I Am Leaving the Republican Party

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In a free,
democratic society, political affiliation is an informed, continually
evaluated decision; not a bond of blind loyalty, like that of dog
to man.

I hereby take
leave of the Republican Party, for the time being anyway, at least
as an active participant. Hopefully, the GOP will soon again merit
the support of Americans who believe in individual freedom, personal
responsibility and limited government. I will continue to work for
those values and for candidates who support them, irrespective of
party affiliation.

Why?

The Senate
just passed the detainee bill. It is even worse than the bill President
Bush proposed. Among many noxious provisions, it allows American
authorities to lock people up indefinitely, without independent
judicial review. That clearly violates the U.S. Constitution and,
therefore, the Geneva Convention for foreign detainees.

It also breaks
a nearly thousand-year English-American tradition of habeas corpus.
Habeas corpus is the foundation upon which every aspect of a fair
trial rests, indeed the foundation of every civil right. What right
or freedom can be safe if government officials can throw someone
in jail without independent review? Literally throw away the key.

The McCarthy
era and Japanese internment were recent memories when I grew up
during the Eisenhower Administration. I learned about them through
study of history and came to know victims of both personally. When
the internment bill becomes law, President Bush and Republican Members
of Congress will have done something equally shameful, as well as
dangerous to our democracy. We can only hope the Supreme Court rises
to its duty and strikes down their mischief, as it did Bush’s unilaterally
declared Special Tribunals.

Comments of
Congressional Republican leaders leave no doubt a major reason for
passing this bill was to benefit Republican candidates in the upcoming
Congressional elections.

Fellow Republicans:
You owe yourselves and America at least this. Study the detainee
bill. Read commentary from both sides. Read foreign as well as American
sources. Thanks to Google and the internet that is much easier than
in the past.

Do not glibly
say (in ignorance or after consulting only right wing sources) “My
Party’s leader (President Bush) has acted, it is my duty to trust
his judgment.” That is not discharging the duty of a responsible
conservative and citizen of a free society. That is being an idiot,
or a fascist.

If, after devoting
substantial effort to informing yourself from diverse sources, you
can still support the Republican Party and its candidates this fall,
do so with my blessing.

I cannot. I
tried, but there is a limit.

President Bush
made a personal visit to Congress to fight an amendment by Republican
Senator Arlon Spector. That amendment would have restored habeas
corpus. After the President’s visit, the Senate defeated Spector’s
habeas amendment on a party line vote: 48 YEA (4 Republicans, 43
Democrats, 1 Independent – Jeffords), 51 NAY (50 Republicans, 1
Democrat). In the final vote, sending the bill to the President,
Spector rejoined fellow Republicans, and some Democrats. He expressed
hope the Supreme Court would strike down the habeas denial provision.
I think Spector is right, at least I hope so.

Whatever happens
upon judicial review, President Bush and Congressional Republicans
did what they did. That action must be punished, and in a tangible
way, not just with talk. In democratic politics that means withdrawal
of political support, contributing, hopefully, to electoral defeat.
Otherwise, politicians of either party will succumb to future temptations
to indulge momentary public passion at the expense of principles
essential to freedom.

Some readers
may protest that the detainee bill only applies to aliens in U.S.
custody, i.e., “them,” not to citizens, i.e., “us.” My limited research
suggests citizens are not entirely safe from the bill’s provisions.
I don’t care and neither should you. Our concern should be with
what U.S. officials do in our names, not who they do it to. Only
by uniting “their” freedom with “our” freedom (whoever “they” and
“we” are at the moment) can anyone’s freedom be safe.

Others will
ask – likely in anger, “Do you accept responsibility for the
possibility that your concerns about individual rights and freedom
may lead to Islamic terrorists killing innocent Americans?”

One answer
involves numbers. With the highly unlikely exception of their employing
nuclear weapons, terrorists do not pose an unusually great threat
to Americans (in America). Averaged over reasonable time periods,
the nearly 3000, 9/11 deaths amount to a few hundred per year. Averaged
over comparable periods, more Americans die from just about every
domestic-origin form of mortality on record.

As a global
society unfolds around us, we, formerly isolated, Americans have
some emotional adapting to do. We will be exposed to different risks,
but not substantially greater total risk. Americans who once died
of home-grown diseases (smallpox and whooping cough in the past,
cancer and heart disease today) will someday die of foreign origin
diseases, like AIDS and Asian bird flu. Similarly, our murderers
may come, not from the house down the street, or from across the
bedroom, but from villages on the far side of the world.

One American
child dies in the privacy of his or her home, grieved only by family
and friends. Another dies screaming to the world through TV cameras,
victim of some yet to be conceived form of foreign terrorism. One
equals one. Death is death. It is the responsibility of Americans
to emotionally adapt to new realities, not the responsibility of
the world to indefinitely cope with our present inability to do
so.

Coping with
death is not easy, whether the cause be old or new, domestic or
foreign, public or private. It is when we depend on the strong and
wise among us, family, friends, sometimes government officials.
Reflect on whether you genuinely believe President Bush and other
Republican leaders properly discharged their responsibility to lead
us (calmly and rationally) through the valley of death created by
9/11.

The other answer
involves politics. I quote Benjamin Franklin “Those who would give
up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve
neither liberty nor safety.” We Republicans must give first loyalty
to the vision of America we share with Franklin, that of a nation
that is better than momentary fear and anger. Try though I have,
I can no longer believe our current Republican President and Congressional
leaders uphold that vision.

October
6, 2006

Robert
L. Stokes [send him mail]
is a retired college professor who lives, and occasionally writes,
in Spokane Washington.

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