Friday, July 24, 2009

What is Wrong with the Republican Party

Let me be frank: I am a liberal. I wasn't always, but over the years, as I've matured and learned certain facts about the ways of the world, my opinions have swung like a proverbial pendulum, from just right of center to increasingly left with each passing day.

I've made a habit of late, as I suggest everyone do, of writing my public officials, sharing my opinions and viewpoints with them. To me, that's a vital part of the political process; by communicating with the Representatives, Senators and even the President that I helped put into office, I'm doing my part to ensure these officials do the work of their constituents. If they do, that's great; if not, then it makes our decisions as everyday Americans a lot more complicated come Election Day.

It's really quite simple; serve the needs of your constituents, they re-elect you. Don't serve your constituents, and they'll be picking someone else's name in the voting booth. I strongly suggest everyone contact their elected officials -- particularly when it comes to such important matters as health care. Our job as American citizens doesn't end once the votes have been tallied, a winner's been declared and those pretty ballonns start magically falling from the sky.

I've also taken it upon myself to keep in contact with political officials who I did not vote for; just the other day, I wrote an email to Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, to inform him of why I thought the Republican Party was in such shambles. It wasn't to embarrass or insult him -- I think you'll find I tried to be as cordial and professional in my comments as possible -- but to hopefully get those within the GOP to reconsider where they are politically and ideologically.

There's a reason a large number of newly-registered voters have been Democrats, and a lot of registered indepedents voted for Barack Obama this past November.

Below is my correspondance with Steele from the other day. I have not yet received a response, nor do I honestly expect one.

Chairman Michael Steele,

My name is Jeff Cunningham, and up until a few years ago, I was a Republican. That was back when being a Republican meant something -- like standing up for the values of fiscal conservatism and personal responsibility. However, thanks to the misguided efforts of the Bush administration, as well as the Republican-controlled Congress that led us into a destructive and unnecessary war in Iraq and helped turn a massive surplus into a massive deficit, I have since switched to the Democrats, and I feel it is my duty as an honest, patriotic American to inform you where I believe your party has gone wrong over the years.

Your party preaches fiscal responsibility, yet the previous administration took the surplus left to us by Bill Clinton and turned it into a massive deficit that we are still dealing with today. The War in Iraq, needless that it is, has squandered much of that money -- money that would easily help pay for programs that would help the American people. If we funneled even half of the money we sent to Iraq into health care, we'd have enough to pay for the health care reform the Republicans are so afraid of. Without the War in Iraq (which has also taken away from the efforts to bring in Osama bin Laden, who was actually responsible for 9/11), education could be improved, and a lot of the programs designed to helped by the stimulus plan would be on the ground by now.

I'm all for having a strong military that can defend our country when needed, but sending them to a costly and ineffective war has effectively crippled the rest of this country. It is but one example of how I believe your party does not care for the average American citizen. It is also but one of many examples of the Republican Party saying one thing and doing the exact opposite.

The emphasis on personal responsibility that I once saw in the Republican Party has morphed into this disgusting image of Christianity and morality. Morality should never be legislated, and whenever your party rails against anything from gay marriage to a woman's right to choose an abortion, you are proving to be both insulting and exclusionary. Banning gay marriage is prejudiced and bigoted, and I have no stomach for anyone who uses the Bible to support these hate-based opinions. Gay people have the right to make the same choices heterosexual people make, because unlike what the bulk of the Republican Party might say, they are not second-class citizens. They are Americans, just like the rest of us.

No one is pro-abortion. Democrats do not want everyone to have an abortion. All we ask for -- and the Supreme Court has backed us on this -- is to give women the right to choose, particularly in cases of rape, incest or an instance where a pregnancy is potentially life-threatening to the mother. Some within your party and those who profess to speak for your party (you know who I'm referring to) do nothing but incite hatred and potential violence with their misleading ramblings.

I wouldn't have a problem with the Republican Party using religion if it weren't so hypocritical. How can I take the GOP as the Party of God seriously when it seems there's a new Republican official daily being accused of an affair? How can I take the GOP as the Party of God seriously when there are Republican Senators who have been associated with a secret house called C Street that reportedly teaches these men they are above such things as morality and God's teachings?

Not everyone in this country is Christian; I know I'm not. So when I see a member of the Republican Party point to the Bible or offer a religious point of view for their misguided legislative views, it insults me. It also insults me knowing a lot of the Republican officials who claim to be Christian do little to act as such. Christians are loving and accepting; using religion to deny gay people basic civil rights does not follow the religion's teachings. If your party is so worried about upholding the sanctity of marriage and family values, then you should spend more energy on this country's divorce rate and all those extra-marital affairs. Gay marriage should be the least of your worries.

I also grow weary of how the Republican Party defends the wealthy at the expense of the ordinary American. Tax cuts are all well and good in theory, but taxes are what pay for a large portion of government programs, and if you cut taxes too much, then there's not enough money to pay for everything. Only cutting taxes for the wealthy, while the middle class sees no such relief also does nothing for our national economy. I'm not saying the wealthy aren't important, but your party has made a concerted effort in the last decade to favor them over the middle class. Trickle-down economics don't work. They didn't work under Ronald Reagan, and they don't work now.

But perhaps my biggest issue with the Republican Party is two-fold: the extreme right-wing -- those who are racist and bigoted in their views, and for some reason believe our President is not American even when faced with proof that he is -- as well as your party's refusal to add anything substative to policy matters. It is your duty as party officials to call the extreme right-wing on their hate; when they are wrong in their bigotry, call them on it. Not doing so makes the party as a whole resemble its most extreme outliers. Do you really want to be seen as the party of racists and bigots? You already run that risk with your constant efforts to derail the President and the way your Senators handled Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings.

And if you insist on disagreeing with the President and other Democrats in Congress, how about adding some ideas of your own? If you didn't like the President's budget, you should've proposed one of your own -- and the four-page leaflet with no numbers on it doesn't count. Disagreement and dissent can be healthy, so long as you offer legitimate alternative ideas. That creates healthy debate and political discourse. But to disagree with an initiative and offer no concrete alternative makes you seem like The Party of No, a bunch of grumpy old white men who just want to see everything fail without ever adding anything to the table.

If you have an idea for health care reform (that is not maintaining the unmaintainable status quo), share it. Offering concrete ideas to benefit the American people, while shedding the racism, bigotry and righteous morality, is the only way the Republican Party can return to relevancy. Until then, you will be faced with even more people like me, who are tired of your childish, hypocritical ways. Until then, you will be faced with even more people like me, who want a party that better represents them and what America is becoming.

The more I see the Republican Party in action, the more I wonder ... is it the GOP that hates America? Because it's certainly not those of us who are trying to fix the mess the last eight years left us in.

Thank you for your time. I hope for your sake, and the sake of this country, that the Republican Party finds its way and starts acting like a party of intelligent, responsible adults again.

-Jeff Cunningham
Proud Democrat from Virginia

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