Rep. Jeannette Rankin was proudly Republican but also proudly anti-war
I had had enough, so I missed the final half-hour of the second Republican presidential debate this week, which I believe is just about to wrap up now on CNN. The first 150 minutes already had given me plenty to think about or shake off, so I missed some highlights as the thoroughbreds rounded the final turn.
Sen. Rand Paul outed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as a hypocrite for having smoked marijuana 40 years ago without suffering any legal consequences. After confessing that, yes, he is not only a Bush brother but a one-time doobie brother, Jeb said how disappointed his mother would be to hear this. Which, I believe, was the prime source for his campaign’s curious logo: “Jeb!”
There was the primitive dance by several of the freedom-loving candidates — primarily by real estate dealmaker Donald Trump — around the thoroughly debunked issue of childhood vaccinations and autism. Bottom line: vaccines may be good, but freedom (to catch and communicate diseases) is more important.
Then Florida Sen. Marco Rubio used the field’s blanket denigration of climate change as an issue for the United States to seriously address in order to impart a geography lesson for any youngsters left in the audience after former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee scared the bejesus out of everybody with homespun tales of nuclear annihilation.
“America is not a planet,” Rubio, R-Obvious, stated.
This is true. America may become part of a planet with swollen seas, choking heat, violent weather, massive population displacement and little opportunity to chill with Netflix, but it will remain not a planet. Well-played, senator.
I really regret missing the segment when the candidates picked their choices for a woman to replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. Their answers, pundits and armchair psychologists said, were evocative, revealing and beguiling. I thought the Republican standard-bears revealed they knew precious little of the history women have played in their party.
Not one suggested former First Lady Nancy Reagan, though the marathon debate had taken several hours off the life of her husband’s presidential library.
Bush suggested former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Mother Teresa. I’m surprised Trump didn’t demand a wall around our national greenbacks to keep the foreigners out.
Huckabee said his wife, whose vote he presumably already has secured, while failing to suggest Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, last seen being carted away by irreligious despots to resume her $70,000-a-year government job with one fewer duty to fulfill.
Dr. Ben Carson nominated his mom, but I think a national tattoo program requiring everyone who already doesn’t have a Mom tattoo to get one would be better, provided the work is done by the private sector. That’s by the private sector, not in one.
Three candidates favored pioneer civil rights activist Rosa Parks, perhaps ignorant that Parks once served on the national board of Planned Parenthood, which was roundly assailed all night as a $500 million criminal conspiracy.
Wait a minute, I thought, there must be a few Republican women in history worthy of consideration. I dived deep into my research — all the way to the Republican National Committee’s history web page and found three worthy GOP female pioneers.
Former Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, R-Far Out, author of the critical Lightbulb Freedom of Choice Act of 2008, was not among them, which may explain how these trailblazing GOP women slipped the collective mind of today’s party standard-bearers.
To tell the truth (a necessary deviation from the norm at the debate-palooza), the biographies of these three GOP women may not square with principles of today’s Republican Party. But let us not overlook them. They are:
— Rep. Jeannette Rankin of Montana, who became the first woman in Congress in 1917 before achieving one of her primary goals, a national right for women to vote.
A lifelong pacifist, Rankin was one of 56 members of Congress to oppose U.S. entry into World War I. Rankin was the only member to oppose going to war against Japan after the Dec. 7, 1941, attack at Pearl Harbor. After that vote, an angry mob chased Rankin, and she had to call the Capitol Police to rescue her from a besieged telephone booth.
Late in her life, Rankin said she didn’t regret her action.
“If you’re against war, you’re against war regardless of what happens. It’s a wrong method to settle a dispute.”
Rankin wouldn’t recognize today’s GOP, where talk of regime change is just like “slipping into something comfortable,” and military might would settle everything from bar tabs to border crossings.
— Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, who in 1949 became the first woman to serve in both the House and the Senate. A strong supporter of women in the military, Chase became known as the “Mother of the WAVES,” the female division of the Naval Reserve.
A moderate New England Republican, Smith often broke ranks with her party, supporting much of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program and voting against a permanent House Un-American Activities Committee.
She campaigned long to make the rose the official U.S. flower and wore a single red rose every day in public office. After the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Smith placed a rose on the desk Kennedy had used in the Senate.
Smith is best-known for her June 1950 speech on the Senate floor, known as the “Declaration of Conscience,” in which she took to task Sen. Joseph McCarthy and the “irresponsible sensationalism” of his zealous anti-communism crusade.
“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.”
Today’s GOP, in which many find solace in bashing immigrants, Muslims, the poor, gays, blacklivesmaatter activists, public employees, liberals and one another, could benefit from reviewing the whole speech.
— Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Conner, a child from an Arizona cattle ranch who grew up to be the first woman on the Supreme Court after her 1981 appointment by President Ronald Reagan.
Considered a moderate conservative, O’Conner’s unanimous confirmation was supported by both Barry Goldwater and Ted Kennedy, but opposed by anti-abortion groups. O’Conner started as a “federalism” advocate seeking narrow court opinions, but became a swing vote as the court became more conservative.
She most often sided with the conservative bloc, but supported a fundamental right to abortion under the 14th Amendment, defended citing foreign laws in court decisions and later lamented the court’s controversial role in the Bush v. Gore case in 2000, which halted the disputed Florida count of presidential ballots.
O’Conner may be too liberal for some Republicans today, who view Chief Justice John Roberts as a flaming lefty. But she came from the same territory of the American West that sustained Goldwater and Reagan, two pillars of the modern GOP.
O’Conner, along with Smith and Rankin, are deserving of being honored as pioneering Republicans. It’s a shame their names have slipped the minds of all 11 leading candidates vying to be the next Republican president.