Santa Barbara County resident Robert Jeffers wrote an interesting Voices piece in “Getting Back to Our Grassroots.” He is very honest in noting that the establishment California Republican Party (CRP) is essentially dead, and he has some specific ideas to resuscitate conservative principles by beginning locally, city-by-city and county-by-county in California.
By avoiding the abortion debate (he knows this idea is a complete loser in California) and covertly bringing in more Tea Party “principles,” Jeffers literally admits that Tea Partiers in this state will only complete their task “by the complete elimination of party labels.”
You see what Jeffers is getting at: He wants local candidates (say, Dale Francisco) to focus on “keeping our schools open, streets paved, and fire and police services available and promoting a thriving local economy [since these] are issues that most everyone can agree” on.
However, in the end, these will be Tea Party/Republican Party politicians, by whatever name, and as James Gilligan has shown in his prescient 2011 book Why Some Politicians Are More Dangerous Than Others, locally elected Republicans will eventually support a Republican presidential candidate and assist that individual when s/he ascends to the White House. Sorry Mr. Jeffers, you can’t dissociate local candidates from the national party.
Gilligan, a medical doctor, longtime Harvard faculty member, and author of books on the psychology of violence, presents irrefutable statistical data proving that for 107 years (1900-2007, that being the last year of full data), suicide and homicide rates rose to epidemic levels under the Republican Presidential administrations. These are violent death rates not seen in any Western European country after World War II. Under every single Democratic president since 1907, America’s lethal death rates have fallen as dramatically and they have risen under Republican presidents.
He writes about “Republican policies that have repeatedly, regularly, and with remarkable consistency brought us large increases in the rate and duration of unemployment, in the frequency, depth, and duration of recessions and depressions, in socio-economic inequalities in wealth and income, and in [epidemic] rates of suicide, homicide, and (since the mid-1970s) imprisonment and capital punishment.” (Page 186.)
Particular focus goes to the fact that under Republican administrations, the incarceration of Americans (usually black and Latino males) rose by a factor of seven, dwarfing the imprisonment percentages even in police states like Iran, China, and the old USSR.
The great Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously wrote, “Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.” When we realize that the red states, between 1976-2009, executed 1,177 people but the blue states in the same period killed only 54, is there any wonder that the blue states’ lethal violence rates in the same period are far less than the same rates in the same red states?
In 2004, under Republican President Bush 43, for example, the lethal violence rates (per 100,000 people) in red states were 19.6, but in blue states the rate was only 14.2. This difference means many thousands of additional violent deaths per year in Republican-voting states. How ironic, the Republicans tout themselves as the party of public safety.
If the government itself executes (kills) humans, it creates contempt for non-violence. This suggests that each man take the law into his own hands, like in the ancient Greek “shame culture” demonstrated in Sophocles’ play Ajax. The contempt can ultimately lead to anarchy.
Mr. Jeffers wants his new crypto-Republican group (hidden Tea Party, for Californians) to focus strictly on local elections. The candidates should celebrate their hard work to repair potholes, have effective cops and firemen, and merely “keep the schools open.” In California, we need great schools, properly funded and with excellent curricula. Keeping them “open” means sequestering kids in a hopefully safe location, and meanwhile, the 2% will enroll their children in elite private schools which often cost over $23,000 per year.
Jeffers’s stance in his Voices article is the ultra-libertarian “watchman state” position, which simply has minimal public schools to warehouse the kids of the middle class and poor.
I am well aware that individual Republicans are often are fine people, e.g. my own parents, and the Republicans’ one decent president in modern American history, Dwight Eisenhower, was in all but name an old-time FDR New Deal liberal.
Jeffers’s strategy, if successful, would lead to more Republican presidents. This political party’s policies and its presidents have hurt our country terribly. Abandoning the name Republican and carrying out a local agenda without admitting it’s a Tea Party strategy is actually deceptive. Read Mr. Jeffer’s Voices piece in the Santa Barbara Independent if you doubt this, and journalist Martha Sadler’s earlier report on a critical meeting in the little town of Orcutt in northern Santa Barbara County.
There really is a significant difference between our two parties, and when Republicans get into the White House we realize, by studying history since 1907, that Gilligan is correct: Some politicians are indeed more dangerous than others.
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Dan McCaslin has taught history at Crane School in Santa Barbara since 1980.