Democratic Underground

A Question of Loyalty

October 6, 2004
By Ernest Partridge, The Crisis Papers

Senator Lincoln Chafee, Republican from Rhode Island, has decided not to vote for George Bush in November.

"I'll vote Republican," [Chafee] said, explaining that he would choose a write-in candidate, perhaps George Bush the elder, as a symbolic act of protest. Asked if he wanted Senator John Kerry to be president, Mr. Chafee shook his head sadly, as if to say he could not entertain the question. "I’ve been disloyal enough," he said. (New York Times, October 4, 2004).

With all due respect for Senator Chafee, and that respect is genuine, I submit that he has not been loyal enough.

It all depends upon what the Senator regards as the supreme object of his loyalty. To Chafee, it is apparently the Republican party. But that party is not the entity to which he swore allegiance when he took his oath of office. At that time he, and all his Senate and House colleagues, swore allegiance to the United States of America and its Constitution. And that allegiance requires much more of Lincoln Chafee and others who claim loyalty to the Republican party.

For today, institutions and moral principles cherished throughout our history and held in common today by a majority of Americans - Democrats, Republicans and Independents - are being threatened, not by a foreign invader, but by a radical faction that has seized control of our government and our media.

The shared prosperity of the American people is being undone by a few greedy plutocrats who now effectively control the Republican party. These individuals have caused the honor and reputation of the American Republic in the world community to sink to an all-time low.

We are at a crossroad in history, one road leads to disaster and the other to restoration and renewal. Neither road is in any way defined by the traditional political differences between Republicans and Democrats.

We must now look down that dreadful road, before we travel on. For there we find:

  • Federal bankruptcy, the end of public services including Social Security and Medicare, and an impoverishment of the public schools.

  • With the decline of our educational institutions, an end of American leadership in science and technology – both the wellsprings of prosperity in an industrial economy.

  • International isolation, as the United States continues to become an international outlaw, initiating wars at times of its choosing, and violating treaties at its convenience.

  • A loss of media independence and diversity – "the fourth estate," recognized by our founders as indispensable to a free society.

  • A loss of civil liberties and the Constitutional guarantees of free press, speech, assembly and religion. A violation of the rights of fair trial, access to counsel, habeas corpus.

  • An endless "war on terrorism" legitimizing the erosion of these liberties and the abrogation of the Bill of Rights, and furthermore requiring a permanent draft.

  • Class warfare, as national wealth flows from the producers of that wealth to the very few who own and control the wealth.

  • The privatization of the technology and tallying of voting – in effect, an end of the citizen franchise and the "consent of the governed."

  • Environmental devastation and economic collapse, as petroleum reserves are exhausted with no national provision made for transition to a post-petroleum energy source. (See my "The Oil Trap?").

This is our future unless, together and regardless of our habitual party preferences, we unite and throw out of national office, those individuals who, due to dogmatism, ignorance or the myopia of greed, fail to recognize or feel obliged to lead us away from these perils.

The challenge transcends party. The Republican Party of Lincoln Chafee's father, Senator John Chafee, is no more. It has been succeeded by a gang of theocrats, oligarchs, and empire-builders who retain, from the Republican Party of old, little more than the name "Republican." (See my "Letter to a Republican Friend").

The Republican Party of Dwight Eisenhower, Earl Warren and Nelson Rockefeller stood for fiscal responsibility and balanced budgets, limited government, opportunity for small business entrepreneurs, citizen autonomy, defense of the US Constitution and its Bill of Rights, and international law and order. These principles have been abandoned in practice by the Republican party of today.

Nonetheless, with the entire political spectrum having shifted sharply to the right, there now exists a political organization that upholds and defends these principles of moderate Republicanism. It is called the Democratic Party.

So what motivates a moderate Republican or an authentic conservative to vote for George Bush and Dick Cheney? What, other than habit and the names, "Republican" and "conservative?"

In a generation, the words "Republican" and "conservative" ("liberal" too, for that matter), once a guide to intelligent political discourse, have become weapons in the hands of greedy and power-hungry opportunists – a Newspeak devised by PR wizards who have treated George Orwell's 1984 not as a warning but as a guidebook.

Thus we are now on a precipice of history, and if we are to draw back and escape catastrophe, Americans of all religious creeds and political persuasions must pause, contemplate the morally legitimate objects of their loyalty, and then follow the demands of that loyalty as they vote to protect their Constitution, preserve the rights and liberties of all citizens, demand a just distribution of the nation’s wealth, and restore the honor of their country among the community of nations.

There are a few key individuals who could, by themselves, take a principled stand and favorably change the course of history. Colin Powell and John McCain come to mind. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that they will do so.

And so it is up to the rest of us to do so – powerless as individuals, but together an irresistible force.

Several significant organizations and individuals have done so already. Among them:

And many more, too numerous to mention.

And yet, the election contest remains close. If there is to be a favorable outcome, the current of dissent and opposition must become a flood.

Daniel Ellsberg, John Dean, Sibel Edmonds, Colleen Rowley, Karen Kwiatkowski and other "whistleblowers" have demanded that still more patriots, within and outside of the government, who are in possession of crucial information, come forth and expose the corruption and malfeasance of this most secretive Administration.

It is also past time for a few prominent journalists to rip open the media curtain, and let the light of truth at last shine forth. Many media celebrities have become independently wealthy through their careers. Now it is payback time. Where are the I. F. Stones, Ed Murrows and Walter Cronkites of our age? Will they be heard in the month that remains?

The time is short. But with the example of Lincoln Chafee, and other newly-dissenting Republicans such as Chuck Hagel, Richard Lugar, Doug Bereuter, and former Republicans such as Arianna Huffington, John Dean, Jim Jeffords and Kevin Phillips, the demands of duty and loyalty become ever more compelling.

In a mere month, the current of dissent and defection must become a flood, if the usurpers of our liberties, the thieves of our national treasure, and the despoilers of our national honor are to be swept from their ill-gotten offices.

For after November 2, it will be too late, for then we may all be embarked upon the road to disaster from which there will be no return in our lifetimes - if ever.

Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He publishes the website The Online Gadfly and co-edits the progressive website The Crisis Papers.

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