Following my recent two-part series “What Barack Obama needs to learn” I have learned that a political blogger must have an incredibly thick skin, and that one must even take pains to make sure that he has spelled his protagonist’s name correctly. My God…what will my readers demand next?
As one who was born while Truman was President, I shudder to think of what has happened to the Republican party over the past seven decades.
As a young adult during the mid 60s and early 70s, I eschewed both major parties, seeking a viable third or fourth party alternative. I was an ardent admirer of JFK and fondly recall shaking his hand as he campaigned in downtown Brooklyn. And in 1965 as an officer in the U.S. Public Health Service I witnessed President Johnson sign the Regional Medical Programs legislation.
Working in Chicago in the mid-late 60s I was disgusted with the corruption endemic in the local Democratic party under the Daley regime. Like many fellow liberals I registered with Independent Voters of Illinois while continuing to vote Democratic at the national level.
As a disenchanted observer of the political scene, I was positively impressed with a prominent member of the GOP who identified himself as “liberal Republican” (yes, back in those days there were actually Republicans who weren’t afraid to identify themselves as liberal!).
John Lindsay grew up in New York City and served as a Congressman from 1959 to 1965. He served as mayor of New York City from 1966 to 1973 and stood at the helm of a very progressive agenda. In 1971 he crossed over from the GOP to the Democratic party.
Exemplary community service
Despite my disenchantment with the Republican party for the past several decades, over the years I have held in high regard certain local GOP leaders who have provided exemplary service to their communities.
From the early 1990s through 2005 I served as Director of Business Development for the Harbor-UCLA Medical Foundation, the private practice arm of the full-time salaried medical staff of the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, a major county-operated teaching and research institution serving the southern portion of sprawling Los Angeles County. Significantly our hospital served as the predominant source of care for medically indigent residents of our portion of the county who were completely medically disenfranchised as they were not even eligible for Medicaid.
About mid-way through G.W. Bush’s first term our hospital was almost forced to close its doors due to a severe short-fall of federal funding needed to supplement the meager resources forthcoming from the county. Unlike his predecessor, Bill Clinton, GW had no great love for California and word spread like wildfire that he was indisposed to approve a special waiver to the Medicaid funding structure (as Clinton had previously secured) that would enable our hospital to stay open. The majority of the county’s Democrat-dominated 5-member County Board of Supervisors were convinced that trying to keep Harbor UCLA open was a lost cause. In their infinite wisdom the majority agreed to simply step aside and allow our hospital to be placed on the chopping block, to avert closure of the county-operated Martin Luther King Hospital to the north. Even our own supervisor appeared to accept it as a given that our hospital was slated for closure.
One lone-wolf supervisor, Don Knabe (R-Cerritos) had the guts to put his determined efforts behind taking on the federal Golliath to ensure that our hospital stayed afloat. We weren’t even in his district, and it is hard to imagine how he stood to gain any political points from this exceedingly courageous stance. Quite simply, he led the charge for securing the needed federal funding because he was resoundingly convinced that this was the right thing to do! Thanks to Don Knabe’s championing our cause, together with yeoman work on the part of many members of the hospital’s medical staff and administration who worked 80+ hour weeks for months on end, this excellent medical institution remains open to this day and continues to save the lives of thousands upon thousands of medically indigent patients on Los Angeles County’s south side.
Although Don and I come from opposite sides of the aisle and I lived outside his district in Orange County, I proudly counted myself as a contributor to his re-election campaign.
More recently, here in Pima County I count Republican Supervisor Ray Carroll as a very good friend. I met Ray at a community service at St. Augustine’s Cathedral in 2011 while I was putting the finishing touches on my manuscript for “The Tucson Tragedy: Lessons from the Senseless Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords”. Ray immediately struck me as very down to earth and personable. He is also a bridge builder and it is noteworthy that when Gabby announced her decision to relinquish her seat in Congress, she went out of her way to thank him for his overwhelming support over the years. Not being a member of Ray’s district, I am not intimately familiar with his political record. I do, however, admire his willingness as an environmentalist to take a very controversial stance on the Rosemont Mine issue, and am proud to count him as a close and trusted friend.
From the mid-70s through the present era
To be sure, the GOP as a party has been a dark obstructionist force on the political landscape over the past several decades.
Following his election in 2000, Obama’s predecessor G.W. Bush managed to exhaust the budget surplus he inherited from Bill Clinton and create a multi-trillion dollar deficit though his “welfare for the rich”, combined with leading our nation into two major wars on credit-card financing.
And lest we forget he despicably (in my opinion) forced the majority of members of both houses of Congress to vote in favor of declaring war on Iraq. He accomplished this by a cold and calculating move in which he called the vote on the war right before both houses adjourned to enable members up for re-election to return home to campaign. Given the harshly judgmental tone of today’s political environment, who in their right mind would want to come across as “soft on terrorism” under these circumstances?
As we are all painfully aware, over the past decade the Republican party leadership has been relentlessly dominated by the arch-conservative Tea Party faction. While many readers will no doubt disagree, I believe that both John McCain and Mitt Romney are basically honorable men. However, in attempting to run for President under the specter of the ruthlessly oppressive Tea Party leadership, both McCain and Romney were forced to sell their souls to secure the GOP nomination and support throughout their campaigns.
Fast-forward to our eleventh-hour predicament, where our nation is running pell-mell toward the dreaded fiscal cliff. In a perceptive editorial published on December 10, the Daily Star rightfully castigated right wing lobbyist Grover Norquist for holding the Republican party for decades by the proverbial “short hairs”.
Accountable to no one but his wealthy backers, Norquist has coerced the vast majority of Congressional Republicans to sign his pledge to never, ever raise taxes. The editorial goes on to state that “Perhaps no other individual is more responsible for the intransigence and irresponsibility of the modern GOP.” I strongly concur with the Star’s editorial admonition calling on Congressional Republicans to defy their pledge to Norquist and push him over the fiscal cliff – and join the greater majority of Americans who want the most privileged among us to assume a bit more sacrifice during these extremely challenging times!
Again, while many readers will no doubt disagree, I personally believe that Speaker of the House John Boehner is essentially an honorable man who has desperately attempted to broker a deal with our President to avoid our recklessly careening toward the fiscal cliff. When he initially proposed limiting the elimination of tax cuts to those earning one million dollars or more, I thought this was a decidedly “chicken-scratch” approach. Imagine my chagrin and the angst of our fellow Americans when this past Thursday evening Boehner’s own rank-and-file members refused to back his extremely modest compromise proposal. To be sure, Boehner came out of that one with big-time egg on his face!
Throughout my 71 years on this planet I have been a strong proponent of our two-party system. At this critical juncture I am deeply saddened that leadership of the Republican party has been high-jacked by a rouge regime whose overriding agenda appears to be to ensure the perpetuation of a government “by and for the well-heeled vested interests”.
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John Newport (Dr. John) is a centrist Democrat and an author, speaker and social commentator who lives in Tucson and loves the city and its people. He writes from the heart and has four books under his belt, together with over 200 articles focusing on personal and societal wellness, self-help and spirituality. His most recent book “The Tucson Tragedy: Lessons from the Senseless Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords”, was featured on Tucson channels 4 and 13 and in the FOX 11 forum, as well as on “Good Morning Arizona”. (For further information on this book visit www.healingtucson.net) He frequently contributes letters and opinion pieces to the Arizona Daily Star, Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, The Therapist and other publications.