An Open Letter to the Grand Old Party, Part I

Essays, Featured — By on March 26, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Dear G.O.P.,

You probably don’t know this but you and I haven’t been on speaking terms lately. The last Presidential Election rattled me hard. I had genuine interest in McCain until I realized that 2008 Candidate McCain had little in common with 2000 Candidate McCain. The stunt of  suspending his campaign to return to Washington and fix the financial crisis in a weekend, coupled with enlisting the help of Sarah Palin, left me more than a little disillusioned with the party.

Quite frankly, G.O.P., I don’t know what to do with you. You don’t resemble the party I knew and loved. I admit, it could be me.  Yes, in my early twenties I was sure there were no problems in America that couldn’t be fixed by a careful reading of Rush Limbaugh’s latest book. And there was that “Ollie North for President” T-Shirt from my high school days.  You have me there.  I guess I have moved toward the mushy middle. But I still view myself as a Republican even though I don’t pass all the litmus tests some of your pundits are offering up.

I thought of switching parties. But there’s too much of the Democratic platform that I don’t care for either. I’m pro-life and I do value the idea of limiting the size of government. So I’m sticking around, for now. I will be offering a series of wishes and complaints from time to time. Please see these letters as a form of loyalty.  So here’s a few issues that are stuck in my craw. Thanks for listening…

Don’t be the Party of “No.” Shortly after President Obama took office he had a date night with the 1st Lady. And the RNC bitched about the cost incurred by having the Secret Service escort them into New York City and back.  I was in disbelief. Didn’t you just get done campaigning on a pro-family platform? America has a young and married couple in the Oval Office that seem to be passionately in love with each other. Consider the crisis of fatherlessness in America and its economic impact in the poorest of our neighborhoods. The RNC should have offered to pay the tab for dinner and the Secret Service. We’ve got a role model for committed married love and fatherhood in the White House, and this is how you respond? I promise you, when I get a letter from the RNC asking me for a donation for the Obama’s next date, I’m in.

How about a Little Distance? William Buckley helped save the party, back in the day, when he wrote a series of articles condemning the Antisemitism that was gaining a foothold in the party. Public pressure ensued, and the party responded and got its house in order. I think we’d agree the G.O.P. is stronger for it. It’s time the G.O.P. return the favor to it’s pundits. I’d toss some enthusiastic cart wheels if some brave congressman would take the podium and distance the party from the Becks, Savages, Limbaughs, and Coulters of the world. The party would present more intelligently and nuanced if it stopped tolerating support from folk who oversimplify the issues and insult the opposition constantly. I suspect the population at large would stop and take notice also.

Thanks all the time I have for now. I’ll be in touch again. Thanks for listening.



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  • JamesW says:

    Outstanding piece, Larry!

  • I had a Limbaugh shirt, myself, back in high school, and I expect many of the Collective’s readers could identify, like me, with everything you’re saying here. Sometimes it feels like you have to lean left just to stay upright when there’s such powerful, vitriolic, hot air blowing right. In the last five years or so, groups like BWC and Sojourners/Call to Renewal, and journals like Relief and Ruminate have been trying to give voice to a Christianity that isn’t married to a party platform, but in light of this recent health care “debate” I have to wonder if we’re getting anywhere – public discourse in this country has not gotten more savvy about values but has seemed to abandon more and more values in favor of power plays. We need open letters to all our politicians, I think.

  • JamesW says:

    Brad, I strongly disagree that Sojourners isn’t married to a party platform.

  • sarah says:

    Great piece, Larry. You could go third party and vote for Nader next time.

    • Larry Shallenberger says:

      It’s that conservative streak I have, though…

      McCain, circa 2000 is really my template for the ideal Republican candidate.

  • EmilyTimbol says:

    So true. I actually started the “Teenage Republicans” club back in high school, and campaigned for Bush in ’04. I was a die-hard GOPer, and am still pro-life. It was the hateful speech, vitriol, and rhetoric that made me turn away, and what keeps me away is what you said, the fact that the GOP has not distanced themselves or denounced the horrid, hateful, KKK like actions of the Tea Party and the radicals. I’m drawn to love and compassion, and don’t see that anywhere in the GOP.

    • JamesW says:

      While I agree that the GOP needs to distance itself from the radicals and haters, doesn’t that apply to Democrats, too? They elect the hateful Al Franken to the Senate, embrace radicals like PETA, and tend to pretend that Kieth Olbermann is not as big a jerk as Ann Coulter is.

    • Jordan Green says:

      Well, at least Olbermann is more entertaining. Remember him on Sportscenter?

      While I certainly dislike the extreme left-wing, it seems to me that, at least at this point in time, Democrats are more interested in courting centrists and moderates, while Republicans are searching for their base further to the right. Larry’s letter is indicative of that. But your examples are the exceptions that prove the rule, too…who’s more emblematic of their party as a whole? Olbermann and Franken or Limbaugh and Beck?

      Further, it’s not as if there are only two options…I left the Republican party 8 years ago, and I’ve been independent ever since. It would take some drastic changes for me to ever consider registering Democrat.

    • Larry says:

      JamesW, The problem with that logic is that as long as I can point across the aisle and say “Well, they do it too” then nothing changes.

      We don’t tend to respect individuals who live by a “well everyone’s doing it” mantra. I don’t think its anymore respectable for groups of people to engage in the practice either.

      I’m a registered Republican so I’ll ask my tribe to do better. If both parties engaged in self policing– over the right stuff– the discourse would be a lot more civil.

    • Larry says:

      In PA, the primaries are closed to party members. So becoming an Independent eliminates my ability to use my one vote to effect change until the general election. So I can’t make Jordan’s choice.

    • JamesW says:

      Larry, I wholeheartedly agree that we should clean our own house first, and not worry about what the other guys are doing. I just found Emily’s post a little one-sided, as if only those on the Right tend to excuse their extremists.

      Jordan, you said: “who’s more emblematic of their party as a whole? Olbermann and Franken or Limbaugh and Beck?”

      I’d say it’s a dead heat.

  • Larry,

    I have to admit, I was expecting some kind of snarky trashing of the GOP when I first clicked on this. But not so! I am certainly not a fan (anymore) of the GOP, but neither am I buddies with the opposing party. It’s nice to see that you’ve written an honest piece that isn’t the same tired thing coming out of writers from both parties. Well done.


  • John Pattison says:

    As a former Ditto Head now disenfranchised from both political parties, your letter gave me chills, Larry. I recognize this.

  • Hilary says:

    Vote Libertarian or Constitution party. If everyone who was so disillusioned took a stand and said “no more!” we might eventually get a better option.

    • Steve says:

      I agree, Hilary. I’ve been a Democrat forever, but it’s not like I’m thrilled about it. I feel like it’s the least mediocre of two milquetoast options. Apathy and distraction are really the most two popular political parties. If enough of us cared to follow through on our frustration, things would change.

      Now I’m going to go watch some prank videos and take a nap.

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