I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Republican. Nonetheless, I have understood that people who disagree with me on matters of political philosophy and policy can be honorable people, genuinely concerned about whatís right and wise. And you gentlemen are among those Republicans whom Iíve regarded as basically honorable men, no less honorable than people for whom Iíve voted over the years.
So it is to you that Iíd like to address a question thatís been troubling me for a while. While your party - and through your party, the whole country - has been taken over by what I think can only be called ďevil forces,Ē where have been the voices of Republicans like you? I canít think of a single prominent Republican - including yourselves - who has come forward to denounce this Republican leadership that, for all its righteous posturing, acts like thugs.
I can imagine that you might answer me by saying that Iím simply mistaken in characterizing of these Republican leaders - people like G.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Tom Delay - as lying and ruthless bullies. But thatís an answer that certainly wonít satisfy me. There are only a few other times in my life Iíve felt such conviction about my perception as I do about the evil I perceive in the forces that have taken over the Republican Party. And over the years Iíve learned to trust the truth of my perceptions on such occasions.
But if that is what you truly believe, then that would certainly provide me with a kind of answer. Iíd understand that the reason Republicans like you, whom Iíve regarded as honorable, havenít spoken out because you simply donít see what I see.
Except that I have difficulty altogether believing thatís true, at least in your case, Senator McCain. I remember how the Bush-Rove gang smeared you in South Carolina in 2000, so surely you must have known since then what kind of assassins these men are who are ruling our country. It may have been ďonlyĒ character assassination, but thatís really just a democracyís version of what evil rulers have always done to people who get in their way, whether a Saddam Hussein with his murders or medieval tyrants with their dungeons.
But there you were in 2004 - Mr. Integrity, as many of us thought you to be from 2000, the guy who tells it like it is - stumping for this president who had already for four years been tearing apart the fabrics into which the goodness of this country has been woven. Iíve got to tell you, I was awfully disappointed in you. Since I felt that you must know what kind of man it was to whom you were lending your credibility, and were thus helping to hold onto Americaís highest office for another four years, I imagined that it was out of your own ambitions to reach that office four years hence that you had (figuratively speaking) made a bargain with the devil. I hope Iím wrong, but I havenít come up with another interpretation that seems very plausible.
Which leads me to wonder: Is that the more general answer to my question, i.e. that Republicans know that if they speak up theyíll be cutting their own throats politically? I can imagine that would be a tough thing to do, but then, Senator McCain, itís not as though you havenít been through far worse, as a POW, than the life youíd have in the worst-case scenario of losing your seat from Arizona. And how about you, Senators Baker and Rudman, long-retired from public office: what would you have to lose? If you actually have seen what I see, would anything prevent you from speaking out to denounce the dark forces that have taken over your party?
Might you somehow still be inhibited by that impressive Republican ethic of strict party discipline and loyalty? If so, just what is the object of that loyalty that it would outweigh your loyalty to the basic values of our country?
I remember you, Senator Baker, from those Watergate hearings more than thirty years ago. At that time, you seemed willing to follow the truth wherever it led, despite the fact that it was a president of your own party whose abuse of power was being investigated. ďWhat did the president know, and when did he know it?Ē you so famously asked, while millions of us watched as ďthe system worked.Ē Now Iím wondering, if your party had controlled the Senate at that time, and you already had a pretty strong sense of Nixonís malfeasance, would you have pushed for the Senate to investigate the president as it did? Or would you have done what todayís Senate Republicans seem to be doing - protecting the president rather than protecting the country?
Well, Iím left with my original question and concern. What does it mean that the Republicans have all been so silent while these dark forces have been riding to power with the Grand Old Party as their vehicle? Do none of them see what I see? Or do they lack the courage to make themselves unpopular with the party base whose admiration theyíve enjoyed? Or do they, like their present leaders, care more about power than about the values served - or destroyed - by that power?
Anyway, I hope youíll answer. Or better still, speak out. Better late than never.
Andrew Bard Schmookler
Andrew Bard Schmookler has recently launched his website - NoneSoBlind.org - devoted to understanding the roots of America's present moral crisis and the means by which the urgent challenge of this dangerous moment can be met. Dr. Schmookler is also the author of such books as The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution (SUNY Press) and Debating the Good Society: A Quest to Bridge America's Moral Divide (M.I.T. Press). He also conducts regular talk-radio conversations in both red and blue states. Schmookler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.