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Odyssey of Opinionations

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I’m deputized to write this column on some of my opinions as a Democrat. Though I’ve got lots of them, I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to carry off this task. First, I really prefer to describe myself as democratic rather than own the name of Democrat. Why? Mainly because I’ve changed my opinions on so many things since I began to think I had them that I prefer not to wear any sticky label anymore. I’d rather tell myself that I’m open-minded, not empty-headed. Here’s where I came from: Way back, I swam in a nurturing amniotic ocean, grew up, and out, in a fragrant atmosphere of Texan attitudes my family, all my friends and play/schoolmates took for granted as the normal way things just were. My elders, teachers and friends held lofty, “self-evident,” mostly unspoken prejudices against all people, from anywhere else or just at all, that were not patriotic white Anglo-American Protestant Christian “native-born” U.S. citizens. We did not think we were bad people, absolutely not! Many of us thought we felt sorry for the poor wretches not as fortunate by birth and circumstance as we were. We wore our superiority lightly unless threatened by subversive or “uppity’ influences from below or outside. Then look out, __! (Fill in appr. slander-name.)

I heard my granddaddy inveigh endlessly against Franklin “Roostervelt!” (though he had been a big fan of Teddy in the past). My daddy told me Tom Jefferson said that the best government was one that governed the least, that about everybody down South voted for FDR for his first term because he seemed like another common-sense Democrat and nobody south of Mason&Dixon voted for a Republican (aside from T. R.) because of the hateful abolitionists back in Civil War times. This tradition got crippled when FDR began his “left-leaning” measures to rescue American capitalism from its self-caused Great Depression and from home-grown real, extremist communist and fascist movements uprising in this very country.

My own first vote was for Republican Dwight Eisenhower’s second term, cast enthusiastically by mail from a U.S. Army post in Germany. I became disappointed in Ike as President because he wasn’t as tough on the Russians as I wanted him to be.

But then when he retired, slightly discredited, in 1960 after two terms, the wet-behind-the ears, Catholic, snotty, Yankee Kennedy brothers with all their “Camelot” clan burst across my All-American Republican world. I didn’t see then how we could carry on with them in charge and it shocked me to see Americans flocking to embrace an elitist, dynastic monarchy in place of our republican democracy. But then that got changed. A lot of stuff started popping in America right about then, big changes bad and good, and my faith in a lot of stone-foundation beliefs cracked, crumbled, but held on desperately through the trials of my beleaguered and misunderstood Pres. Millhouse Nixon, the bumblings of noseguard Jerry Ford, and then another shattering stroke—the election of Jimmy Carter, southern Democrat, but not of the Old South tradition at all! I just couldn’t stand it, I thought.

But I did eventually come around, grudgingly, to partly admire Carter’s sincere efforts to do what was “rightin- his-heart” with American foreign and domestic policies. Then the long Iran hostage situation killed off any chance for his political survival.

This time my blinkers got ripped right off my face by that Hollywood show-biz phony, turncoat union president- turned union-buster whose proud pledge to ensure his election was “No arms for hostages!” (Leave that for later.)

Pres. “Ron” Reagan told us that government didn’t just have problems; he said government IS The Problem—with everything wrong with America. His cohorts’ and successors’ efforts to shrivel, shrink and 'strangle'1 government institutions, to promote privatization of all possible government services and functions, has continued unabated by Republicans up (or down?) to the present day. Reagan, Republican saint, lit up my eyes to features I’d never been able to see before about my own former heroes and demons. I still couldn’t bring myself to vote for Fritz Mondale, but I did gulp hard and 'chomp the chad' for Mike Dukakis, and then voted downhill for every Democrat presidential candidate since. I finally deserted my tribe! Here’s where I’ve since gotten off to: I haven’t shed all my former prejudices; it’s impossible to repudiate one’s whole upbringing and ancestry, or at best dishonest. Changing times influenced a lot of my own changes, both allowing and forcing me to look at events and people past and present with different eyes. It occurs to me that if my ‘original’ bedrock convictions could erode away, then re-emerge from the mud, dung and dust in different forms entirely, then I wonder how permanent my present ‘enlightened’ conclusions might be, should I live through yet more world-changing events and still have mind enough to know, or think I know, what I think I think, etc. How humbling, to expose lifelong truisms as humbuggeries.

Still from all these struggles and strangles, one opinion has crystalized ahead of all others to me, thanks indeed to Reagan and company: I do not believe government to be a problem unless it is in the wrong hands. I do believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, that government of the people, by the people, and for the people should not perish from the earth.

Furthermore: that we the people ARE the government, if we will only exert ourselves; that our government can be even as wise, just, beneficial, efficient and effective as we the people compel it to be, but no more so; that if our government should fail, it will be because we the people shall have failed; that we should not allow usurpers, grifters and plunderers to pilfer, desecrate, distort, buy or destroy this extension of US, the body politic. More details on this and related topics may hopefully follow in later columns. Also, hopefully no more about me.

Grover Norquist Bill Cornelison graduated from Bandera High School is 1952.