Moral Contradictions

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

A little bit of my perspective

I was 12 years old in 1994. I remember Bill Clinton being sworn in 2 years earlier. The word Democrat was a bad word in my house as my parents were God-fearing Southern Baptists who voted Republican every time. Or at least I perceived that as so. I remember an excitement building among my parents and my church as the low of a Democrat in the White House started rising to a high with Republicans having a chance at taking the House. The three words that kept being repeated over and over everywhere were "Contract with America".

I don't remember specific conversations or articles or whatever - I was 12 after all. The feeling that stayed with me was the perception that Republicans were orders of magnitude morally higher than Democrats. If they were elected, this country would be so much better than it was.

My best friend's parents were Democrats and I just did not understand how. I mean, they were good people - nice people - so why didn't they vote Republican? Hadn't they heard just how bad the Democrats were? Why weren't they voting for the Republicans?

My most critical and formative years were between 1994 and 2000, between 12 and 18. During those years I took a Civics class in 8th grade when all my friends began their language. I got a 99 in AP US History and a 5 on that test, as well as an A in AP US Government and Comparative Government, taught in the same year and same class period, and got a 5 on both tests. I read the newspaper as much as I could. I was somewhat of a politics junkie.

I was immensely proud that the current Speaker of the House of Delegates in Virginia attended my church. I would brag about it at school, as if anyone cared. I would follow the news out of Richmond as well as DC. Being in the Washington television area, national news was local news, and the shock and appall surrounding Monica-gate absorbed me and my family. Everything around me exuded Christian-right, Republican politics and beliefs. Everything.

Until those three words "Contract with America" started creeping back in my awareness around the time I started college. Republicans gained the White House and a couple years later gained the Senate as well, solidifying control of DC. My childhood experiences told me this was a good thing, especially in the wake of 9/11.

As we've seen in the past few years, with the ill-planning and questionable means used for war in Iraq, lack of response during Katrina, sex scandal cover-ups in Congress, Enron and other companies collapsing, Big Oil taking in the biggest profits ever, gas prices increasing as housing costs go up, ethics committees neutered as corruption abounded, issues that are supposed to be engaged through faith rather than culture or discrimination, on and on and on and on...

...I've had enough.

TWICE Republicans have beat their chests and said 'we are morally righteous and so much better than those Democrats", once in 1994 after 40 years of one-party rule, and once in 2000 following the aftermath of the Lewinsky affair. TWICE I bought into it. TWICE I believed that they really were the party that represented my beliefs and of upstanding moral values.

TWICE now I've been let down. I've had enough.

A post over at Crooks and Liars prompted me to read through the 1994 Contract With America. Read it for yourself and compare it with how Republicans are acting now.

Please do not read this as cynicism - I'm talking about the atmosphere in which I grew up. This is just my perspective, which I believe is as valid as any others' perspective.

Are all Republicans bad? No. Are all Democrats bad? No. Will I ever fully trust a political party to do what it says and "buy into" their platform as morally superior than another? No. I have to try hard to not repeat the same mistakes with Democrats now than I did with Republicans in 1994. I hope they will make changes, and I think they will. Am I getting my hopes up? No. Something tells me I'm destined to be a freaky Independent who votes for the opposite party every 4-8 years.

To conclude, who says history is useless? Let's go back to September 27, 1994, when 367 GOP House candidates signed this Contract on the steps of the US Capitol at the unveiling of their promise to America should they win the House.

They pledged: "If we break this Contract, throw us out".

Do what they told us to do.


  • Do your parents still vote Republican as God's own party? My mother votes straight Democrat...always has...always matter what. She doesn't need to study the issues because Democrats are for the working man, the poor man. Yeah right. Both major parties are in bed with corporate interests IMHO.

    I'm fiercely independent. I crossed over this election year as always, but I will have to say I did not cast a vote for one single republican. I limited myself to Greens, Libertarians, and held my nose and voted for Democrats as well. I've had enough too, especially the Iraq War, but don't think either party has a viable strategy to get us out of that hopeless quagmire. Neither party represents me on that issue. We need a strong Third Party and public financing of elections. I'm sure most of my votes didn't much count for anything. I'm for replacing the whole bunch of 'em.

    By Blogger Marty, at Thursday, November 02, 2006 12:58:00 PM  

  • This is a fascinating story, Nathan, and I have heard many like it in recent months.

    My own history is somewhat different and I will place that on my blog. I grew up during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War and Watergate. I knew there were crooks and liars in both parties.

    I was first eligible to vote in 1980 and voted for Carter--and lost. Although I registered Democrat, I wasn't against all Republicans. If Sen. Mark Hatfield of OR (one of 2 Sens. to voted against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in '64 and a strong opponent of Vietnam) had ever run for President, I would have voted for him over any Democrat I knew. I agreed that Dems had controlled the House far too long when the GOP gained control in '94--I was just horrified at WHICH GOP folks came to power. (I considered the Contract with America to be a Contract on America's poor. Still do.)

    By ideology, I am somwhere between a Green and a democratic socialist. I am to the left of most Democrats on economic and peace matters, but more conservative than most of them on abortion. I both thought Clinton should have resigned after Monicagate AND was horrified at the hypocrisy of the Republican impeachment: led by serial adulterers like Gingrich and Henry Hyde!

    In 2000, I voted for Nader because KY was clearly going for Bush--I could never have voted for anyone other than Gore in a close state. But I was angry at Gore for not doing more on the environment when he was VP, for running a terrible campaign (if he had even won his own state of TN, we could have sorted Florida out leisurely!!).

    I do NOT consider this election to be a cure-all. It is a tourniquet. Much work will have to be done after the elections.

    We need massive reform in both parties and we need electoral reforms that make 3rd parties more viable. None of that will happen unless we get the current batch of Republicans out of power. The GOP can become the party of Lincoln, of Hatfield, of Harold Stassen, again. Just as the Democrats can become the party of Bobby Kennedy once more. But it will take work.

    I have often been tempted to register independent, but independents can't vote in primaries--and I like to help weed out folks in primaries! But no Christian can be wedded "true blue" to a particular party without political idolatry.

    I will be voting, as usual, mostly for Democrats. But the Dem. running for my state legislature in my district is a slimeball and his GOP opponent is a good guy, so I will cross party lines on that one.

    By Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White, at Thursday, November 02, 2006 3:33:00 PM  

  • The first time I voted was in 1972....for George McGovern. I still believe that was a huge loss for our country.

    A person I would like to see run for President is Congressman Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont. He is running for Senator in this years' election.

    By Blogger Marty, at Thursday, November 02, 2006 5:47:00 PM  

  • Yes & if he wins, he'll become the first social democrat in the Senate! No matter who wins control of what chamber, Nov. 8th will see some amazing shifts in the U.S. political landscape: Minnesota will elect its first African-American to Congress--and America's first Muslim Congressperson; there will be several more Democratic governors, including possibly Florida and Texas--Bush brothers strongholds; several incoming Democrats will be Iraq veterans who are against the war; the political career of Katherine Harris--major vote fraud in chief from Florida 2000 will be over; Tom Delay-style redistricting will take a major hit.

    If things go as the polls predict we will have several more shifts: The first female Speaker of the House; the power of sopoena in Congressional investigations of all the Bush crimes; TN will elect the first African-American senator from the South since Reconstruction; the power of the Latino vote will be stronger than ever before.

    By Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White, at Thursday, November 02, 2006 7:49:00 PM  

  • Marty, my parents have mellowed - or at least my perception of them. I'm just nervous about the type of sermons I may hear if Democrats do win... and that's all I'm going to say about that. :)

    By Blogger Nathan, at Thursday, November 02, 2006 9:44:00 PM  

  • You could go to a different church? Or do you mean parental sermons?

    By Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White, at Friday, November 03, 2006 4:56:00 PM  

  • For now I'm at a different church, but it's hard worshiping somewhere else away from Kristen.

    By Blogger Nathan, at Saturday, November 04, 2006 12:01:00 PM  

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