My father died in March of 2008, right before the presidential race kicked into high gear. Hillary Clinton was still sort of the front runner then and my father hated the Clintons with a passion. He thought them both to be small-time crooks who sleazed their way into the White House. He felt that they destroyed the credibility of the Democratic Party. Though a fervent Republican himself, he admired Jimmy Carter and George McGovern, at least they had some principles and stuck to them, even at their own detriment. One memorable thing that stays in my mind is he had a poster that screamed in big red letters ‘Stop Hillary Now’ in his study. It made me laugh every time I saw it. He knew I admired Hillary Clinton for her academic achievements and career achievements, he said I was better than that and I do far more than she ever could. The Clintons were a bunch of small town opportunists who got lucky – in his not so flattering description of them.
So it was an even bigger irony that dad was a George W. Bush supporter, he donated money to his campaign, the amount was large enough that it earned a signed letter of thanks from Dubya himself. He had that letter framed and hung it in his front door entryway. Half of me thinks he put it there to wind me up, he knows I roll my eyes every time every time I walked by it. He was proud of his association with the GOP and his support for Dubya. But when George W. Bush invaded Iraq and when it became plain as day that it was a serious mistake, and the public support for the war was waning, yet Bush still insisted that he was right in doing what he did, my father regretfully lamented, “to strongarm an untenable position isn’t smart politics. Sometimes you are just dead wrong and it’s best to admit it.”
My father was what one would consider a Northeast Republican or a WASP Republican, indifferent about social and moral issues but conservative with fiscal issues. He was pro-choice. He was pro-gay marriage, pro-LGBT rights. He believed that people should live how they wish without government intrusion – though not sure what he would think about the bathroom debate these days; but like people of a certain age, he’d rather not see it, not hear about it or know about certain lifestyle details of the LGBT community. You’ll never catch him dead at a gay pride parade. He believed in equal pay between men and women and women shouldn’t be discriminated against. In fact, some of his best employees in his many years of running his own company were women, women were the most reliable and he’s rewarded them accordingly. he didn’t preach the gospel at every doorstep and couldn’t stand people who preached. And until the Clintons came onto the political scene he didn’t even dislike the Democrats, it was just not his political or life philosophy.
My father wanted government to stay out of his money and bank account i.e. low taxes. Like many, he’d complain just exactly what did the government do with all the taxes he’s paid over the years (The war in Iraq, dad). He was wary of the Patriot Act enacted by the man he supported with his vote and money. He felt that was one step too far even after 9/11. He didn’t like the snitching atmosphere that George W. Bush fomented and fostered. “That’s not the way to catch terrorists” he’d say. The extra airport security were cumbersome to him, especially with his arthritic bum knee. He was doing some consulting work for a friend which required him to travel to Kansas City once a month, he called the friend and resigned. The surveillance state alarmed him. But in spite of it all, he still considered himself to be Republican. Switching to the Democratic Party was out of the question, especially after the Clintons “crashed the party”, being an Independent seemed too wishy-washy. He liked his conservative convictions.
My father today would be ejected from the Republican Party. He’d be derided as a RINO (Republican in name only). He’d be booed out and shoved out like Trump’s opponent at his rallies. He’d also be disgusted with how the party took a sharp right turn after Obama got elected in 2008. Whereas the party’s right wing in 2008 was on the fringe, in 2016 the fringe became the mainstream. He’d be appalled at Trump making lewd references about certain body parts – he’d get on the stage and shove Trump off himself and then take him to get his head examined. The wall separating Mexico and US is equally ludicrous. Ted Cruz would be unfathomable to him as a serious presidential candidate, he barely tolerated Dubya’s sudden embrace of being born again, a militant Christian for president is making this country a real theocracy. I told him that he need not vote for Bush Jr. out of loyalty to Bush Sr., he told me to shut my yap.
He spent most of the 70s through 90s in Asia, running his businesses. The whole counterculture in America blew by him. By his assessment, Americans have it so good compared to what’s in Asia, he’s got no clue what the liberals were protesting about all day long. The only serious event which would warrant large scale protest was The Vietnam War, which he opposed strongly, but he didn’t understand anything else from the counterculture. Drugs appalled him (“I’ll stick to my scotch – thanks”), the open free sex was distasteful (not the sex, but the openness of it all – old WASPy mentality of keeping your business private out of respectability and such). Large groups of people huddled together in some muddy field in Woodstock listening to music is just beyond his comprehension. He likes his surroundings dry, neat and orderly.
The Republican Party today would break his heart. For someone as parsimonious as he, for him to donate his hard earned money to the party is a big deal. Today, the Republican Party has morphed into a monstrosity that he no longer recognizes. In some ways, though I miss him awfully, I am glad he’s not here to see it.