Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published Oct 31, 2003

Role Reversal


When I was a little kid and got hurt my Mom would quiet me by telling me, ďYour Grandfather was shot and he didnít cry.Ē Since heíd been shot in battle and been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor I was impressed into a pallid facsimile of his stoicism (except where hypodermic needles were concerned).


Since my Grandfather was the long serving Republican Auditor of Kansas I was also inclined to pay close attention to my Grandfatherís political opinions. For instance, my Grandfather advised me that it was foolish to vote for Democrats because they always got America into war. His World War One was the Democrat Wilsonís war. The Second World War of his maturity was FDRís. The Korean War was Trumanís and, of course, Vietnam would be pinned on LBJ.


My Grandfatherís conviction was shared by all Republicans of his era. As far back as Pearl Harbor Republicans suspected that FDR had tricked America into war just as conspiracy theorists today see the CIAís hand in JFKís assassination.


This prejudice against Democrats was echoed most famously by Grandfatherís fellow Kansas , Republican, Bob Dole, in 1972 when he was Jerry Fordís vice presidential running mate. The pithy Dole made the same war mongering accusation in his nationally televised debate against Walter Mondale. It aroused such a storm of protest from Democrat veterans that Iíve always blamed Dole for Fordís defeat. Consequently, it was a revelation to hear Dole accuse his Senate Democratic colleagues of not being patriotic during the first Gulf War. After the two Bush Administrations, Republicans wonít be blaming wars on Democrats again any time soon. Itís part of a remarkable role reversal in recent years.


Three generations ago, between the world wars, Republicans turned their back on internationalism. Still smarting from Wilson ís leaving them out of the Peace Talks and making the warís resolution partisan they became the great cheerleaders for a MYOB American foreign policy. Still fiscal skinflints they gladly shrunk the vast post-war army into a joke. It remained so even as the Nazis blitzkrieged their way across Poland .

Today itís the Democrats who seem most likely return America ís military to this rump status and who most vocally recoil from the use of American troops in foreign adventures.


There are other similarly startling changes.


The Party of Lincoln was not the party of ďfree trade.Ē Instead it championed tariffs to protect America ís infant industries from European manufactured goods. It was the Democrats who were the great opponents of the tariff especially the southern agriculturalists who wanted access to cheaper European goods.


Ah, but winning votes can break a partyís resolve. When George Bush imposed a tariff to protect the steel industry he shocked NAFTA loving Republicans. He has lately been flirting with the idea of dropping the tariff. It will be interesting to see what he does about this as he approaches the next election.


Civil Rights is another case in point. Today's Republicans are apt to call affirmative action ďracial preferencing.Ē Yet when I was young many, if not most, Republicanís were quite supportive of civil rights legislation. It was Democrats, ďSouthern Democrats,Ē who fought against civil rights.  Now that the South has swung Republican that plank has been turned on its end.


Since I grew up thinking I was Republican and that it was part of my familyís heritage I havenít let a lifetime of disagreements with the party chase me off, political correctness be damned. Since Democrats have been equally bone headed on a whole different set of issues Iíve resisted the temptation to defect. Party affiliation, no matter how tenuous, gives a person a little more leverage than that enjoyed by idealists who canít tolerate compromise.


As a young man I was fueled with missionary zeal for the GOP despite my differences with it. Moving to Duluth, however,  was like being a chaplain among cannibals. Two years earlier, when George McGovern was crushed in the worst national landslide in US history, McGovern won three quarters of the vote in western Duluth . Even had there been no Watergate I would have been doomed as a Republican legislative candidate in 1976. Itís not surprising that my party quickly evolved away from that political nightmare. In redefining itself, however, it moved even farther from my political convictions.


While I was trying to be a petunia in an onion patch another young man approached the Party in the Republican end of Duluth and asked to be their candidate. When informed by party elders that they had already tapped an old war horse Tom Berkleman simply went to the Democrats instead. They took him in and Tom became the new Democrat legislator.


Trapped by a loyalty to a distant legacy, Iíve never been able to be that pragmatic. Iím like a man who wonít divorce his unfaithful wife. Given the pendulum swing of politics Republicans, following the example of all good opportunists, will just graft popular Democrat ideas into their platform.


Socialized medicine anyone?


Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at www.snowbizz.com