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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Giving Republicans their Props

Just to show that I’m not blindly partisan, I’d like to take a moment to offer a cheer for Republican Representative from Connecticut Christopher Shays . It seems that there is at least one Rockefeller Republican left in politics. With the announcement of Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords that he won’t be seeking re-election, it’s nice to know that the people still have a real champion in the Republican Party.

For those who don’t recognize the name, Chris Shays is the Republican who introduced the campaign finance reform bill known as McCain-Feingold into the House. He drew my attention recently with his warning that the Republican Party didn’t really care about state’s right and was fast becoming the party of theocracy. I decided that I needed to learn more about Mr. Shays. I have found a lot to admire, and a bit to regret.

Probably the most admirable thing he has done is something of which I was not even aware. How many people honestly knew that the Equal Rights Amendment had been reintroduced into Congress? Somehow ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, and FOX all missed this! This has to be the single most important development for equal rights in the last two decades and no one even noticed it. For this alone, I may send Mr. Shays a (modest) campaign donation.

Then I found that Mr. Shays worked with one of my favorite Senators, Frank Lautenberg , to pass legislation that would force pharmacists to do their job and dispense all legal prescriptions that pass their desk. I would support a “conscience” clause perhaps if they can show that they also do not sell condoms or Viagra. Otherwise, their “conscience” is just selective – which is not really conscience but political agenda.

He also issued one of the most sensitive and caring statements on the Terri Schiavo matter. By adhering to his principals, he showed that even non-participation can be ethical. His ethics and moral values also led him to oppose the federal budget . He rightfully states that we cannot balance the budget on the backs of poor people.

For this, Chris Shays goes on my list of Republicans to support, or at very least, not attack. That list includes Rhode Island Republican Lincoln Chafee , who got my attention with this statement that he would not vote for George Bush because of his extremist politics. He also got my attention with this quote during the debate on gay marriage. He’s definitely a man of character – and good character at that.

That list includes both Senators from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins . Snowe has sponsored legislation to protect the ability of women to breastfeed without being hidden like they are something of which we should be ashamed. Snowe has also shown that she really wants to defeat poverty by allowing states to create programs that would send TANF recipients to college so they can get decent jobs. Collins sponsored legislation that would take a first step in enforcing parity in NAFTA (although I don’t think this measure goes far enough, it’s a step). She also sponsored legislature that would increase the stock of cells used to find cures for pancreatic cancer .

Then, of course, there is Senator John McCain , who has long been a favorite of mine. I can’t imagine what made him shake hands with the devil and campaign for George W. Bush. I guess everyone can be forgiven a few failings now and then, though. Regretfully, I cannot add Colin Powell to that list anymore. I support his life of service, but his tenure as Secretary of State simply undermined everything for which he once stood.

I do not endorse the idea of targeting moderate Republicans in order to make the party even more extreme. For one thing, I’d not support any attempt to unseat the above listed people. For another thing, simply unseating them does not give the Democrats a majority – which means that the few voices of moderation in the Republican Party would be totally shut out and the country would be pushed even further to the right.

In political language, two rights make a more extreme right. One of the reasons why George W. Bush seems so moderate to many people is the fact that Bill Clinton was not as liberal as everyone made him out to be. When Clinton co-opted part of the right’s political agenda, he pushed them even further right. Targeting people who are doing good work but happen to be in the opposition party will only work to the detriment of the whole country.

Hats off to Mr. Shays, Mr. Chafee, Mr. Jeffords, Ms. Collins, and Ms. Snowe. Long may you serve your respective constituents and the United States of America.

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