The other day, as I read the morning Cleveland Plain Dealer, the featured letter to the editor really struck me. The headline asked, “Is There Room in the GOP for Moderates?” Its author, Bill Libby, a prominent Republican official in nearby Hudson, a particularly well-to-do suburb of Cleveland, explained that at the Republicans’ annual Lincoln Dinner, keynote speaker Tom DeLay spoke of Bush “having divine assurance and moral truth.” Answering his own question, the author went on to state that he had “come to believe that my party (GOP) looks and feels like a right-wing, conservative religious movement.”
He isn’t alone, of course, in his disgust at the extreme ultra-right-wing fanaticism that is now in near-total control of the (formerly) “Grand Old Party.” Republicans, in control of all three branches of the federal government, have come to view that control as tantamount to a sweeping mandate, that “the people have swung to the right,” especially after 9/11. The ultra-right-wing section of that party has rushed full speed ahead to force their skewed view of the world upon the rest of the nation. Massive tax cuts for the super-rich, war without end against undefined enemies, social legislation to enact religious rule, union busting and a general rolling back of all progressive legislative gains people have made in the past century – that is the agenda of the ultra-right. This has led to mass resistance from unions, minorities, women, a new, huge peace and justice movement. We are now beginning to see resistance even within Republican ranks.
This new beginning of open resistance to the fascist direction within the Republican Party itself is an extremely important development that we ignore only at tremendous risk. There needs to be discussion within the wide-based labor-led people’s movement on how to find space for these folks.
No less than Republican Sen. John McCain reflected a further deepening of this viewpoint on Meet the Press recently, when he was asked if he’d consider the possibility of running as vice president with John Kerry on the Democratic ticket. Surprisingly, he answered that he’d like to do so and would definitely consider it. He went on to state that he had many views to the right of Kerry’s and that he didn’t expect the offer. Still, that is an earth-shaking statement for a Republican leader to make on national TV, in an election year, when the incumbent is the leader of his own party.
In many ways, however, McCain is reflecting an increasingly independent direction by some at the base of that party. A Washington Post piece on the unprecedented peace movement among military families cited a longtime conservative father from Pittsburgh who started a website called republicansforkerry.org. Scene magazine had a front-page article, “What’s a Nice Gay Man Doing in the Republican Party,” about a gay Cleveland Republican who is angry at that party’s anti-gay direction.
In some other ways we see some actual movement by moderate GOP legislators. While relatively isolated and developing from local pressure, it shows that there are ways to accommodate this motion within the wide anti-Bush tent. In the right-wing GOP-dominated Ohio Legislature, Lakewood Democrat Mike Skindell put forward a resolution calling on the state to refuse to cooperate or support any new anti-labor “free-trade” pacts. Instead of that bill dying because of lack of GOP support, Cleveland Republican leader Jim Trakas has now come forward with a similar bill. Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) has become an outspoken supporter of the steelworkers’ fight to win back their pensions, which had been stolen by Bush’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
This, and many other similar developments, represents the strength of the growing people’s movement to oust Bush and his right-wing cronies. We need to find ways to help these increasingly independent Republican forces join with the people’s movement to play a role in helping get rid of Bush. Doing that will help our fight to win the economic and social gains our people need so badly.
Bruce Bostick is a long-time Steelworker Union (USWA) leader and activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.