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January 3, 2012

Political Ideology Squelches Free Speech

Roy Meachum

“I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”


Will Rogers proclaimed his most famous quote in the 1920s after Woodrow Wilson’s eight-year interruption disturbed the GOP lock-hold on the White House since the Civil War. The Republican Party arose because of its strident position against slavery. When Emancipation took effect – with hardly a burp – Washington’s triumphal leadership scarcely shifted gears under the Bloody Flag cause — the name was taken from a banner that witnessed Lincoln’s Ford Theatre assassination.


By whatever specific label, the GOP first saw light with the strength of the industrialized and populated North, while the South’s largely agricultural economy offered little competition. Ironically, racial integration drove the former Confederate states into Republican arms. As a veteran journalist I learned long ago the essence of politics is formed by compromise.


Epitomized by the recent Tea Party, today’s GOP is dominated by the extreme right, which maintains principles that must be retained at any and all costs. Altogether Frederick’s Charles Mathias and his Illinois buddy, Charles Percy, would be extremely discomforted, were they still alive. "Chuck” Percy was defeated in 1984 primarily by discontented GOP members; seeing the wall’s handwriting, “Mac” Mathias threw in the towel when his term ran out – two years later after I moved to Frederick.


Exactly 25 years later, the so-called “moderates” would not recognize the party; it’s completely returned to Bloody Shirt extremism. There is absolutely no space for them at the Republican inn. The House of Representative leadership has become – sadly – a bad joke. Driving the country’s credit rating down in some mistaken notion they are straightening out the Wall Street financial mess. The national approval of the Congress tanked months ago.


All by itself, ideology is seldom employed positively. When it comes to politics, it is remembered as very negative, e.g. communism, fascist and Nazism. In Western democratic societies, it can be misinterpreted as partisanship, but a willingness to bankrupt this nation’s resources, morally and financially, reduces ideology to a mighty childish tantrum, accompanied by threats to hold the breath until its proponents get their way.


As attorney Joe Welch chastised a mid-20th century senator “have you no shame.” The question was prompted by Wisconsin’s Joe McCarthy’s verbal assault on a young man who was subordinate to Mr. Welch. The substantive issue was Senator McCarthy’s attempt — at the instigation of his chief of staff, Roy Cohn — to exact revenge on the Army for rejecting the commission request for David Schine. It turned out in addition to his post on the senatorial staff, Mr. Schine was Mr. Cohn’s lover in a homosexual, sadistic relationship, while the committee made war on gays, of all sorts.


Lashing themselves to the Ship of State doesn’t work, not in over 60 years; extremists cannot blind me, especially when the motive is obvious. The latest exercise in foolishness simply has no purchase with me, leaving me to wonder, along with the elf Puck, “what fools we mortals be” — Shakespeare’s “Mid-Summer’s Night.”



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