This article was originally published in the October 25, 2020 Concord Monitor.
Elections belong to the people.
I turned 21 in 1960, the last year of Eisenhower’s second term. I went to City Hall in Claremont and registered as a Republican, following in the footsteps of my father, who had died a few years earlier. I was a different person back then, and I don’t think I even considered the alternative.
For most of my adult life, however, I’ve been a Democrat. But at least a small piece of me has remained “Republican” in the sense that over the years I have crossed back and forth. In 1970, I voted for Francis Sargent for Massachusetts Governor, in 1978 for Francis Hatch (Ed King, the Democrat, beat him), and in 1990 for Bill Weld (I’d have voted for him even if he wasn’t my friend and former law partner) – all Republicans.
My son’s father-in-law, Alan Morse, who served as Banking Commissioner in the Weld Administration, is an honorable man and a lifelong Massachusetts Republican who puts country and principle over party affiliation. I can’t help wondering whether people like Alan, and others whose Republican roots go back to such Massachusetts Governors as Leverett Saltonstall in the 1940s and Christian Herter in the ‘50s, and include Bill Weld, Mitt Romney and current Governor Charlie Baker, will ever again be comfortable wearing the GOP label. The “G” stands for “Grand,” an adjective that no longer describes what has become the “party of Trump.”
Think of it this way. If Abraham Lincoln or Dwight D. Eisenhower or John McCain were alive today, would they support Donald Trump?
Just when I thought it could get no worse, it did. I refer to that the phenomenon known as “QAnon,” a group of fear-mongers peddling crackpot conspiracy falsehoods. Trump’s reaction is that “they like me” and “they love America.” David Duke also “likes” him, and Joe McCarthy “loved America.”
Ten days before the election, it appears that Joe Biden has a commanding lead nationally, and a lead in electoral votes as well. Hillary Clinton was similarly positioned four years ago, so no one should take the outcome for granted. But assume Biden wins. What then?
A Biden administration will face many daunting challenges, but three stand out in my mind: a national program to combat the coronavirus catastrophe; an international plan to regain the trust of our allies and restore our position as a world leader devoted to the rule of law; and a national policy designed to eradicate the racism and fear that is a hallmark of QAnon and its far right allies who are doing their utmost to poison life in America.
And what of the Republican Party and the challenges it will face? Can it return to what it once was, pre-Trump and pre-Gingrich? I have my doubts.
Sometimes it’s easier to start from scratch than it is to repair something that is badly broken. And there is at least the beginning of what could be called the “New Republican Party,” or perhaps a party that sheds the word “Republican” and takes on an entirely new name. How about the “Know Something” Party?
I refer to groups that have sprung up within the last year to combat Trump and Trumpism, especially “The Lincoln Project,” led by George Conway (husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway), Steve Schmidt (a member of the Bush administration and senior advisor to the McCain campaign), and Jennifer Horn (former Chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party), all longtime Republicans. They looked at what their party had become, didn’t like what they saw, and decided to do something.
Naming the group after Lincoln must have been an easy decision. Our greatest President (“Honest Abe”) was of the people, by the people, and for the people, and in his opinion “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”