The guy at the coffee shop was as blunt as a hot black cup of dark roast.
“Why do you beat up Republicans?”
I gave him my long-time weekend reply.
“I only do politics Monday through Friday.”
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But while I can state with clear conscience and 20 years of radio clips and columns that I’ve pretty consistently provided “a poke in the eye wherever it’s deserved” — I do tend to poke Republicans more than Democrats. Not more often, but sometimes more harshly.
There’s a rose-colored reason for that.
I was born in Chicago, but by the time I began to absorb political thought we lived in the suburbs. Our congressman was Phil Crane, founding member of the Republican Study Group, the “true conservatives” in the House.
Our senior senator was the infamous Republican Everett Dirksen, the budget hawk credited with the line, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.” He also helped break the Southern filibuster of the Civil Rights Act.
I went to college in western Illinois, “red” long before pundits picked up crayons. Decades before Fox News was letting Sean Hannity campaign for Donald Trump, I was a young radio guy driving ladies to the polls for the local GOP with the station owner’s blessing.
My first, and final, foray into electoral politics was as press guy for the congressional campaign of a Republican who was one of the most conservative members of the Illinois Senate. A couple years later I was living in Arizona, where Barry Goldwater was my senator and a young and, at that time, very Goldwater-like John McCain was my congressman.
These were among the politicians who influenced me in my political youth. I knew they weren’t perfect, but they stood for and actually voted for smaller government and less spending, and were statesmen-like. Their principles became mine and made me the guy who voted Republican for decades. That began to change with Newt.
Gingrich’s “Contract with America” was pure gimmickry. So were his “personal values.”
When the “Big Government Conservatism” of George W. Bush became OK with Republicans, change in me accelerated. It ran wild as the Talk Show Host Wing of the party provided cover solely because the perpetrators wore “R” jerseys.
What Republicans have become in the Ryan and McConnell years, in the seasons of not merely Sean and Rush but Alex Jones, bears only a label in resemblance to the party I grew up on.
During the Bush years it became fashionable for Democrats in red states to denounce their party, sometimes even pull on an independent jersey. Georgia’s Zell Miller was a poster boy, rewarded with a Fox News contract. He was fond of saying he hadn’t left the Democratic party, the Democratic Party had left him.
In my lifetime, Democrats have always been about big government, big spending, and Big Brother, but they’re usually pretty straight about it. They promise to provide everything for everybody — except the people whose taxes they’ll raise to pay for it.
I hit Republicans harder because they’re supposed to be better. At least, they always say they’re better. Anymore, they’re just as Big Government as Democrats, with hypocrisy added. Their embrace of Real Donald Trump in exchange for the votes of his base is simply sickening.
It’s actually not that I beat up the Republican Party.
The Republican Party beat me up.