The Bigger Picture
Published on September 17th in Metro Éireann By Charles Laffiteau
I had originally written a column for this week that discussed my impressions about the nationally televised speech on healthcare reform that I watched President Obama deliver to a joint session of the US Congress and the American public last week.
But at the end of the day I just couldn’t bring myself to submit it to my editor. Why? Because it wasn’t really an honest opinion column about what I heard and saw on TV last Wednesday night. Mind you I didn’t fabricate anything or express any opinions in that column that weren’t sincere. It wasn’t honest because I wasn’t acknowledging the things I had seen and heard that night which most disconcerted me. So today I deleted it.
As many of you are no doubt aware, I am a lifelong member of the United States Republican Party. I joined the Republican Party while I was still in high school; before I was even allowed to legally vote in a state or national election. Through the years I have raised money for and campaigned on behalf of numerous Republican Party candidates for local, state and national offices. I haven’t always liked or agreed with many of the positions taken by Republican politicians I have supported, but I have also never voted for a Republican candidate simply because they were a member of the party.
Like many of you and many of my fellow American citizens, I have always tried to put the needs of my state or country ahead of partisan politics. I take our freedom to vote for the people we want as our political and government leaders very seriously because many of our global brethren don’t have the same freedom to elect their leaders that we have. Our democratic freedoms aren’t rights; they are privileges! That is why we have both a duty to exercise our right to vote and a responsibility to vote for candidates we believe are best suited for the job, regardless of their political party affiliations.
My own personal sense of responsibility to vote for the person best suited for the political office is what has led me to support and vote for Democratic, Independent and 3rd Party political candidates from time to time. And although I was both an early and fervent supporter of Barack Obama when he became a candidate for US President on 10 February 2007, I didn’t actually vote for him in the 4 March 2008 Super Tuesday Texas state primary. I cast my absentee ballot for Senator John McCain on that day.
I did so because I am still a registered member of the Republican Party and as such, I had a duty to vote in the Republican primary and a responsibility to vote for the Republican candidate best suited for America’s highest elected office. I did so knowing that President Obama needed my vote more than Senator McCain because he was in a very tight race with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while Senator McCain had already clinched the Republican Party Presidential nomination. I did so because I had no intention of leaving the Republican Party even though I was campaigning for President Obama and would subsequently vote for him in the November 2008 General Election.
I have been a frequent and vocal critic of state and national Republican Party political office holders as well as many of the party’s political positions on foreign and domestic policies for some time now. But I have never been ashamed to acknowledge my Republican Party affiliation or the fact that I bear some responsibility for the mistakes Republican Party leaders made while they controlled the reins of political power in the US. I was part of the minority of Americans who voted Bush and Cheney into office back in 2000 and I was very pleased that the party was in control of the US Congress as well.
But for the first time in my life, last Wednesday night I was ashamed to acknowledge that I was a member of the Republican Party. Although I have been very upset with the Republican Party because it supported the decision to invade Iraq and it implemented fiscally irresponsible policies while it controlled Congress, I have never once shied away from the fact that I am also a lifelong member of it. Until now that is.
The reason why the original column that I had written for publication today wasn’t honest was because I had avoided any mention of this in it. But the real reason I wasn’t satisfied with the original column and never submitted it wasn’t because of my concern about being honest with my readers; it was because I couldn’t be honest with you until I first got honest with myself. And me being honest with me is easier said than done.
So what exactly happened last Wednesday night that caused me to initiate some serious soul searching as regards my long held political affiliation with the Republican Party? Well back in the states the news media has focused on an unseemly outburst by a Republican Congressional Representative from the great state of South Carolina. As you may or may not know, South Carolina is also the home state of an embattled Republican governor who has become more famous for his romantic prose than his political prose.
But I was watching President Obama speak when South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson began yelling “You lie!” at our President during his health care speech and the truth is, it didn’t really disturb me that much. While I do remember thinking that the outburst was rude and discourteous, I wasn’t exactly shocked by Representative Wilson’s behavior given the oft times contentious behavior I have seen displayed by other politicians both Republicans and Democrats.
President Obama handled it well too. He paused and calmly but firmly responded “No that isn’t true” and then resumed delivering his speech. No, it was something more subtle that led to my feelings of shame that I’ll discuss next week.