Friday, March 13, 2009

Did I forget anyone?

Are any of you familiar with the term "gimmick infringement"? It's what happens when someone starts using another person's gimmicks as his own. I'm not sure if it's illegal, but there are certainly cases when it's in bad taste. Sometimes, though, imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery, as long as you give the proper nod to the original. Other times, it's simply a good idea.

Take the Republican and Democratic Parties, for example. The Democrats have branded themselves the party of inclusion, where minorities, gays, lesbians, poor people, and even women can find safe haven against the big, bad rich white males in the Republican Party. It's how they win elections, by appealing to "non-whites" and standing up for "equality". You would think that they, and the country, would be ecstatic to learn that the Republican Party has been taking cues from them for decades now in this area.

And yet, when Michael Steele was elected the first African American chairman of the Republican National Committee, all that liberal pundits had to say about the matter was that Republicans only elected him because he was black. I suppose it never occurred to them that the RNC simply might have decided that Mr. Steele was the best man for the job (though in recent weeks, some have begun to wonder). They most likely just didn't want to give anyone the impression that the GOP was open to the idea that black people might have good ideas for the party and for the country itself. After all, they had just spent a year and half holding their breaths waiting for some Republican or another to say or do something racist while Barack Obama was running for president.

The idea that the GOP actually might be multicultural is not an idea that will serve the Democratic Party well in coming elections. Since Barack Obama became president, a host of non-white male Protestants have risen to national prominence from the Republican field. Women don't just need to rely on Sarah Palin to represent them in the GOP, as Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas has served in the United States Senate since 1993. Other Republican women have served and do serve in Congress and top state positions across the nation.

Governor Bobby Jindal, the son of immigrants from India, reminds us that Latinos and African Americans are not the only minorities in America. Lest we forget those elements of the conservative movement, though, both Presidents Bush nominated minorities to the Supreme Court of the United States. Clarence Thomas is a conservative African-American and Samuel Alito is a son of immigrants. Colin Powell was a close advisor to both presidents, and of course Condoleezza Rice served as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State to George W. Bush. Alberto Gonzalez is Latino, making the most recent President Bush's Cabinet one of the most diverse in modern history.

As for claims of religious singularism in the GOP, though Latter-day Saint Mitt Romney did not fare well among evangelical voters during the early primaries, he recently won the endorsement of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) for the third year in a row. In addition, the House Republican Whip Eric Cantor is Jewish, and is credited with uniting Republican House members in a no vote on the overbloated stimulus bill last month. He has become the target of attacks from the Democratic Party because, to hear his Republican colleagues tell the story, he's just too good at his job.

The gay movement has suffered a blow recently, in the form of Proposition Eight in California, which bans gay and lesbian marriages. But even gays can find a home in the GOP, as Log Cabin Republicans have been a force inside the Republican Party for years now. Originally based in California, they now have chapters across the United States, and they recognize that, this issue aside, Republican ideals and values tend to align with their own.

The politics of divisiveness have existed in this country since the Founding Fathers first began contemplating a revolution. Even in the earliest days of our government, it was debated whether there should be political parties at all. George Washington warned that "[t]he alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism." His intent was to show that, no matter which party is in control, it will most likely begin to abuse its authority over the other almost as soon as it has that control.

We've seen examples of this from both of the major parties in America, and not just in decades past. Democrats in Congress today have already begun to flex their muscles against the minority party, flush with power after the November election put a Democrat at the head of the executive branch. Personally, I believe in divided government, and there is no surer way to have that than to have one party in Congress and the other in the White House.

President Obama has shown that he is willing, and even eager, to gain support from Republicans on his initiatives. This shows a humility that is very becoming in a president. How long, though, until he listens to calls from Speaker Pelosi and other like-minded Democrats to simply promote his own agenda regardless of what the opposition says or does? Who cares what Republicans think, anyway? The answer: fully half of the country. And even if there were only one Republican left in the United States, he or she would still have the Constitutional right to demand representation and accountability from his leaders.

I have always admired the Democratic Party for giving voices to those who didn't have them. It seemed the perfect ideal, and one that I wanted to spread myself. I was wrong, though, in thinking that it was only the Democrats who represented African, Asian, Latin, European, and other types of Americans. I was wrong in thinking that all or even most women supported Democratic ideals. I was wrong to think that the Democratic Party was the only "party of inclusion" in this country. There are many parties, in fact, and they all appeal to more than one type of person.

This is the 21st century. It's time that we stopped adhering to the old stereotypes about the parties in this country. Republicans are not just rich old white Protestants, and Democrats are not the only ones who stand up for minorities. Remember, the things that unite us are greater than those which divide us.

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