"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Gettysburg, November 1863
Moderate Republicans. Remember them? I'm old enough to remember a time when the House and Senate stunk with moderate Republicans. Of course they're all gone now. The last known passenger pigeon died at the Cincinnati zoo in 1914. The death of the last known moderate Republican? Well technically at least they still walk among us. Olympia Snowe is still the senator from Maine but her days as a lawmaker are few and far between. She's leaving Washington in January when her term expires. The partisan craziness of what we used to call "the party of Abraham Lincoln" got to be too much for the poor gal to handle. She had had enough. Who could blame her? When she leaves DC this winter, nearly the last semblance of sanity and reason within that disgusting party will be leaving with her.
The death of Arlen Specter on Sunday got me to thinking about these and other topics. Arlen Specter....the man I hated to love. He was a pain in the neck at times, and way to grumpy for his own damned good. But you always got the impression that the man's heart was essentially in the right place. He was the old fashioned sort of Republican that I can still vaguely remember from my childhood. They were a well-meaning (if incurably goofy) lot.
There was the governor of my own state when I was growing up: Nelson Rockefeller. I couldn't stand him. His draconian drug laws (which are still in place) never did New York a bit of good. And yet in his day Rockefeller was considered by most people as (hold onto your hats) "A LIBERAL REPUBLICAN!" Rocky was considered by the John Birch wing of the GOP to be such a screaming lefty that at their convention in the summer of 1964 he was literally jeered off the stage. Yes, children, believe it or not Republicans like Nelson A. Rockefeller used to walk the earth in somewhat sizable numbers. [SIGH]
The nominee who emerged from that long-ago 1964 convention was named Barry Goldwater. During the campaign against Lyndon Johnson that year, the Goldwater campaign slogan was "In your heart you know he's right". The Johnson people countered with, "In your guts you know he's nuts". In his day, the Arizona senator was known as Mr. Conservative. And he was indeed a conservative - at least according to the standards of his time. But in the nearly half century since 1964, the Republcan party has moved so far to the extreme right it's in danger of falling off of the planet. At the end of his life Barry was so disgusted at the ideological disintegration of his party that he teamed up with John Dean to write a book which was to be called, "Conservatives Without Conscience" a play on his classic political tome, "The Conscience of a Conservative".
"Let me remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."
Republican National Convention, 1964
Today the GOP wouldn't nominate Barry Goldwater to run as sewer inspector of Yuma, Arizona. It's gotten that weird.
And then there is that screaming lefty, Dick Nixon - RICHARD FREAKING MILHAUS NIXON! - a man who by the standards of the modern-day Republican party would qualify for a statue in the old Kremlin. While he was president he wanted every American guaranteed a livable wage. This was suggested to him by one of his chief advisers (Hold onto your hats) Daniel Patrick Moynihan! It never happened because he couldn't get support for the idea from his own party (Are you surprised?) He also made a serious attempt to bring affordable health care every American man, woman and child. That effort was defeated in the senate by (another stunner) Teddy Kennedy. He didn't want national health insurance to be a Republican legacy. It was not one of old Ted's mountaintop moments, that's for sure.
And Nixon, I miss you
And I'm feeling blue
I've lost all of my senses
I'm nostalgic for you....
To be sung to the tune of Bobby Goldboro's maudlin pop masterpiece, "Honey"
If Nixon and Goldwater were raised from the dead tonight at midnight and replaced Romney/Ryan on the ticket, I might seriously consider casting my vote for them on Election Day....okay, then again I might not.
What happened to all those moderate Republicans you may well ask? Well, they either died or they left that party in complete and utter disgust. They were joyfully replaced by the racist Dixiecrats who fled the Democrats like diseased rats after President Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights act of 1965. The Republicans welcomed them with open arms. Isn't it strange that the party that was founded on the principle that the black man should no longer be bound by the slave master's chains could have devolved into something this perfectly hideous?
In memory of
Gerard R. Degan
Sunday marked a sad milestone in my family's history. My late father's last surviving brother, my beloved Uncle Jerry Degan, died peacefully at his home in San Mateo, California.
Heaven will be even more jolly tonight now that Jerry Degan has arrived. The man was an absolute hoot-and-a-half. Every one of my cousins and I agree: He was the the funniest human being who ever walked this earth. It's hard to believe that, having lived in the Los Angeles area for nearly half a century, no Hollywood big shot ever had the good sense to sign him up as a character actor. He would have been the best one that ever lived. Think Don Rickles on steroids. Only his humor was gentle. He never offended a soul. That was my Uncle Jerry.
Seventy-five years ago, on July 11, 1937, the writer John O'Hara learned of the passing of his old and cherished friend, the composer George Gershwin. What O'Hara wrote that day about Gershwin may be said on this day with only slight rewording. Yesterday I paraphrased him on my Facebook page:
"Jerry Degan died on October 14, 2012, but I don't have to believe it if I don't want to."
This is going to take some getting used to.
For every one that goes before me I fear it less and less.