For the times they are a-changin’

For the times they are a-changin’

It is interesting to look back to our fairly recent history to analyze how our political parties have changed.  My father called himself an “Eisenhower Republican” which confused me as a boy because he never liked the Republicans.

My earliest memory of his politics was seeing him mourn the assassination of President Kennedy, although, he explained to me years later that he didn’t think Kennedy had the time to become a great president.

He turned his back completely on the Republicans during the Nixon administration as the party reflected Nixon’s paranoia and with the emergence of a Machiavellian operating system.

After my father died 14 years ago I wanted to better understand what he meant by being an Eisenhower Republican and so I researched Ike.  History has painted him as a prosperity period President and somewhat laissez faire but what I discovered startled me.

He was anything but and an interesting question arose-  Would Ike be considered a Republican today by conservatism’s new standards?

As Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Eisenhower led millions of troops to take back Europe from the Nazis.  He was President at the beginning of the Cold War, where our opponent had actual weapons of mass destruction pointed at us, yet here are some of things that Ike had to say about war and the military.

On the military in general:  “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone, it is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense.”

On war (think Iraq): “All of us have heard this term ‘preventative war’ since the earliest days of Hitler. I recall that is about the first time I heard it. In this day and time, I don’t believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn’t even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing.”

Ike on the Labor Movement: “Only a fool would try to deprive working men and working women of their right to join the union of their choice.”

” . . . Workers have a right to organize into unions and to bargain collectively with their employers, and . . . a strong, free labor movement is an invigorating and necessary part of our industrial society.”

Entitlements:  “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt, a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

On the subject of “socialized” medicine, in 1960 Eisenhower signed into law the Kerr-Mills Bill, generally considered to be the forerunner of Medicare. For the first time, Kerr-Mills provided for government payment of medical bills of 70% of citizens aged 65 and older.

On Unilateralism:  Eisenhower knew the value of working closely with allies, and of working out problems peacefully through the UN.  While some on the right would have us believe that the UN is some sort of liberal alliance to displace US military strength, the reality is that the UN grew out of the alliance of 26 nations forged to fight the axis powers in WWII.

Here are Eisenhower’s own words:  “The world must learn to work together, or finally it will not work at all.”

“If the United Nations once admits that international disputes can be settled by using force, then we will have destroyed the foundation of the organization and our best hope of establishing a world order.”

“The people of the world genuinely want peace. Some day the leaders of the world are going to have to give in and give it to them.”

Does Eisenhower’s perspective resemble the Republican Party of today?  No, it doesn’t and the contrast is sharp.  Ike may have been at odds with many of the rank and file of his party even then in terms of these positions and his social conscience, but once upon a time, it was possible to be a Republican and be progressive.

I am a proud liberal and a Democrat because I stand for many of the principles my father stood for. And he was once an Eisenhower Republican…imagine what could be done today…if only they still existed.

Published by gary1164

I'm an advertising executive and former actor/producer