Editorial from September 2012 HACbeat by Rick Presbrey, CEO, Housing Assistance Corporation
I grew up in a very Republican household. My father owned a small business and my mother was a rabid fan of every Republican. My father never really liked what he did for a living and never was someone who wanted to make a lot of money. Gradually he converted the business to something he wanted to do and he became, in a small way, well-known for the quality of his company’s work and his personal integrity. He was a person who treated everyone – regardless of economic station in life and regardless of color – the same.
My mother was the first of her family to be born in the U.S., with her father coming here from England in 1906. She held prejudices against Irish Catholics all of her life as a result of her heritage. She was very involved in reading about presidential campaigns and watching them on television. I was even kept home from school on occasion to watch things that involved national party politics, including election results and the famous or infamous Army-McCarthy hearings of the early 50’s. It is no surprise then that my sister and I still carry the political gene and keep a close watch on politics, particularly at the presidential level.
It didn’t used to be the case that if you were a Republican you were a conservative and if a Democrat you were liberal. Both parties were a mixture of both (which made compromise in Congress a lot easier than it is now). There was, though, an anti-intellectual feeling even then in the Republican party that I remember clearly from the Stevenson vs. Eisenhower campaigns. Stevenson was an “intellectual” favored by people who were attuned to higher education, while Eisenhower, or “Ike,” was a five-star general. Ike was a genuine war hero who had little party affiliation prior to being coaxed into running for President. Ike was skewered by many Democrats for being out of touch, not working hard and lacking vision. Ironically, nearing the end of Eisenhower’s term, JFK campaigned for president against Nixon citing the “missile gap”, i.e. our falling behind the USSR in strategic missile production. As it seems to have turned out, historians rate Eisenhower as a pretty good president.
Watching the conventions this year, as I have every four years, is disturbing from a historical perspective. While the parties have always differed in significant ways, now the differences are more extreme. And never before do I remember both parties accusing the other of deliberately adopting policies that will lead to the country’s downfall. You know what I mean. The Democrats accuse the Republicans of favoring the rich, being controlled by the financial interests of big corporations, and blinded by greed to the possibility of climate change. The Republicans, on the other hand, continue to quietly suggest that Obama was not born in this country, is a Muslim, wants to lead the country down the road to European socialism and hates small business. The list of accusations from both sides is too long to repeat here.
As I remember it, we came together as a people to support the new president-elect the day after each presidential election. I hope we do that again this year, although I fear we are no longer unified as a people.