Our heartfelt affinity for the Republican Party has been lifelong, but it somehow seems to go back even generations far further than that. It feels so strange and discomfiting, therefore, to have it come to an end on a swelteringly hot night on the Kansas plains during our late middle age.
The very first inkling we ever had of politics and economics and foreign affairs and all the rest of that real world grownup stuff came way back when we were playing in a sandbox while our parents lamented the landslide loss of Barry Goldwater in the ’64 election on a black-and-white television, but even then, to borrow a slogan of that long ago era, we knew in our heart that Goldwater and our parents were right. Our mom was the third daughter of an Oklahoma City street cleaner who had kept her and much of the rest of his extended family well-fed and cleanly-clothed through the Dust Bowl days by means of New Deal patronage, and her vote for Goldwater was her first and only act of rebellion against that otherwise lovable old Yellow Dog Democrat, and our dad’s dad was an admirably autodidactic Oklahoma oil-field whiz who had inculcated in his son a sense of self-sufficiency and individualism that would make him a life-long Republican, and after four years of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and Vietnam War the ’68 election had convinced even our elementary school-aged selves that as usual our parents were right about everything.
By then the folks had relocated us to Kansas, a state that except for that ’64landslide and the New Deal landslide of ’32 had been reliably Republican ever since the “Bleeding Kansas” days when the Republicans were against slavery and the Democrats were hoping to impose that “peculiar institution” on this defiantly “Free State” and they fought it out with a bloody ferociousness that presaged the Civil War, and we soon fell in love with its subtly gorgeous topography and ruggedly individualist and autodidactic ways and even its godawful climate and especially its political obstinacy. Pretty much everything around here is named after some Republican or another, including our Sedgwick County that was named after a Union general who boasted right before being killed by Confederate sniper fire at the Battle of Spotsylvania that “They couldn’t hit a bull elephant from this dist…,” and the combined influence of our parents and Kansas and our own defiantly individualistic sensibility and instinctively ravenous interest in history had led us to believe that the Republicans and our parents are usually right about everything.
By our teens we were proudly serving as interns to Republican Sen. Bob Dole, who had previously been the “right wing” “attack dog” of the the vice presidential candidate of Republican nominee Gerald Ford, who had become the incumbent following the disgraced resignation of President Richard Nixon, along with a couple of good friends who would become the future Democratic and Republican governors of Kansas that we had we had our ideological disputes with but hope to remain friends with, but in in any case we continued to vote a straight Republican ticket every November. Most often it was reluctantly, given the various candidate’s deviances from that Goldwater philosophy we we knew in in our hearts was right, but in every case it was with a good feeling that at least it was better than what the Democrats had on offer.
This year, though, what the Republicans have on offer is a fellow who just a few years ago was identifying more with the Democrats and is a self-described billionaire and serial adulterer who claims to have reached that dubious status by running gambling casinos and strip-joints and professional-wrestling and other reality show embarrassments and boasts about the married women he’s bagged and the Democratic politicians he’s bought off and mocks the handicaps of disabled reporters and supports the Obamacare’s individual mandate and questions the North Atlantic Treaty that won the Cold War and dismisses the undeniable heroism of the prisoners of wars that we’ve reluctantly supported in past campaigns, and is now supported by that war hero we once served as interns who was previously the “establishment” villain of the anti-Republican insurgency but is now a supporter of the self-proclaimed “anti-establishment” candidate 9n this crazy year, and who just yesterday helped boo off the stage of the Republican National Convention the failed but genuine Goldwaterite Republican that we had reluctantly pined our last-ditch hopes on.
Our pop woke us up Thursday morning with a call asking what we thought about that lone hold-out Goldwaterite Republican senator’s ambiguous failure to endorse the Republican nominee, and we could only assure him that at least we wouldn’t be voting for the at least equally awful all-but-certain-Democratic nominee. By the time we rubbed the sand from our eyes and logged onto the internet we found an interview by our longtime party’s all-but-certain nominee interview with the New York Times where he was once again threatening to undo the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that our pop had help helped maintain the post World War II peace that he fought for as an Air Force officer and cold-warrior defense executive, and we could only assure him we won’t be voting for that damned Democrat. At this point on a sweltering Kansas night in our late middle age there are no other options, and we can only hope that our parents and Kansas and what’s left of the Republican party and whatever’s left of the resistinance to the undeniably godawful Democratic Party will forgive our vote for none of the above. By now the only definition of “Republicanism” is an aversion to that godawful woman who is the the all-but-certain nominee of the Democratic party, and we we can proudly claim that we were were ridiculing and opposing her since way back when the official Republican nominee was contributing to her campaigns and phohy-balony “family foundation” and telling his fawning interviewers what a great Secretary of State and President of the United States and front-row guest to a their his third wedding she would be, but we’d like to have something to vote for as much as we need something to vote against. Despite their admirably Church of Christ ways our parents are leaning toward the thrice-married and proudly adulterous casino and and strip-joint-owning and six-times bankrupt and otherwise unorthodox and very recent Republican, and given how very godawful the the Democratic alternative is in this supposedly binary election we can hardly blame them, but we’ll be voting for none of the above. Which is where we find on ourselves on this sweltering Kansas evening, and we can’t say we like it at all.