By Diana Stephens
When I turned 18 in 1977, I read both the Republican and Democratic platforms before registering to vote. The Democratic platform made me feel as though I had the weight of our whole society on my shoulders. I much preferred the Republican pull yourself up by your bootstraps philosophy, as well as the desire to keep government fiscally responsible and out of people’s business.
The next year the anti-abortion plank was added, which felt strangely invasive, but I chose to fight that battle from within the party by becoming a Republican for Choice. Sonograms soon made it clear that women would never be able to use abortions as a form of birth control, but after suffering all night through a miscarriage, I arrived at the doctor’s office and was treated by being given an abortion. I was grateful to my doctor and cannot imagine that there should be laws passed to prevent such care.
Time wore on and Republicans seemed to align themselves with so many nonsensical positions that I began to seriously question my choice of party. The hidden costs of pollution on the environment, other species, and our own health seemed excessive compared with those of responsible stewardship. As a classroom teacher I was faced with the possibility of being forced to report students to the authorities. Fortunately, due to the eventual defeat of Proposition 187 in the courts, I never faced that dilemma. Immigration reform makes sense and has been needed for a long time, but some compromise will be required and I have not heard enough of that on the right side of the political spectrum.
Today Republicans have mixed politics with religion as if they had never heard of the separation of church and state. Our over-dependence on moneyed interests makes me wish for a separation of business and state as well. One would think that fiscal prudence would occasionally override neoconservative tendencies, but no, we started two wars without any plan to pay for either of them, only one of which might have been justified. Both parties spend too much money; Republicans just want to spend it on supporting the industrial military complex. Another concern is the continued dismissal of empirical data that is deemed inconvenient, say, regarding global warming or evolution. This “dumbing down” of the Republican Party, as is witnessed daily on talk radio, is outright offensive at times.
So, what is a lifelong Republican to do? It is tempting to throw in the towel and register as an Independent, but I’ve come this far. Maybe California Republicans, who now claim fewer than 30 percent of the registered voters in the state, should consider leading a campaign to recapture the party from the extremists who have taken it over. Those radicals are a minority after all, and we would receive much more support from the moderates, women, and minorities that were so important in the recent election. I would love to see the Republican Party return to its roots and stand for true fiscal responsibility and keeping government out of our bedrooms as well as our boardrooms.