How Republicans Pushed Bernie and Me to the Far Left

Back in 1965, when my wife and I decided to settle in Pennsylvania, my political thinking was just barely left of center.

Like all Republicans of the time, I believed judges and attorneys general should be impartial and just. Both parties selected judicial nominees who had proven themselves impartial and fair from lists provided by the American Bar Association. Now, Republican presidents select their nominees from lists provided by the Federalist Society, a far rightwing lobbying organization.

Like all Republicans of the day, I believed in democracy: One person, one vote no matter the color of your skin, your ancestral origin or religion. The Republican party now finds itself in opposition to democracy, moving voting stations away from universities, like those in Ohio and Texas, and passing voter suppression (registration) laws whenever Republicans control state governments. They have shortened the voting periods and purged voter roles in ways that are still being adjudicated in the courts.

Along with all Republicans back then, I thought criminal behavior was unacceptable for elected offices of any kind. Yet, Republicans have given us at least two criminal presidents, Richard Nixon and now Donald Trump. Two attorneys general, Richard Kleindienst and John Mitchell were convicted of perjury under Nixon. At least 138 appointees under Ronald Reagan had to resign in order to serve prison time, go to trial, or because they were under investigation for crimes they apparently committed.

When I received my undergraduate degree from the heavily subsidized University of North Carolina for $75 per semester, the University of California was the only state left that offered free tuition to in-state students. Then Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party happened to California. Still, like my Republican classmates, I was happy to graduate debt-free, even though I did have to hold two jobs to do so.

Now the Republican Party is opposed to education for the middle and lower classes, cutting education budgets severely in every state they control. Tom Corbett and the Republican- controlled General Assembly cut the Pennsylvania education fund 50% as part of their attempt to lower their first budget overall by 3%. I would say that the education cut was disproportionate.

Most middle-of-the-roaders supported unions, even though after McCarthy chased out all the communists and socialists, the mob moved in to replace them. Republicans weren’t satisfied at eliminating the communist and socialist views, they then set about demonizing unions and instituting anti-union “right to work” laws in the states they control.

Like most Republicans of the day, I supported efforts to secure the planet from global warming. A majority supported government subsidies for the development of solar, wind and biofuels like ethanol and algae. Cap-and-trade was a George H. Bush solution for the problem of acid rain. But for the past two decades Republicans have denied there even is a climate problem.

So, my political thinking was certainly left of center, just liberal for the time. But as the Republican party moved further and further to the right, away from their progressive founder, Abraham Lincoln, the middle was perceived as further and further to the left.

I think this is why we think of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders as radical leftists. They just held on to the original positions of liberals, like me.

President Trump wants to make America great again. He would do that better by reshaping the government into what it was in the 1960s, rather than the 1860s.

(Sunbury Daily Item, December 5, 2019)
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