Grandfather would be appalled at modern GOP

May 27, 2019

My grandfather was John Floyd Roberts. He was a lanky country school teacher who, more than a century ago, taught generations of children in one-room schools scattered along rugged mountain ridges in McDowell County in the southern West Virginia coalfields. His students and his children knew him as a stern disciplinarian. He traveled to work either on foot or on horse-back. He never owned a car.

My grandfather was a rock-ribbed, lifelong Republican. I doubt he ever voted for a national or state Democrat and I know he had little regard for Franklin D. Roosevelt or Harry S Truman. In his eyes, the former was a spendthrift and far too much of an autocrat, while the latter was uncouth and uneducated. Both were much too friendly with labor unions and communists.

My grandfather was descended politically from Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. He liked Ike a lot. He believed that government, like life, should be based on principles and morals. He was a strong supporter of individual rights and individual responsibilities. He believed that it was the responsibility of government to provide everyone with the same opportunity to succeed and that it was then up to each individual to make his own way. He believed that every man and woman should be judged solely by their beliefs and their actions and never by their nationality, their race or their religion. He told his six children that if he ever heard them disparage or demean an African American, he would “whip them within an inch of their lives.” At his funeral, beside his casket was a very large bouquet of flowers from “The Colored Citizens of McDowell County.”

I believe my grandfather would be sorely disappointed by today’s national Republican Party. He would not understand how his conservative party could so easily abandon support for a balanced budget and become so willing to accept a rising federal budget deficit with no end in sight. He would be shocked by that party’s failure to condemn Russian interference in our national electoral system and to take vigorous action to prevent its recurrence. He would be puzzled by a Republican president who is more favorable to authoritarian regimes than to such long-trusted and proven allies as Britain and Canada. He would be dismayed by the vulgarities emanating from the White House. He would be sorrowful over the dishonesty and the incessant litany of lies, exaggerations, excuses and alibis uttered by our Republican president. But even more, he would be shocked by the willingness of so many rank and file Republicans to accept such behavior without question.

Most of all, I believe my grandfather would be ashamed of the degree to which his party has abandoned its commitment to equal rights and equal opportunity and is willing to foster racial and nationalistic divisions. He might have wept over Charlottesville.

It has been a long time since my grandfather took this grandson into his library and shared his love of books and his country, and my recollection may not be perfect. I do not know with certainty what he would have thought about current events or our current leaders. I suspect he would still be suspicious of those “Big Government Democrats.” But I am pretty confident that he would question whether the Republicans of today are the rightful heirs of the Great Emancipator, the Rough Rider and the General. He might still a Republican but, if so, he would be striving vigorously to change it back to the great party it once was.

Aubrey King is a Huntington resident. He retired after a career as a lobbyist and university lecturer in Washington, D.C. A native West Virginian, he is a graduate of Marshall University and The Johns Hopkins University.

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