Today, I rise in support of the Gentleman from Missouri.
This morning, when I received a challenge from my friend Mark of Exile on Pain Street, well, I wasn’t sure I was up to it. I tried, really i did. But I just didn’t think I had it in me to answer his challenge:
I defy you to say something positive about the GOP. One thing.
When I look at today’s GOP, well, I don’t see anything positive. I see a lot of hate. I see a lot of stupidity. I see a lot of folks in office that, well, really should just go back to where they came from.
And I feel compelled to write about it. To shout from the rooftops, actually. To get one more person out to vote against the folks who really should not be in positions to impact our lives.
But, you know, I felt bad when I realized that Mark is right. Because I didn’t always feel this way. I wasn’t always anti-GOP. In fact, under the right circumstances, I might have become a Republican. And today, a Republican showed me exactly why I might have joined the GOP.
Then I found my one positive thing!
Have you heard the news out of Missouri?
A leading contender for the GOP ticket for Missouri governor died last week. Of course, that’s sad news. It’s sad when anybody dies.
But of course there’s more to the story. Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich (R) killed himself. And suicide is a whole different ball game.
Mr. Schweich had believed himself to be the victim of a whispering campaign, by state GOP chairman John Hancock who was “off-handedly” spreading the word that Mr. Schweich was Jewish. [It’s a sad statement of life here in America that that should be seen as a problem.] There was also a nasty radio ad. And Mr. Schweich was, by reports, a sensitive man.
These tactics have become part and parcel of our political “debates.”
But today, somebody stood up against it. Against what politics has become.
Former Senator John Danforth was that man. REPUBLICAN of Missouri. Senator Danforth is part of the old school of Republicans. Honorable men — they were all men. Men who stood up for what was right and what was good. Men who believed in their country and what we as a nation could do.
In his eulogy for Mr. Schweich, Senator Danforth called out all of us on what we’ve let politics become. Anything Goes.
I have never experienced an anti-Semitic campaign. Anti-Semitism is always wrong and we can never let it creep into politics.
As for the radio commercial, making fun of someone’s physical appearance, calling him a “little bug”, there is one word to describe it: “bullying.” And there is one word to describe the person behind it: “bully.”
Indeed, if this is what politics has become, what decent person would want to get into it? We should encourage normal people — yes, sensitive people — to seek public office, not drive them away.
Senator Danforth continued:
We often hear that words can’t hurt you. But that’s simply not true. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said just the opposite. Words for Jesus could be the moral equivalent of murder. He said if we insult a brother or sister we will be liable. He said if we call someone a fool we will be liable to hell. Well how about anti-Semitic whispers? And how about a radio ad that calls someone a “little bug,” and that is run anonymously over and over again?
Words do hurt. Words can kill. That has been proven right here in our home state.
He explained why it happens:
There is no mystery as to why politicians conduct themselves this way. It works. They test how well it works in focus groups and opinion polls. It wins elections, and that is their objective. It’s hard to call holding office public service, because the day after the election it’s off to the next election, and there’s no interlude for service. It’s all about winning, winning at any cost to the opponent or to any sense of common decency.
And then an idea, a promise. A pledge:
Let’s decide that what may have been clever politics last week will work no longer. It will backfire. It will lose elections, not win them.
Let’s pledge that we will not put up with any whisper of anti-Semitism. We will stand against it as Americans and because our own faith demands it. We will take the battle Tom wanted to fight as our own cause.
We will see bullies for who they are. We will no longer let them hide behind their anonymous pseudo-committees. We will not accept their way as the way of politics. We will stand up to them and we will defeat them.
This will be our memorial to Tom: that politics as it now exists must end, and we will end it. And we will get in the face of our politicians, and we will tell them that we are fed up, and that we are not going to take this anymore.
When Senator Danforth was in the U.S. Senate, it was an institution filled, more or less, with people of principle. Some of the members I respected the most were Republicans. They believed in cooperation and compromise. The loyalty was to America, not to the GOP.
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It is vital to have people in office who hold different ideas, different principles. But it is time that we elect folks who have principles. Wouldn’t that be great?
* If you are unfamiliar with Mark’s blog — run, don’t walk over to his blog. He’s a gifted writer.