I would appreciate feedback from Republicans as well as Democrats on this.
In my high school annual one of my classmates wrote “To the man who will carry the Republican banner for many years to come…” When I graduated from college and went to work in Texas, I considered myself a Republican. However, I voted in the Democratic primary because that was the actual election in Texas in 1957. I was proud of the fact that the Republicans had a higher percentage of college graduates than the Democrats (that was before I understood that a person could have a college degree and not be educated).
Actually, Republicans had done many good things in the past. They had pursued the Civil War, started the national parks and passed anti-trust legislation. More recently they supported civil rights and established the Environmental Protection Agency. During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln had ordered a great effort to take the pressure off the people in the Appalachians who favored the Union and the East Tennesseans have repaid the Republicans by remaining loyal since the Civil War (misguided loyalty?). The Civil War was still a memory in some people when I graduated from college 92 years after it ended- but now it is 143 years ago – surely that is long enough to realign allies. I remember when Japan was a terrible enemy in 1941 and now most people think of Japan as an ally. Can East Tennessee Republicans forgive the Democrats of 1860 like they have forgiven Japan?
Something changed, was it me or the Republicans? I voted for Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon ( when he ran against John Kennedy). When Lyndon Johnson ran against Barry Goldwater I couldn’t have voted for Barry Goldwater and I thought Lyndon Johnson was dishonest ( I have a better opinion about Lyndon Johnson now). I didn’t vote because I had moved to a new state. Four years later I wore a Hubert Humphrey pin in the Shell head office in New York in spite of being told it was not the thing to do.
Then Richard Nixon instituted his “southern strategy” based on exploiting residual racism in the “silent majority”.*
Later the Republicans abandoned the environmental movement. The “Nelson Rockefeller” Republicans were no longer welcome. The death of Martin Luther King was an epiphany for me. I listened to a speech by Martin Luther King for the first time. It was his last speech that moved me most. I listened to Hosea Williams and others. I realized that these Civil Rights leaders were American leaders and I should be a Civil Rights follower too. My awareness of my responsibility to do something to help solve our country’s problems started there and I have been a confirmed Democrat since then. Sadly, the East Tennessee Republicans who were grateful to the party of Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War have stayed with a Republican party that has abandoned Abraham Lincoln’s principles and has sold out to reactionary corporations and individuals and has employed bigotry, misunderstanding and prejudice to appeal to the worst in people’s natures. They also try (maybe subconsciously?) to stop the Democrat’s supporters from voting or having their votes counted.
A two party system seems to have evolved with our particular constitution and form of government ( the Libertarian Party, Green Party,etc. might disagree but where are their congressmen?). Any party- including the Democratic Party- needs an opposition that has a chance to replace them when they get arrogant and out of touch. The need for a strong Democratic party in East Tennessee is very evident when , for example, the County Commissions of Knox and Blount counties are examined. They are out of touch with the majority of citizens, under the influence of the wealthy and arrogant. Why can local Republican candidates raise large sums of money for what should be relatively low intensity campaigns?
I found it interesting to learn that under feudalism the common people liked to have a strong king, because he would limit the power of the wealthy noblemen who controlled local areas. The noblemen , however, liked a weak king so their power and influence would be greater. We can see the same tendency today. The Republicans generally want to take power away from the central government and give power to the local government “because they can better understand unique local problems”. The fallacy in this generalization becomes very clear when you look at the quality of our local governments and how our modern “wealthy noblemen” run the local governments- including our state government which is unable to solve our financial problems any way but by increasing the sales tax (which started at 2% in 1947). Would anyone want our recent Knox County Commission to be running the country? Maybe another question is “Would anyone want our recent Knox County Commission to be running Knox County?”.
The solution is for East Tennesseans who have loyally supported the Republican Party to realize that their loyalty is to East Tennessee and the United States and refrain from voting for poor candidates just because they claim to be Republicans.
I know that a big part of the problem with poor elected officials is the tendency people have to vote based on political party or the first name on the ballot when they haven’t taken the time to study the candidates.
ALL people who vote — please educate yourselves before you vote.
* Alexander Lamis’ book, Southern Politics in the 1990s:
“A major component of the Republican resurgence in the Old Confederacy was a racist reaction to the civil rights changes that were coming to the South. Not just a racist reaction that Republicans, in the right place at the right time, could take advantage of, but often a reaction consciously encouraged — no, fanned — by the GOP itself.
Racism, often purposely inflamed by many southern Republicans, either because we believed it or because we thought it would win votes, was a major tool in the building of the new Republican party in the South.”