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Why Republicans suck

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Although I was raised in a Democratic household, I always considered myself a middle-of-the-roader. I hardly paid any attention to Presidential elections until 1984, when I voted for Jesse Jackson in the California primary, and for Mondale in the general election. But in 1988, I voted for the Republican, George H.W. Bush. Dukakis seemed hapless, and I admired Bush’s strong resume and character.

I was also an early Bill Clinton supporter. I still have a letter from him to me dated 1988, years before most Americans had even heard of him. I’d seen him interviewed by Brian Lamb on C-SPAN and was so impressed, I wrote the then-Arkansas governor—my first and only fan letter—to tell him I admired his articulate intelligence. He responded politely. Four years later, of course, Clinton went on to win the first of his two terms as President. I liked him (still do), and also Hillary, whose gumption and values commanded my respect (and still do).

So it was that, when the Republican Party went after the Clintons with ill-concealed hostility, I began to see the GOP, not as an authentic political party—the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and, yes, George H.W. Bush—but as a damaging degradation of political discourse, and thus of this country’s values. It gradually became clear to me that Republicans had allowed themselves to fall into two horrible traps. First, they appealed to the worst, most prejudiced instincts of white American voters, a cynical move actually begun under Nixon with his “Southern strategy” that was clearly an attempt to drive a wedge between the races; and secondly, Republicans made strange bedfellows with what was, and is, a group I fear more than any other domestic cabal: evangelical Christians. That unholy marriage was orchestrated by Reagan and his consiglieres, including Lee Atwater, Karl Rove’s malign mentor; I doubt that Reagan himself (much less Nancy) was comfortable with Bible-thumpers, although he had to pretend to be. (I might say the same about Trump, whose cozying up to religious extremists—witness his embarrassing performance at Liberty University and his declarations that the Bible is his favorite book—prove that he will say anything, no matter how absurd, in order to win over credulous voters.)

Together, the Republican Party and these two groups—evangelicals and resentful, white working-class voters—decided to go after the Clintons, not on policy (Clinton was a centrist, hardly the socialist they painted him and Hillary out to be), but simply because he was a Democrat. By the 1990s Republicans had entirely given up on any idea of compromise. Instead, they resorted to what was essentially an attempted coup de main, using lies, smears, dog whistles and innuendo, in order to stir up the latent resentments and anger that their pollsters (who now include Kellyanne Conway, doing the same thing for Trump) told them would resonate. The litany of falsehoods Republicans hurled at the Clintons was endless, and every one of them lies: Whitewater, Vince Foster’s “murder”, Travelgate, trashing the Oval Office. The Republican penultimate attack on the Clintons extended to the political violence of Impeachment, driven by religiously conservative hounders (including Ken Starr, who last week had to resign his university post due to personal scandal) and a House of Representatives that had been taken over by radical Christian elements. The attempt at Impeachment was roundly rejected by the American people, and was stopped by a more sensible and politically responsible Senate. Clinton was not convicted. But the Republican Party had let it be known that, if they could not win power legitimately, they would subvert it illegitimately through propaganda (via Fox “News,” which arose at this time. Fox’s wunderkind, Roger Ailes—himself just fired due to a sexual scandal–was a student of Rove’s).

With the coming of Barack Obama, Republicans have doubled down on their radical obstructionism, becoming truly a cult of uncompromising lunacy, hatred, violence, stubbornness and intellectual dishonesty. How strange and ironic to see so-called “moderate” Republicans now turning against Trump, when in reality, he is simply a distillation of everything these Republicans have been preaching for decades. Trump spouts stupidity and bigotry, but those emotional ideas were forged by conservatives, tea party supporters and evangelicals long before his political rise. The blatant falseness of the attacks on Obama—he is a secret Muslim, he is a Kenyan not an American, he pals around with terrorists, he is the worst President ever, he created ISIS, he wants to take your guns away, he hates white people, he is a liar, he hates America, he hates Israel–a litany of horrors dredged from the foulest sewers of the Drudge report, Breitbart and Hannity—this is the test of blood purity the Republican Party now demands of its members. If these moderates, the Susan Collinses, Kelly Ayottes, Barbara Bushes, Mitt Romneys, Colin Powells and those 50 national security experts, really mean it when they say Trump is entirely unfit to be President, they should quit the Republican Party, at least until it returns to its senses. Trump represents its nasty, ugly, congealed essence—an essence they abetted all of their political careers, even as their party increasingly went off the rails. Trump is their nominee, the Republican nominee, whether they like it or not. If they had any honor, any moral fiber or personal dignity–if they were, to use a Yiddish phrase of my childhood, mensches–they would quit the party and condemn it for the horror show it has become.

As a gay man, I have additional reasons to loathe Republicans, and you should, too, if you love American freedom and liberty. This Republican Party has tried for decades to besmirch gay Americans, to deny us our rights, to dehumanize us, to stigmatize us, to stir up hatred against us, to convince their followers that we are dangerous. (Another Hitler comparison: he said the same things about Jews.) Republicans fought every step of the way against gay marriage and opening the military to LGBT people, even against letting gay people adopt children, despite the obvious fairness of those ends. Even now that the Supreme Court has approved gay marriage, they continue their homophobia in a hopeless revanchist action to try and upend the Supreme Court, a revolt led by bigoted Governors and religiously fanatical local judges. Let there be no mistake: this smearing of millions of gay Americans has been spearheaded by evangelicals, Mormons and Catholics (and don’t get me started on the irony of churches run by pedophiles who bash gay people). Even those Republicans who might be repelled by homophobia choose to keep their mouths shut, rather than risk censure by radical mullahs who they know are out of their minds, but whose support, or at least abstention from criticism, is politically necessary.

I have nothing against Christianity, which is one of the world’s great religions. But I am angered by the intrusion of Christian radicals into our nation’s governance and lawmaking. The Republican Party has become little more than an extension of a politicized Christian party in America (and a militant rightwing Christian party at that), something that should concern every one of us who cherishes the Constitution. This rightwing Christian movement has ties—murky, but repeatedly proven: think David Duke—to a white supremacist movement that even the FBI considers a clear and present danger. Many of the leaders of this Christian movement are delusional, perhaps even psychotic, by any definition of those terms: Pat Robertson believing he prayed away a hurricane, or Jerry Falwell claiming that God sent the Loma Prieta earthquake to San Francisco to punish it for its gayness (as if the same God were not punishing Bible Belt Christians every time a church is destroyed by a tornado; perhaps Louisiana’s floods prove that God hates that red state). Many of these Christians, especially uneducated evangelicals, believe the world is less than 6,000 years old, that Noah’s flood created the Grand Canyon, and that Adam, Eve and babies Cain and Abel frolicked with dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden. These are not religious beliefs we should respect, much less debate; they are the rantings of lunatics—moreover, of people who revel in their ignorance. This is your Trump base. And yet this fever-swamp theocracy is a majority owner of the modern Republican Party, whose leaders must pay it obeisance even while they privately ridicule it.

The war against women—many Republicans want to deny them even birth control, much less abortion rights, and they also wish to criminally prosecute doctors who perform abortions—the xenophobia of Trump and his ridiculous wall, which will never be built, and whose justifications are odious—the ongoing homophobia—the ramping up of Islamophobia, whipped to a frenzy by Trump amongst disgruntled white men who find hating “the other” easier than critical thinking and believe that Syrians are stealing their jobs—the Republican insistence on tax cuts, at any price, including for the wealthiest Americans, which has allowed the current income gap, the worst in our country’s history, to become a threat to national security, and which, moreover, has caused the nation’s infrastructure to crumble—the animosity towards evidence of man-made climate change, and towards science in general—the constant hammering of “government” as “the problem” (except when disaster strikes a red state and Republican Governors are the first to demand free money from Washington)—the sexist, racist personal attacks against Michelle Obama, as noble a First Lady as any in our country’s history—the mendacious insinuations against Hillary (she killed innocent people in Benghazi, her health is poor [Trump’s hitman on that one is the repellent Giuliani, and what is he lusting for—Homeland Security?], she is an enabler of Bill’s philandering, she murdered Vince Foster, she is a compulsive liar and a secret Lesbian, as if there would be anything wrong with that)—any of these would be sufficient to loathe the Republican Party for sheer coarseness and baseness. Every time I hear a Republican go on and on about “family values” I wince. Hello former Sen. Larry “Wide Stance” Craig, former House Speaker Denny “Coach” Hastert and untold Republican pols and preachers caught in dirty bookstores, men’s rooms, and adulterous scandals, committers of pedophilia and victims of coverup blackmail.

As I said, I voted for George H.W. Bush in 1988. I am not a bleeding-heart liberal. I agree with traditional Republican beliefs, which actually are not Republican at all, but American: I uphold law and societal order. I value our cops and soldiers and dislike the unjust criticism sometimes leveled against them from the far left. I firmly believe people should work to support themselves and their families rather than relying on a welfare state. If you make a baby, take care of it! I disagree with Occupy types who smash and loot; they’re not the freedom fighters they purport to be, but mindless vandals and looters.

But believe me, this modern Republican Party has nothing in common with its great conservative traditions. Keep in mind that Barack Obama sincerely sought bipartisanship when he took office. It was Republicans, and particularly Mitch McConnell, who declared their intention to make Obama “a one-term President” and then proceeded to stall, obstruct, filibuster and block nearly every proposal the President made, even as Fox “News” and the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Trump, the leading Birther, spread the most outrageous lies about him. Look: the Republican Party has become an insane asylum of irrationality; a cabal of greedy plutocrats like the Koch Brothers and the Trumps; a melting pot of every petty resentment, fact-free and without solutions to America’s problems; a tool of the uber-rich and, ironically, of economically suffering, uneducated white men who apparently don’t understand that cutting the estate tax on billionaires will benefit them not a whit; an anti-science ideology of medieval superstition; a theocracy, an American Taliban, a crypto-fascist-preacher mafia that shamelessly bilks its credulous adherents with Orwellian disinformation, the same way Trump’s “University” and his late-night “get rich quick” T.V. infomercials bilked imbeciles. Should these Republican gangsters ever achieve real power, I have no doubt America would descend into domestic intranquillity.

But I do not believe Americans will elevate these Republicans to power. This country has at most 30% of diehard Republicans who would vote for anyone who happened to become their party’s nominee. That, thankfully, is not enough to elect a President. More sensible, patriotic, intelligent, thoughtful, caring and educated voters will prevail. I myself will happily and proudly vote for a woman I’ve admired for twenty-five years, Hillary Clinton, a decent person and a good Democrat. The Democratic Party of my parents—of Wilson and FDR, Harry Truman, JFK, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—is a political movement that upholds the highest ideals and aspirations of humankind: justice, equality, opportunity, fairness, reason, compassion and progress. I am a Democrat because I share those ideals. And because Republicans suck.

  1. So an honest question regarding the transition of your blogging topics (hey, we finally are seeing eye-to-eye!); how difficult politically was it working for the Jacksons? You may have liked their wine but not their politics! I remember meeting Christopher at a WineAmerica conference when he was interning for Boehner.

  2. So, this is it. The new Steve Heimoff. Or is it, “meet the old Steve Heimoff.

    One of the “rules” of my winewriting career has been to avoid crossing the line into politics despite the fact that I wear my personal beliefs on my sleeve in real life.

    You were more willing than I to cross that line in your blog than I was. And some will say, “more brave”, although I also remember many of your faithful readers taking offense at topics and views that seemed out of place in a wine blog.

    So, good luck with the new (old) STEVE HEIMOFF. I hope it brings you as much satisfaction as writing your wine blog has.

  3. Dianne Norton says:

    Steve, I am all for you writing whatever you dang well please (not that you need anyone’s permission – it is your blog, after all). It won’t stop my reading it; I enjoy your take on things.
    I just finished “reading” (my 25 minute commute has opened my eyes to audiobooks) Truman by David McCullough this morning. I hate finishing long books; you feel abandoned. But even more than that, it made me sad to think about where our government has gone from the 40’s and 50’s when there was a mutual respect, if not agreement, between political parties. Sure, people spewed occasionally, but there was a line and people largely respected it. I don’t know if we can get back to that but the alternative is frightening, and sadly it’s at our doorstep.

  4. Richard Van Natter says:

    Isn’t it ironic that this hater uses “Republicans Suck” as an insult, when he makes it perfectly clear that he actually DOES suck?

  5. Carlos De Toledo says:

    Hella well written article.
    I come from a country where the us x them is consolidated and will be forever lasting (at least in my lifetime). This division was created and fomented by the ruling party and unfortunately everyone fell into the trap. We’re doomed in the pro-the people x against-the people debate.

    So, fellow americans, you’re not doing that bad yet. We have time to fix what needs to be fixed and proper “education” is one key road you must embrace. I’ve lived enough to see hardcore republicans turn into normal beings after some slow and/or constant exposure to more civilizations, more cultures, and different religious beliefs. Mocking and science-showing helps nothing. I tried that. Sagan, Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, DeGrasse… they don’t work as means of ‘’conversion’’. The Simpsons got it right when Homer and Bart are saved by John, that gay guy. After some mental struggle Homer finally gets it. John is as normal as anyone and perhaps nicer than many too, that’s Homer’s conclusion.

    Today’s America shows extreme wealth inequality and rigid social mobility. You’re born poor, you’ll be poor forever. And conversely the rich will remain rich[er]. Anyone care to guess what has happened everywhere where income and wealth are very concentrated? The economy eventually collapses own its one matter…just to explode afterwards like an ugly supernova.

    There’s no problem or shame at being rich of course, but it’s beyond cursing what the lack of fair opportunities means.

    And while I’m on it, there’s a global warming problem going on for us all. Failure (ignorance) to recognize it may doom the future of humanity (which will be great news for the planet). I’d hate to hear from republicans that a 65F winter in Canada is ruining their logging business. I’d hate to hear from a sad republican farmer friend Finnish grape wine has been granted a new AVA (or DOC as we say elsewhere).

    America has the talent to do very well, but it must look out the window and copy what has worked best. To be the first to do isn’t very American, but to be the best at it is very much so.
    It takes patience, touch, some sense of purpose and diplomacy to teach people to see and join a better world a few meters away. Or yards.

  6. KC Phillips says:

    A pretty powerful statement here – quite an intro to your retirement and perhaps a new editorial career – Let me say, like Kyle – I’m in lockstep agreement with you top to bottom.

  7. Readers: I’m leaving this comment in by this Van Natter person, although I could easily delete it. Even though he meant to insult me, I actually find it humorous. And it is a brutal reminder of the mindset of trump voters.

  8. Dear Dinanne Norton, I have that Truman book and I agree, America has gone a long way from the purity of those times to the insanity of today. Can you imagine a major political party nominating trump in the 1940s or 1950s? It could not have happened. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but I don’t see how this modern republican party doesn’t deserve the lion’s share.

  9. Good writing is good writing is good writing…and from a personal perspective I love seeing this side of Steve Heimoff. I have enjoyed your thoughtful, insightful, cogent wine writing and I know I will continue to appreciate your blog with its expanded themes.

    Congratulations on your retirement, on being able to retire. Welcome to the next chapter.

  10. Trump won. Move on with it buttercup.

  11. Dear Zack, my name is Mr. Heimoff, not “buttercup,” and far more people voted for Hillary Clinton than for your candidate. If you wish to publish your remarks on my blog, keep them civil and accurate.

  12. Hey Zack, go fuck yourself and leave Steve alone!

  13. Robert Lukacs says:

    Very good read. Always love the single sentence comments and insults that come from supporters of the right. They have no intelligent debate so its all snappy one liners.

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