When Did Being a Republican Become… THIS?

I’ve known Republicans all my life.

Family members. Neighbors. Select friends. Workmates. Maybe even a boyfriend or two. And though my parents were Chicago-bred liberals, and I was most definitely raised with the political sensibilities of the “big tent” Democratic Party, I can’t remember a time when Republicans—their brand, their image, their policies and platforms; their mission, their words and deeds—were something that would make you grab the children and run screaming from the room.

Until now.

We all remember the old Republican Party, grand or otherwise. It was a party that used to stand for small government and free enterprise, with fewer regulations and lower taxes. It promoted fiscal responsibility, ideals of self-reliance and individuality, with a focus on family values and law and order. It emphasized national pride and valor, while supporting notions of human and civil rights, and peace and freedom throughout the world. In fact, it positioned itself as the “grown-up” party of conservative values, certainly in comparison to the freewheeling, wildly diverse, and politically liberal Democrats.

And they pulled it off for a while. At least some version of that idealized branding. They were able to wrap themselves in bright, shiny purpose and actually make their constituents feel that those mandates were being honored. Some Republicans became political stars: Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt; Eisenhower. More recently, Ronald Reagan was a Republican who made them swoon. Despite his background as a “lowly actor,” his paternalistic—sometimes bumbling—oration; despite the Iran-Contra scandal, his lack of action on the civil rights and AIDS crises, even when evidence of his dementia became clear, they called him “The Great Communicator,” and his name was invoked by any member of the party who wanted to be seen as comparable in the slightest. A likeable, admirable Republican. Hey, even Bush Jr., whose administration was a clusterfuck of corruption, graft, and what some would frame as actual war crimes, was often referenced as someone “you’d like to have a beer with.”

Then came Trump.

The chaos and corruption that was imagined in the fever dreams of every single person who worked their ass off to see that he was not elected have now come screaming to life in full, horrifying, three-dimensional color. And in the months and years of his almost unfathomably toxic administration, the Republican Party has devolved into a thing so unrecognizable, so pandering and capitulating, so crass and enabling of crassness, that Ronald Reagan is quite possibly rolling over in his grave.

When did being a Republican become engaging in corrupt, criminal, even traitorous activities with foreign adversaries to win elections?

When did being a Republican become wearing a red hat intended to signal bigotry, ignorance, and “fear of other”?

When did being a Republican become impugning, insulting, and negating our national intelligence, justice, and law enforcement agents and agencies?

When did being a Republican become ignoring your constituency to pander to the petulant demands of the executive branch?

When did being a Republican become embracing, enabling, and propagating verifiable lies in an effort to win favor with a corrupt president?

When did being a Republican become running up the budget deficit nearly 50% in only 2+ years?

When did being a Republican become handing welfare (paid by taxpayers) to farmers after imposing tariffs that gutted them, gifting tax relief to the wealthiest among us, and doing everything possible to dismantle a healthcare system that actually works for the people who need it most?

When did being a Republican become disseminating lies, slander, insults, and ignorance on social media, emulating a POTUS who’s lowered every standard of decorum and decency?

When did being a Republican become ignoring protocols and rules set up by your own party to, instead, spuriously attack and defame the opposition?

When did being a Republican become dismissing the party leader’s stated declarations of sexual harassment and assault, while concurrently ignoring the legion of credible women who’ve accused him of the same?

When did being a Republican become agreeing with, sharing, even finding humor in vile, ugly name-calling by the man our children should look up to but cannot?

When did being a Republican become turning a blind eye to the inhumanity of caging asylum-seeking refugees, kidnapping their children, breaking up their families, and denying them legal rights?

When did being a Republican become advancing discrimination against Muslims, Mexicans, LGBTQ, people of color, women, and immigrants?

When did being a Republican become openly embracing white supremacists, Nazis, KKK, racists and bigots who see “America first!” as a battle cry for white nationalism?

When did being a Republican become insulting war heroes, dismissing the needs of vets, and treating national security like a dangerous and badly played game of “Risk”?

When did being a Republican become cozying up to inhumane dictators, even comparing them favorably to former presidents?

When did being a Republican become cowardice, spinelessness; an inability to speak truth frankly, or stand up for integrity and honor?

When did being a Republican become supporting, enabling, complying with, or otherwise propping up the most corrupt, inept person who’s ever been in the Oval Office?

When did being a Republican become something shameful?

Any group, certainly any political party, has its share of criminals, hooligans, fools, idiots, and the ethically challenged. I mean… Anthony Weiner. But as I watched Matt Gaetz and his Mindless Minions march in self-righteous lockstep to disrupt and violate a private impeachment hearing in a secure room, and listened as he and his cabal spewed nonsense about “secrecy” and “lack of transparency,” maligning the very respectable Adam Schiff as a Machiavellian purveyor of nefarious intent all while pretending to forget (or consciously ignoring) the fact that Trey Gowdy himself—the Wag of Benghazi Street—stated that the procedure was proceeding exactly as it should and in compliance with rules that, yes, REPUBLICANS put in place, I saw a Republican Party that had devolved to the very worst of human weakness, corruption, arrogance, and stupidity.

But it’s every day I see a Republican Party willing to ignore facts, lie with zeal,  break laws, gaslight constituents, flout norms and protocols, demean and mudsling with the prattles of insecure bullies tap-dancing either at the behest of the Fool on the Hill or to gain his approval and acceptance. And every day I realize this party is no more.

It’s not “grand,” it’s not even “old,” because the Republican Party of yore is gone. The one that exists today is a mutant version of what came before, and until the snarling head of that beast has been removed, either by impeachment or election, this party will continue to metastasize into a dark, corrupt thing unrecognizable to the two-hundred-and-forty-three-years of Republicans who came before.

Until then, rethink, America. We have a country to save.


Photographs in order:
Jorgen Haland, Roya Ann Miller & Jon Tyson, all on Unsplash


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

We’ve Reached That Point: This Election Is Like Fighting With Your Boyfriend

Or girlfriend. Or that customer service rep at the insurance company, your cable provider, or any one of those monolithic corporations that cyclically make your head explode.

You know that point in a fight:

You’ve exhausted all worthy material but you keep going just for the sake of “principle.” Every known argument has been made, debated or deflected to no avail, but you can’t keep yourself from hitting even lower below the belt. Any reasonableness or respectfulness of earlier has devolved into epic flinging of invectives and epithets, some you didn’t even know you knew. The mantra of “wait… just LISTEN!!” comes with increased decibels of volume and venom to the point that neighbors call, dogs bark; walls are up, minds are closed, stress chemicals flow, rational thought exits, and no one can possibly win because it’s a zero sum game. But still… you keep throwing that mud until someone finally collapses under the weight.

Welcome to Election 2016, the Democrats.

(I’m ignoring the Republicans until we settle this mess.)

We’re there, folks. We Democrats are at that point. It’s ugly and wounding and has absolutely no value, but still people are out there trying to draw blood any way they can. They’re posting propaganda, screaming “fuck yous” at opposition rallies, ripping up kids’ posters, sharing unsubstantiated slander and gossip, and acting like the very worst the worst has to offer… and couching it all in the nobility of “fighting for my candidate.”

Witnessing this insanity as a sane bystander — one hoping to stay politically involved without being sucked into the maelstrom — is as soul-killing as that awful road trip your sophomore year when the couple in the front seat screamed at each other from Redding to Lake Tahoe and later demanded that you take sides if you were “a true friend!”

That kind of soul-killing.

We Democrats probably reached the zero sum game months ago. Or at least after the New York primary. When the idea of trashing the winning candidate to aggrandize the other just made the entire ticket seems as nuts as the Republicans. Beyond the math, beyond arguing the math; beyond delusion and fanaticism and revolutions and glass ceilings and wishful thinking and slogans and hashtags and conspiracies and finger-pointing and idiotic celebrities and Westboro-style harassers and sexism and ageism and all of it, the jig is up. Whatever you think the ending is going to be isn’t the point. You can have hope, you can have faith, you can keep fighting the good fight, but fighting the bad fight gets us nowhere.

And we are fighting the bad fight. And it is getting us nowhere.

Let’s be honest: we’re deep enough into this thing that odds are good everyone’s taken their positions. They know where they stand, who they’re supporting and why, so preaching from here on out is only to the choir. As long as folks are happy with that harmony, keep on a’preachin’! But anyone who thinks there’s anything to be gained from the incessant posting of the most incendiary, salacious stuff they can find on the other candidate in hopes of — what? convincing someone to jump on their bandwagon? — has missed the trajectory of this narrative.

Even if — in the most random of circumstances — there really is anyone left who doesn’t feel informed enough to make a choice, that person has to know they aren’t going to get an unbiased, objective education from the posts of oppositional supporters. Let’s start with that truism.

So, given that, may I suggest to ALL who continue to post ridiculous things like videos screeching, “If you would still vote for Hillary Clinton after watching this 4-min video…,” or anonymous blog posts by someone who’s talked to someone who knows a doctor who says Sanders has Alzheimer’s, or scurrilous and slanderous propaganda from sites run by known Hillary-haters, or unsubstantiated dirt on Jane Sanders, or slimy posts about Chelsea Clinton’s mothering, or…STOP. JUST STOP.

It’s over. The fight is over. It no longer has any merit whatsoever and continuing it will only toxify any good thing that still exists between you and the other side and what’s the point of that? There’s still Trump out there.

If, despite the math, Sanders supporters want to continue to promote positive information about their guy as a way to keep the team going, great. If Clinton supporters want to shout their enthusiasm from the rooftops, they should be able to do that without enduring a gauntlet of verbal abuse. But beyond in-house, in-candidate, to-the-choir pumping up, there is no where else to go with this fight.

We’re at that point. It’s obvious, everyone knows, let’s not get the neighbors on their phones again.

When you hit the wall-of-no-return with your customer service rep, that call is terminated (either by you or them), services may be cancelled, grievances may be filed. When you reach that point with a significant other, one of you has to have the wherewithal to shut the f**k up, leave the room/house/apartment, walk off the adrenaline, and detach until both parties can manage rational conversation, sincere apologies, and a willingness to let go of past rancor (that’s a big one!).

And at that point in a party primary, everyone on oppositional sides has to put down the swords, eschew further debasement, and attempt to reframe the debate. There has to be a willingness to reconsider whatever indoctrination has been amassed or allowed to flow freely, to change the filter to look at the bigger picture, to see past preconceived ideas, and find a way back to party unity.

That’s what grown-ups do. That’s what this party needs to do. Now. Not later. Now. Whatever happens at the convention is another moment. This moment is the one where we acknowledge the zero sum game we’ve been fighting and step off this battlefield, to rejuvenate and rehabilitate to take on the bigger battle ahead.

Are Democrats and those in their camp willing and able to do that? I don’t know. I hope so. We’ll have our answer when the intra-party, click-bait, poop-throwing mud-fest on social media finally stops. That can’t happen soon enough… I swear I hear the phone ringing.

LDW w glasses


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.