from people like me and my businessman friend. And, though he worked with the fringes too in putting together his majority, I believe it's a party which is equally alien to Newt Gingrich.
It's a shame. I still like Ike.