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Guest column | Jim Aylward

Republicans were once moderate

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Budget Committee, is famous for his little plan to cut the size of government by ending Medicare as we know it. He met recently with his own constituents in a public meeting and it wasn't pretty.

He found himself the target of his own plan. People yelled at him. He yelled back because he didn't like it. Up until that point, evidently, he was, and played the part of the fair-haired boy. He was the Republican's answer to just about everything. But, suddenly, cutting the cost of government was okay, but not at the price of senior citizens.

"Don't touch my Medicare!"

"Don't touch my Social Security!"

"Don't tax the middle class!"

What kind of Republicanism is that? It's the most basic kind.

"I got used to my benefits. I depend on them to get by. I don't want to lose them."

I've lived long enough to remember when Republicans were moderates. In the 1940s and '50s, members of unions voted in Massachusetts for Leverett Saltonstall because "he was good to the common man."

When I was in Korea and stuck in a "Buddy Group" situation, which meant four of us had to do the same job even if one of us could type and the others couldn't, my Aunt Bertha told me to write to my congresswoman, Edith Nourse Rogers, and ask for help.

When she got the letter, she picked up the phone and called Gen. Mark Clark in Tokyo, and told him she wanted the situation corrected. He did and the Buddy Groups were disbanded. Mrs. Rogers never asked if I was a Republican or a Democrat.

Today, in politics, it's Us versus Them. Are you Republican? Great! What kind are you? Are you an activist in the Tea Party? Why not? Maybe you're not qualified to be a Republican today.

What? Nelson Rockefeller was a moderate Republican? And his wife was named Happy? What kind of name is that? A good Republican wife should be named Nancy. To be a good Republican today doesn't require happiness. It requires diligence in changing voting requirements state by state.

Pretty soon they'll be asking people for a urine test, blood test and a birth certificate. The long form. And what about that little continuous slur Republicans hurl at Democrats by calling them the "Democrat Party"? I always thought it was the Democratic Party. Should Democrats refer to Republicans as "Repubs?"

Until very recently, Republicans seemed to be, as Charlie Sheen would say, winning!

However, as Ryan found out, the win is not so perfect after all. His own people don't like the way he does business.

And, victories can be short-lived. Democrats just captured an open congressional seat in upstate New York by tarring the Republican candidate with Ryan's budget plan.

If there are few moderates today, at least we have plenty of ultra-conservatives. They're concerned about women's rights and having the middle class pay their fair share.

If many in Congress today would pay attention to the things voters really need, and are really concerned about, they might not find themselves being yelled at in town meetings.

They might find themselves beloved. Kind of like Mr. Salstonstall and Mrs. Rogers in the good old days.

Jim Aylward lives in New Port Richey

Republicans were once moderate 06/01/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 5:15pm]
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