Monday, July 20, 2009

Why I As a Marion County Republican Dissent

A good friend of mine recently asked why I have taken such a strong public position against Republicans in my own party who I feel have led the Mayor astray. These Republicans include the likes of Joe Loftus, Bob Grand, Tom John and others. It was a fair question and one that deserves a public explanation.

I grew up in a working class family in southeast Indiana. My father worked many jobs, but the one I remember the best was the last job he worked in factory. In addition to the day job, my father also did a modest amount of farming. In that part of the state though it was hard to make it as a full-time farmer. You almost always had to have at least a part-time job if not a full-time one.

My roots are working class. My brothers and I were the first in our family to go to college. My father had not even been able to complete high school, having to drop out in the 10th grade to go to work and support his parents. My mother, who did complete high school, worked as a secretary in a military installation.

During my childhood, I remember sitting around the dining room table, my father talking politics. He bashed one Democrat after another, including Birch Bayh, Vance Hartke and George McGovern. I knew though my father was a staunch Democrat, so I asked him why he wasn't a Republican. I'll never forget the answer: "The Republican Party doesn't care about the working man. Republicans are just for the rich."

When I went to college, I witnessed Republican Ronald Reagan turn my father's idea of what the Republican Party represented on its head. Reagan reached across class divides to bring working men and women into the Republican fold. I so wish my father would have lived to see the day. He would certainly have been numbered among the Democrats who crossed over for Reagan.

With Republicans in firm control of Indianapolis politics during that time and for two decades afterwards, the populist effort Reagan made to reach out to working men and women did not ever have to occur here. Republicans could, and did, win simply running on the base GOP vote. There was no need to reach out for traditional Democratic constituencies.

Republican dominance in Marion County began to crack in 1999 when Bart Peterson won the Mayor's office. The Democrats takeover of city government was completed in 2003 when Democrats took control of the Indianapolis City-County Council.

I knew there would be some time pass before Republicans ascended once again in the county. In 2007 though, we had a candidate, Greg Ballard, running as a populist, against the Republican country club politics of old that had elevated Bill Hudnut and Stephen Goldsmith to the Mayor's Office, but was not longer a formula that worked politically in a county now dominated by Democrats. Admittedly, Ballard's victory was helped in no small part by the self-destruction of Mayor Bart Peterson who did not feel he even had to pay passing interest to populist angst over taxes.

In short, on November 6, 2007, the Marion County Republican Party was given an enormous opportunity with the upset election of Greg Ballard. It was a chance to rebuild the Marion County GOP so that it would be the party that stands up for taxpayers and working men and women who pay the bulk of the taxes. Local Democrats had opened the door to realignment by becoming some of the biggest proponents of corporate welfare, country-club politics that candidate Ballard had eschewed on Election night. Even today, despite Ballard's unpopularity, local elected Democrats appear to unanimously support his corporate welfare policies. They only quibble with the competency with which he has executed those policies.

The choice immediately following the 2007 mayoral election was this: 1) use the Ballard win to build a more populist-oriented Republican Party that could create a realignment of the parties and a permanent GOP majority in the county; or 2) use the Ballard win to profit as much as possible during the four years he was in office. Going the route of #1, would have meant foregoing some of the election profiteering that had taken place in the past.

On Election night and since Ballard became surrounded by advisers whose interest was cashing in on the Ballard victory (#2) and who couldn't care less about using the victory to build a stronger Marion County GOP. That's why I dissent. Those folks sold out the future of the Marion County GOP, and that of Mayor Ballard, so they and their friends could personally profit.

But why dissent publicly? Some Republicans have criticized me for airing "dirty laundry" publicly and argue that these fights within our party should take place behind closed doors. That is exactly what those Republican insiders want. They control the inside game; their deals are always cut behind closed doors. The slating process has long allowed those insiders to come in, appoint "mummy dummy" PCs to usually rig the process before the Republican electorate gets involved. If you dare challenge the decisions those insiders make, you, your job and your family will become a target. I've seen it done for 23 years in the Marion County GOP and I saw it done after the judges' slating in 2008. The only thing that will stop these corrupt political practices is the disinfectant of sunshine.

That is why I dissent. I am proud to be a Republican. I am not proud of what some Republicans have done to my Marion County GOP in order for them to cash in. We Republicans will be paying for what they have done for years to come.

1 comment:

guy77money said...

I was born and raised in a Republican (with the exception of Kennedy) house hold. It truly pains me to watch Ballard and the Republicans self destruct. I didn't get to meet Ballard during the election but one of my best friends was one of the grass roots people working on his campaign and she was not very complimentary when she talked about him. I expected more from Ballard and the party. It seems more I follow politics the more both the Republicans and the Democrats are out for themself and their financial supporters. The taxpayers (voters) seem to be constantly getting the shaft. My old social study teacher used to call them Rebuplicrats! She used this term when you could no longer tell then apart.