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This Ain't My Grandma's Republican Party

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My grandma Maloha was a card-carrying Republican all her life.

She grew up under the shadow of Coolidge, Hoover, Eisenhower, and (her hero) Reagan. Her proudest moment was serving Ronald Regan coffee while working as a waitress.

One of Maloha's most difficult trials was watching her son (my dad) leave the United States and come up to Canada to protest the Vietnam War. It was hard for her to watch him leave, but she still loved him and she loved the family he eventually raised (despite being a family of Godless Canadian Liberals. I think I just invented a new term for Ann Coulter to use: "GCL." I want residuals if she uses it). She knew my dad acted out of deep principles, and even though she wished he had stayed in the U.S., she understood his decision.

Maloha defined the word "feisty"; she was loud, outspoken, direct, and tough. She went through four (at least) marriages, including her first marriage to my grandfather Babe (an alcoholic jazz musician who spent most of their relationship on the road). Maloha worked hard. She waited tables, temped in offices, and ran her own wooden roller exercise machine "slenderizer" parlour. She was a self-made, hard-working, red-blooded American Republican. She even owned a handgun.

Maloha's principles fell fundamentally along traditional Republican lines: She believed in hard work, in taking care of yourself and your family, and in being a good neighbour. She pitched in to help her friends, and she wasn't afraid to speak out when she felt there was an injustice.

Maloha, like millions of seniors, valued the right to vote; when she was a child, not all women could vote. She valued her rights as an American. She lived through the Depression and the Civil Rights Movement, and multiple wars. She took her freedom seriously.

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I've been left-of-centre all my life, but I have also always had family and friends who were conservative, or who have held at least some conservative principles. Even I have some conservative principles (I am more fiscally conservative), and I'm a GCL. We live in a world where there are a multiplicity of views, and it behooves all of us to consider every view out there rationally and with an open-mind. I might debate an issue I believe in, but I'll go home and consider it from both sides. My grandma was the same way.

Watching the last few years of American politics from my side of the fence, I am absolutely flabbergasted by how deeply entrenched and polarized the two parties have become. In particular, I am appalled at the actions of the Republican party and the Conservative movement, both federally and at the State level. From voter suppression to media distortion to stalling the economy for political reasons to dismissing 47% of Americans to attacking science and education, the list goes on and on. And I didn't even mention the Birthers.

I'm not flabbergasted because the Republican Party has different political views than I do. We can respectfully disagree with one another. That's what it means to live in a democracy.

I'm flabbergasted because a party that is supposed to stand for individual freedom, family values, and good neighbourly conduct has seemingly forgotten those core principles in favour of elitism, reactionary social conservatism, partisan personal attacks, and a terrifying dismissal of the scientific method and fact-based research. The Grand Old Party has lost its way, and has become mean, bitter, and hard-line.

Maloha was a Republican, but first and foremost she was a neighbour, a friend, a mother, and a grandma. She loved and respected her family, even when we disagreed about politics. She believed in individual freedom, and the value of hard work. She moved all over California, living in L.A. for a while, then eventually moving to the tiny rural town of Rail Road Flat. She respected her friends, her family, and her neighbours. Even when they disagreed.

My grandma may have been a Republican, but she would be so disappointed in a party that has forgotten what it means to respect each other, even when you disagree. For her, it was a matter of principle.

Note: originally posted on The Good Men Project.