Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Radical Republican: Old Vs. New

Once upon a time, the term 'Radical Republican' referred to principled Americans who, despite great threats to their personal safety, labored against slavery and fought for the civil rights of all Americans, black or white.

There was a time when 'Radical Republicans' strong-armed the racist Democrats of the South to ratify the fourteenth (14th) and fifteenth (15th) amendments of the constitution, which granted former slaves citizenship and voting rights and guaranteed them equal protections under the supreme law of this republic.

There used to be a time when the first emancipated slaves, like John Roy Lynch, sought political office under the Republican banner, grateful to those 'radicals' who not only secured the physical freedom of their black citizenry but also their unalienable rights to equality, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

There used to be a time, when the Republican campaign of a General-turned-President was placed under the compassionate slogan: "Let Us Have Peace". This, at a time when the Democrats were campaigning under the hateful slogan: "This is a White Man's Nation".

There used to be a time when 'Radical Republican' was a term that inspired compassionate service in the name of justice and brave defiance in the face of intolerance, hate, and injustice.

There used to be a time when...Then:

Over the last half century or so, the African American community was literally driven away into the oblivious arms of the Democratic Party because Republicans were too eager to turn blue into red and dominate the political map of the nation. Blacks became a dispensable casualty of the republican re-engineering of the American political landscape. As a result of this methodical, often clever, re-engineering, the Republican Party gained dominant constituencies in the South and gained the loyal support of the white protestant communities.

Today, over 90 percent of black voters consistently vote for the Democrats. As is always the case, it is the members who make the party and not the other way around. So, the Republican party became the party of a few minorities and large white protestant constituencies. It became the party of God, Guns, and Bullies. The party that has allowed its success to get to its head in record times and could not stop, if only for a second, to hear itself: arrogant and intolerant - A party that is slowly, but surely, driving the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community, into the arms of their political rivals.

The Washington Post has just reported that "nearly half of the nation's children under 5 are racial or ethnic minorities, and the percentage is increasing mainly because the Hispanic population is growing so rapidly, according to a census report released today." Yet, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center finds that "predominantly Republican 'red' counties were significantly more opposed to immigration - both legal and illegal - than are predominantly Democratic 'blue' counties, where immigrants are far more populous".

Recently, the new 'Radical Republican', a far cry from his predecessor, enacted legislation in the House of Representatives to turn the 12 million or so illegal immigrants on US soil into felons. The Republican Party better pay attention and sober up to the demographic trend in this country and be reminded of how the blue ballot ended up in the hands of the African American community. The new so-called 'Radical Republicans' are driving their party right up to the edge of a cliff because they have no sense of history and, most importantly, no practical vision of the future. Michael Powell of the Washington Post wrote a timely essay contrasting old and new immigration. He notes: "The bitter arguments of the past echo loudly these days" and adds: "Most of the concerns voiced today -- that too many immigrants seek economic advantage and fail to understand democracy, that they refuse to learn English, overcrowd homes and overwhelm public services -- were heard a century ago."

The Republican Party, which is surely not lacking in intelligent and responsible leaders, better pay attention and sober up from the drunkenness that its recent successes have permitted. Sensible and visionary party leaders must limit the overreach of their extreme and ideological offspring and steer the party away from the hateful fear-mongering agendas of the day. They must lead a multi-dimensional future of global unity and global perspective if they are to get it right in the next few decades. They must understand that simplistic, one-dimensional ideology can not and will not prevail as a driving force for an America that seeks to lead in an era of unprecedented global proximity; an America that will increasingly need decisive domestic support and convincing international coalitions to tackle the great challenges and threats that lie ahead.

If not, then, they better ready themselves for a future when 'American Conservative' would increasignly turn-off world opinion and effectively trigger undesirable responses in the subconscious memory of a large group of the American electorate.


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