"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Felicity Marvell Votes Republican!!

“I’m going to vote Republican next year”, Felicity Marvell said, “No matter what anyone thinks.”

GOP logo

This was quite an admission from a lifelong Democrat who had made up her mind long before she entered the voting booth.

She was a child of the Sixties, Class of ‘69, the one which by accident of demographics and timing was the most outraged about injustice, war, and racial inequality; the most anti-establishment and free love; and the most hostile and dismissive of capitalism, private enterprise, and property. It was no surprise, therefore, that coming of age in such a heady time, and part of like-thinking world community of millions, she would be progressive from her curly hair to her shoe tops.

Her parents were only show-tune Eisenhower Republicans, never political but only socially aligned. Everyone they knew was a Republican – the doctors, dentists, businessmen, and lawyers of New Brighton – and as far as they were concerned, that was all they needed to know.

Image result for images eisenhower
There was one Democrat in Felicity’s 7th grade class at Muirland Country Day School.  No one was quite sure how Laurie Finkelstein made it through the WASP firewall set up in 1921 when the school was founded thanks to the largesse of the captains of industry who had built the town with the profits from sales of armaments and military hardware, but he did. He was a Democrat whose grandparents were labor activists with Samuel Gompers in New York and whose parents were co-chairs of the New Brighton Democratic Committee.

“Stevenson is for the little man”, he lectured; but it all fell on deaf ears. Felicity’s parents and every other parent knew no ‘little men’ except those who sold clothes, shoes, groceries, and cigarettes. They were insignificant and invisible in those days, overshadowed by the mansions of the West End, the boardrooms of Clark & Stanley and Creighton Ball Bearings; the PGA-rated Country Club; and the Mistletoe Ball.

Image result for images adlai stevenson
In other words when the Sixties came along, Felicity had no rock-ribbed Republicanism to rebel against.  She sloughed off her family’s socially political affiliation without a second thought; and in one quick and agile leap went from Fifties white picket fence New England to Tompkins Square and the Lower East Side.  It was one thing to grow up in a leafy colonial town with marginal political commitment to a counterculture ghetto teeming with angry young people.

Image result for images tompkins square sixties
For a number of years after she left New York and pursued a professional career in Washington, she remained staunchly committed to Progressivism. While she never marched to Selma or Birmingham, she paraded in solidarity on the National Mall, was always up against the barricades and police lines in protest, and as her income improved, gave to the most important civil rights, feminist, peace, and early environmentalist organizations.

Slowly but surely her progressive idealism faded.  Perhaps it was the weight of history. Progress, she saw, had never had a place in world civilization.  The world she lived in was just as violent, prone to war, and subject to the will of dictators as that of Genghis Khan, Tamburlaine, or Nero. Or perhaps it was age. Everyone from children at the playground to alte kockers in a retirement home pushed, shoved, and grabbed. Acquisitiveness and territorial self-interest were as hard-wired in the human genome as permanently as thirst or a sex drive.  People might seem to act with compassion or social conviction, but every gesture was designed to freshen up the resume, burnish one’s status, and retouch one’s public image.

Image result for images genghis khan on horseback
Slowly but surely she became attuned to the Republican code – individualism, enlightened self-interest, enterprise, mobility, and personal freedom.  There was nothing inconsistent in conservative ideology.  It matched perfectly with the annals of history. The Roman, Persian, Ottoman, Seleucid, Christian, and Muslim Empires were not known for the social consciousness but for their unabridged and implacable will to expand their territories and influence. Civilization (art, architecture, science, and culture) was a by-product of expansionism, wealth, and power. Civil society was organized to serve the economic and military interests of the Crown.

Image result for images seleucid empire
By the time she was in her late 50s, Felicity had jettisoned not only the trappings of progressivism, but its foundational principles.  There is no such thing as ‘human nature’, argue progressives. No place to look on the human genome to find it; no strands of DNA which determine acquisitiveness, self-defense, she-bear instincts, or territorial imperatives.  Even if scientists were to locate areas of ‘proclivity’, human intelligence, social instincts, and an overriding sense of morality would always prevail and forge anti-social tendencies into social actions.


“Nonsense”, replied conservatives. When in human history had human beings been otherwise than willful, territorial, and acquisitive? Not only that, such willful individualism had always been the engine of civilization. Just as war, territorial conflict, and communal strife had served to cleanse society of its weaker and less productive elements, so would personal ambition and drive contribute to a society with expanding wealth, opportunity, and privilege.

By the time Felicity was in her 60s, she dropped all political pretense, trimmed all dangling progressive threads and became more doctrinally pure a conservative than anyone in the movement.  All societies are and have always been unequal, she averred; and the most able, competitive, and willful have always dominated.  The nature of human society and that of a wild wolf pack are no different. Heredity, lineage, and genetic inheritance are the principal factors in individual achievement; and although many talented and potentially successful citizens may get left out of the final draw, the process of Darwinian competition always provides eventual benefits for the greater number.

Image result for images darwin
Viewing life within this very well-defined philosophical construct, Felicity knew that it was futile to jerry-rig the evolutionary system; to enact temporal, politically-determined social interventions to engineer ‘progress’; or to engage in legislative agenda-favoritism.  None of it would work.  The engines of human nature and the energy of human, individual will would always defy the governors, brakes, and down-throttling of idealism.

Not surprisingly Felicity was one of the few members of her professional cadre and social milieu who had changed so radically. Most of her college and graduate school friends had moved very little off the progressive mark.  Whereas Felicity enjoyed the Sixties, most of her friends had taken them seriously.  For them sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll were sideshows to the main event.  For her they were the main event. She never entertained a scintilla of doubt about her future, her career, or her social trajectory. She took all the individualism, social, personal, and sexual freedoms with her as she became an adult; and rejected all the communal idealism.  Ironically, the Sixties were as formative for her as they were for her socially-conscious, idealistic friends.

For all these years, however, Felicity had always voted Democratic.  No matter how hardened or pure her principles had become, she was unable to take Republican religious sanctimony, arrogant self-assurance, and lack of philosophical nuance seriously. She was in her chrysalis phase when Ronald Reagan was President, and still too young to understand the revolutionary changes he instituted; but in retrospect she would have no qualms about voting for him. His calls to patriotism, small government, private enterprise, and moral values were sound principles with no need for window-dressing, Bible-thumping, or theatrics.

Image result for images ronald reagan
George H.W.Bush was a decent man with patrician tastes, an aristocratic upbringing, and a WASP sense of noblesse oblige . Bush was an Ambassador, the head of the CIA, a WWI pilot, a Vice-President and President.  She could have – should have voted for him; but the last bits of progressive lint still clung to her dress.

So, in 2016 she pulled the GOP lever for the first time and voted for Donald Trump. Although he was certainly no Ronald Reagan or George H.W.Bush, the time had come to put progressivism aside once and for all.

“I’m voting Republican”, she says loudly and convincingly.  Finally and at last.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.