This piece, printed three years ago in the Chicago Tribune, continues to be relevant.
Not my father's Grand Old Party
By Susan DeMersseman
May 27, 2012
I miss the GOP, the Grand Old Party. I grew up in a Republican household in a Republican state. My dad was an adviser to the governor; my brother was a Republican state legislator. When I was little I wore an "I Like Ike" button. I'm registered in the Democratic Party now, but I miss the GOP, the grandness of the GOP. I am sometimes embarrassed for my family and friends who are Republicans in the old way, the thoughtful, principled way — the grand way. They were people who paid attention in history class, in science class and to the well-being of their neighbors.
It sometimes seems as if the party has been hijacked by groups of narrow-interest voters or ones so angry they would sacrifice their countrymen to beat an opponent. The natural and healthy differences within the party seem to be forbidden.
Some leaders in the party behave as if their job as legislators is to make sure that the rich stay rich or get richer. I know many people of exceptional wealth and very few have backed politicians to make sure that they are protected from paying their fair share. Many appreciate the system that has allowed them to maintain or gain their wealth and they realize (those with enlightened self-interest) that a society in which all have opportunity benefits them as well. They see it as a bubble-up rather than a trickle-down economy.
Some political leaders and commentators like to call it "class warfare" when those on the lower rungs want a better chance, but I do not see most at the top wanting to engage in that mythic battle. For a small group financial domination has become a sort of sport, but in the corporations and government there are thoughtful people who want all to do better. I want them to step up and to speak up.
I miss the days when I could watch a debate based upon thoughtful differences, rather than one in which debaters are simply trying to score points or pander. The Democrats are by no means perfect. I believe even their discourse could be elevated if the worthy opposition were indeed worthy. Currently, the extreme behavior of some in the GOP makes the Democrats look more dignified and sensible. But I would sacrifice that for sensible dialogue.
I once wrote about how politics has morphed into a sport where we cheer for our team and celebrate the fouls and missteps of the other. Now, I think the sport has descended into mud wrestling. I miss the grand part of the GOP. If there is a silent majority, I hope it is those who will soon step up, speak up and take it back.
When my brother gave into the cajoling of his children and opened a Facebook page, he described himself as a "Big Tent Republican" and the "me too" responses poured in. Those thoughtful, generous, dignified members of the GOP still exist in my family and I believe in other families too. Our country will be better when their voices are heard again.
Susan DeMersseman is a psychologist who lives in Oakland, Calif. She grew up in South Dakota.
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