I REALLY WANTED TO BE A REPUBLICAN: HONESTLY I DID
by Bernard Levy
A politician is not as narrow-minded
as he forces himself to be.
(Written in 2000, this rings as true today as it did then.)
I have been laboring my entire professional life to declare that I am a Republican. I have not succeeded. But boy, have I tried.
I began life in a modestly liberal family. In my teens, my parents became Republicans. They remained stalwart Republicans until death.
I have been a professional for forty-odd years, beginning as an accountant and not yet ending as an attorney. Being a Republican would have enhanced my career and added to my wealth base.
While working as a CPA in San Diego, I was a member of a Toastmasters Club. Of the many members, only I and two others were Democrats, and we paid dearly for our “liberal sins,” including lack of business contacts.
With renewed vigor, I again questioned my political affiliation at the beginning of the 2000 election year. Who knows; maybe I had left a philosophical stone unturned.
In seeking a Republican as a role model, I hit upon Richard Cheney. You know, the 2000 vice presidential candidate of George W. He seemed nice enough. He spoke softly and appeared smart. I ran across a synopsis of his voting record in The Washington Post on twenty important measures from 1979-1988. He voted “Yea” seven times and “Nay” thirteen. I didn’t bother with six of the twenty measures because I could see where Democrats and Republicans would differ. These were an anti-busing amendment, the balanced budget constitutional amendment, raising social security retirement age to 67, ratifying the Panama Canal Treaty, preventing covert US aid to Nicaragua and the imposition of sanctions against South African. He voted for the first three and against the last three.
I figured that if I could accept the voting record of what appeared to be a kindly, soft-spoken fellow, I could find a political home in the Republican party. I knew that Mr. Cheney was labeled a conservative Republican, but, golly, he was a swell talker and seemed so even-handed, so matter-of-fact.
He voted against three armament measures; banning of armor piercing bullets, the Undetectable Firearms Act and the seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases. I tried to figure out why anyone would vote against a ban on the public sale of armor-piercing bullets. I couldn’t see any reason for their sale to the public. And, then it hit me. He’s from Wyoming and probably a hunter. Suppose while hunting, you view a wonderful 12 point buck but, unfortunately, you don’t have a clear shot. A four-wheel drive vehicle, say, a Jeep Cherokee, is in the way. That’s when you need an armor-piercing bullet to shoot through the vehicle and hit the buck. Sounded good to me, I reasoned. That’s probably sufficient reason to vote against a ban on armor-piercing bullets.
I next took up his affirmative vote barring federal funds for abortion, with no exception for rape or incest. I understand the abortion arguments from both sides. One is rooted in religious belief-the sanctity of life-and the other in the sanctity of a woman and the ownership and control of her body. I can stretch to see how “pro-lifers” would object to abortion as a means of birth control, but I have difficulty with their argument when incest or rape is involved.
Clearly, incest and rape are crimes of the highest magnitude, against moral and religious beliefs and secular law. They’re heinous crimes, depriving victims of fundamental rights. A raped child or woman should be able to obtain an abortion, if wanted, and, if necessary, federal funds should be provided. Why would anyone vote for a bill that does not allow for these exceptions? There must be some explanation. I tried to conjure up what a right-to-life advocate might say. Maybe:
“We may not know for sure if it’s incest or rape. It’s possible there was agreement to the relationship or the rapee was so overwhelmingly attractive that a man couldn’t resist. Life must be preserved at any and all cost.”
I felt uneasy on this issue and considered another subject.
Mr. Cheney voted against a Superfund authorization. Although I could understand why he might do that—defending a strong belief in state’s rights and affirming that the federal government’s responsibilities should be limited and controlled, many states and companies do not have adequate resources to clean up the dangerous conditions. Even conservatives cannot argue against government’s duty to provide those necessary services that its citizens are unable to provide. And, if it’s argued that the government is wasteful and doesn’t control its funds adequately, isn’t that the fault of our representatives and administrations in Washington? In fact, Mr. Cheney was and is part of that very structure.
There are many examples of how the federal government, either directly or indirectly, has fouled our environment, and not all deal with nuclear waste. Citizens and taxpayers have to live in this fouled environment through no fault of their own. Shouldn’t the feds take responsibility when it’s appropriate to do so? I think so. Am I being a liberal? I don’t think so. I’m just being realistic and reasonable.
I wanted to believe in Republicanism, and I wanted to like Mr. Cheney. He’s avuncular and has a middle age spread similar to mine. I identify with him. If anyone could guide me to Republicanism, it would have been he.
Oh well. Gone was the opportunity to join a club with wainscoted walls and smoking rooms for those really good cigars. You know, the kind of club that Esquire’s Esky character used to frequent. I’ll never get to know what those deep leather-covered chairs feel like on a regular basis. But, to thine own self be true.
All of this raises a final question: how could Mr. Cheney have voted the way he did, looking and sounding the way he does? I guess you can’t judge a book by its cover; you have to open it, inspect for a firm, honest spine and read the contents carefully.
A political leader is necessarily an impostor
since he believes in solving life’s problems
without asking its questions.