2018 Update: The Supreme Court decisions on the Muslim travel ban and gerrymandering restricting voting rights signals a return to a Plessy v Ferguson court philosophy of “separate but equal.” Jeff Sessions mocked separated immigrant families to a laughing crowd. We do not have the luxury to remain silent when Trump policies and rhetoric cause hate and real harm to minorities, immigrants, and anyone deemed other. We are at a critical point in history. Blacks and Mexicans are being accosted on the street by Trump lovers calling them rapists or threatening to call 911 because they do not believe they belong. A brothel pimp, pedophile, and Nazi run for office on the Republican ticket, inspired by the rise of Donald Trump. Where is Margaret Chase-Smith’s modern day contemporary in the Republican party?
“A Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation. The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I do not want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear. I doubt if the Republican Party could — simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans aren’t that desperate for victory.” – Margaret Chase Smith
Good thing Senator Smith is not alive to see the Republican Party she so dearly loved. Her faith in the American people to not uphold a party that puts politics above national interest is noble. Unfortunately, our current state of affairs with Republican resistance to gun control in particular proves her wrong.
I have often quoted the “lady from Maine.” Yet, I never knew much about her aside from the fact that she was the first Republican to denounce McCarthy and his tactics. That alone made her noteworthy to me. When I delved into her background, I was utterly astonished at what she accomplished. Although she may not have agreed with the term, but she was a trailblazing progressive feminist long before women in America started to burn their bras. What’s more? She was a Republican.
Not since President Abraham Lincoln has there been a Republican that impressed. However, one thing separates President Lincoln from Senator Smith. President Lincoln ended slavery not because of a great moral conviction, but because it was best for the country. Whereas, Senator Smith denounced McCarthy and his rhetoric on principal. Many of her “colleagues said that this was political suicide.” The Wall Street Journal noted, “She was a pioneer Republican…Deeply – even devoutly- conservative, she was neither patrician nor partisan.”
That is what amazes about Senator Smith. She was so progressive and ahead of her time. For speaking out against McCarthy, her party replaced her on the investigating subcommittee with Richard M. Nixon. The New York Times noted, “Shortly before his assassination, President Kennedy called Mrs. Smith a ‘formidable political figure’ against whom he would not like to campaign. The morning after his death, she went into the Senate chamber before it convened and laid a red rose on Kennedy’s old desk.”
Even before her famous Declaration of Conscience speech, she made history. She was a champion for women in the military and fought to improve their status in rank and pay.She was the first woman elected to both the House and Senate. She was the first woman “to have her name placed in nomination for the presidency.” The Wall Street Journal reported, “She launched her 1964 campaign for president aiming ‘to destroy any political bigotry against women,’ she said, ‘just as the late John F. Kennedy had broken the political barrier on religion.’” She lost the Republican nomination to Barry Goldwater. It was said that, “She was not credited for her greater experience; instead pundits speculated about whether Senator Smith was menopausal. Her point that ‘I haven’t seen the age played up in the case of the men candidates’ was in vain.”
For as much as Hillary Clinton would like us to believe that she is the ultimate trailblazing woman in politics, if Senator Smith were alive and ran against Hillary, Senator Smith would have my vote hands down. I have not been silent on the fact that I am no party loyalist and that Hillary does not have my vote.
As I read Senator Smith’s biography and her Declaration of Conscience, I wondered how the Republican Party descended in its current state of lunacy. The GOP presidential campaign looks like a three ring circus and the animals have taken over. Maybe it is best that the “lady from Maine” is not around to see what the Party she so loved and thought highly of has turned into. I leave you with some quotes from her Declaration of Conscience to guide you.
“It is a national feeling of fear and frustration that could result in national suicide and the end of everything that we Americans hold dear.”
“I speak as briefly as possible because too much harm has already been done with irresponsible words of bitterness and selfish political opportunism.”
“But recently that deliberative character [of the United States Senate] has too often been debased to the level of a forum of hate and character assassination sheltered by the shield of congressional immunity.”
“Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism – the right to criticize; the right to hold unpopular beliefs; the right to protest; the right of independent thought.”
“The American people are sick and tired of seeing innocent people smeared and guilty people whitewashed.”
“Today our country is being psychologically divided by the confusion and suspicions that …spread like cancerous tentacles of ‘know nothing, suspect everything’ attitudes.”
“As an American, I am shocked at the way Republicans and Democrats alike are playing directly into the…design of ‘confuse, divide and conquer.’ As an American, I don’t want a Democratic Administration ‘white wash’ or ‘cover up’ any more than I want a Republican smear or witch hunt.”
“A Republican regime embracing a philosophy that lacks political integrity or intellectual honesty would prove equally disastrous to this nation. The nation sorely needs a Republican victory. But I do not want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny — Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear. I doubt if the Republican Party could — simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely we Republicans aren’t that desperate for victory.”