Trading Places

Many, many years ago, I joined a Republican Party that no longer exists. I was attracted to it–despite its longtime extreme-right “fringe”–because its rhetoric and philosophy was mainly that of classical liberalism: limited government, the rule of law, and the social contract.

Limited government, by the way, is not the same thing as small government–classical, 18th Century liberalism stood for limiting the ability of government to intrude into areas of citizens’ lives where government doesn’t belong. Determining where to draw that line has always been subject to debate, of course, and the GOP of my time was, admittedly, too often willing to pass intrusive  laws against “sin,” and resistant to necessary business regulations.

Back then, however, most Republicans took pride in the party’s history: the party of Lincoln had been the anti-slavery party while the Democrats had ruled the South and defended the ownership of some humans by others.

Over the years, America’s two major parties have essentially traded places, and I am only one of the many Republicans who realized that the party had morphed into something that had very little in common with the one we’d originally joined.

I thought about just how complete that switch has become when I read a recent column comparing Jared Polis, the Governor of Colorado, with Ron DeSantis of Florida, by Jennifer Rubin.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), a 2024 presidential aspirant, has told cruises how to run their businesses. And he has threatened to raise taxes on Disney in retaliation for speaking out against the hateful “don’t say gay” bill. These are things you might expect from a petty authoritarian such as Hungary’s Viktor Orban or defeated former president Donald Trump, who threatened companies that didn’t kowtow to his administration.

Now, DeSantis wants to go after the board of directors of Twitter. “We’re gonna be looking at ways the state of Florida potentially can be holding these Twitter board of directors accountable for breaching their fiduciary duty,” he bellowed on Tuesday.

In response to DeSantis’ assaults on businesses in his state, Colorado’s Jared Polis tweeted

Florida’s authoritarian socialist attacks on the private sector are driving businesses away. In CO, we don’t meddle in affairs of companies like @Disney or @Twitter. Hey @Disney we’re ready for Mountain Disneyland and @twitter we’re ready for Twitter HQ2, whoever your owners are.

The GOP pooh-bahs who constantly talk about “freedom” clearly don’t understand what freedom is. (Hint: it isn’t “freedom” to refuse a vaccination so that you can infect your neighbors, or “freedom” to pick on people of whom your church disapproves.)

Rubin defines it properly.

Polis also understands how powerful “freedom” can be — freedom to run your company, freedom to raise your child (and seek legitimate medical care for them), freedom to choose not to give birth to a child, freedom for teachers to teach about civil rights without being sued, freedom to cast a ballot in the most convenient way for each voter, freedom to learn math. It’s remarkable how much control the GOP wants to exercise over every aspect of Americans’ lives and the economy.

Indeed, in abandoning classic liberalism (limited government, the rule of law, etc.) in favor of an authoritarian, theocratic model, Republicans have defied an essential feature of democracy. This is what scholar Yascha Mounk describes in the Atlantic as “the recognition that there is a sphere of life in which everybody should be able to do what they like without having to worry about anyone else’s opinion.” Having decided that America’s identity is White, Christian and straight, the MAGA right now spends an extraordinary amount of time and effort stretching the power of government to boss around everyone else.

Classical liberalism limited the role of government to actions necessary to protect citizens from others’ wrongdoing. Government could–and should–prevent businesses from dumping toxic waste in the river or cheating customers; government should prevent the selfish or heedless from harming others.

Barry Goldwater famously said that government didn’t belong in your boardroom or your bedroom (he won an award from PFLAG, the LGBTQ rights organization.) Today’s Republicans are intent upon invading both.

Looking back, I think it’s fair to say that the GOP of my day believed in over-restraining government. (When Nixon established the EPA, it was seen in some quarters as a betrayal of Republicanism.) Today’s version, however, has totally abandoned any respect for freedom, civic equality and the rule of law.

DeSantis, Abbott and their ilk define “freedom” as the right of businesses to support their hateful policies and the right of citizens to obey their dictates.


  1. The CO governor’s tweet has these words, “Florida’s authoritarian socialist attacks on the private sector…”

    “Authoritarian socialist”

    Socialism from above is what Wikipedia claims this means. It means an elite administration at the top of a socialist state or a politburo like in Russia and China. Since when is Florida or the USA a socialist state?

    I don’t know if the CO governor was trying to give socialism a bad name by assigning it to dictator wannabes within the GOP but I think he picked the wrong term.

    That’s why idiots like Trump and Biden make you shake your head…was it a slip, or were they being intentional with their ignorance?

    Trump used to always accuse the media of being propaganda which is accurate, but then his explanation was incorrect. He thought any journalist who asked him a tough question (which really was any question) was propaganda. Only employees of Fox who tossed loaded puffballs at him were real news reporters.

    Pence would intentionally twist words to deflect and diminish the actual word. They must teach that twisted skill in law school designed specifically for politicians. LOL

  2. I registered as republican way back when, 1960’s.
    That party has abandoned me.
    I vote Dem now but can’t change my registration.
    I have tried in my county, Scott Indiana
    Any hope I can get this changed?

  3. Una, in Indiana when you register, you don’t identify a political party. You just register to vote. In Indiana, you select your political party in the primary by choosing to participate in the Republican or Democratic primary. That’s not part of your registration though…you’re free to switch your primary participation from election to election. Indiana is what is known as an “open primary” state.

    Other states are closed primary states. In those states, such as Florida, you register by political party and can only participate in the primary of the party to which you are registered. If you’re a registered Republican and you want to participate in a Democratic primary, you have to change your registration to identifying as a Democrat.

    In short, there is no such things as a “registered Republican” or “registered Democrat” in Indiana. We just have registered voters. You can’t change the party affiliation on your registration because there is no party affiliation on your registration.

  4. Reagan famously said he didn’t leave the democrat party, the party left him. I finally realized what he really meant, the racist left the democrat party and the party became the beacon for civil rights and equality. It took me far to long to acknowledge the GOP, whom I joined in the mid-1970s, had picked up that slack from the old southern democrats and become the party of racist, xenophobes and misogynist. My bad. Right now it would take a very, very bad democrat candidate for me to vote for a republican at any level.

  5. Polis is VERY popular in Colorado – except for Boebert’s district. Imagine that. Throwing around adjectives is always risky. The word “socialism” is misunderstood – often – by both liberals and the fascist party. The basic tenet of the operation of economies within democracies REQUIRES some socialistic aspects to allow for the weakest among us to prosper to some extent.

    We always seem to forget that an IQ (A measurement that is barely worth the ink it takes to print it.) of 100 is the “average” intelligence. That means that at least 50% of humans are of below average intelligence. That fact helps explain why so many Americans turn to the loudest voices in the room rather than try to think for themselves.

    DeSantis is nothing more than a loud voice pandering to the dumbest in Florida. The fact that is most obvious is that he doesn’t give a damn about Florida or Floridians. He just wants to be the younger version of Donald Trump. How pathetic is that?

  6. Paul; what you so simply explained in your comments above appears to be one political benefit the State of Indiana has over Florida and other states which do not have “open primaries”. A state level governmental control by Republican states who claim they want “less government control over our lives”. Just as they are finding ways to control women’s bodies regarding health care, suppressing LGBTQ rights and using voter suppression by gerrymandering voters in our out of their districts by “open primaries”. The Republican party, upon the assassination of President Lincoln, immediately began “trading places” with Democrats by sending the Republican Carpetbaggers to control the rights of southerners by removing their rights using arbitrarily enacted laws and taxing them out of what remained of their property. Plantation owners were always the minority; it was the small farmers and working class who were the biggest losers. We are now watching Carpetbagger rule; again by Republicans, removing our civil and voting rights by enacting laws such as Pence’s RFRA and severe anti-abortion laws, governmental control over our bodies and our sex lives. We watch as governments at state and federal levels led by the Republican minority do not govern their own elected officials who ignore their Oath of Office and refuse to support State and U.S. Constitutions.

    The fact that we do not have to claim a specific party membership to vote still benefits the Republican majority in Indiana as tightly as Florida’s Primary laws.

  7. I can’t be sure of this, but I think the odds are good that, if Orange and Osceola counties were reliably Republican rather than Democratic voters, this revenge plot might have gone somewhat differently. Both of those counties are filled with minimum wage earners working in the tourism industry. Governor DeMentis doesn’t care that their tax burdens will increase dramatically. If he can, he will increase every burden the poor have. The legislature didn’t address the affordable housing crisis, the homeowner’s insurance rate crisis, or the water quality crisis. He got what he wanted, victory in the great Culture War, governance be damned!

  8. JoAnn, interestingly I hear candidates in Indiana all the time say they’re going to win contested primaries by taking advantage of IN’s open primary by getting cross-over vote…i.e. people who traditionally identify as Democrat to vote in the Republican Primary, or vice versa. In fact, that was the basis of “Operation Chaos” pushed by the late Rush Limbaugh in 2008. Hoosier Republicans were encouraged to vote in the Democratic Primary for Hillary Clinton to keep the Democratic primary fight going and supposedly make the eventual nominee weaker. (How did that work out for you?)

    Bottom line is very few Republicans crossed over, mostly just some GOP activists. Made very little impact. But there was a different type of impact. Later these activists tried to run for office as Republicans and found themselves disqualified because the law says (unless you get a waiver from the party chair) you have to vote for your party in the last primary you participated. Well, those Republicans had voted in a Democratic primary and weren’t eligible to be a GOP candidate until they had cleansed themselves by voting again in a Republican primary. I represented a couple candidates who found themselves disqualified.

    Bottom line, even though Indiana has open primaries, very few people cross-over. Most people stick to their partisan lane, even though not required to do so.

  9. Peggy

    “Both [Orange and Osceleo] counties are filled with minimum wage earners working in the tourism industry.”

    I assure you those workers are not making minimum wage, i.e. $7.25 an hour. Here’s what I found from the website Payscale:

    Disney World Jobs by Hourly Rate

    Disney World pays its employees an average of $17.64 an hour. Hourly pay at Disney World ranges from an average of $12.02 to $34.67 an hour….

    Search by job title
    Job Title Range Average
    Bus Driver $11 – $21 $15
    Line Cook $11 – $18 (Estimated *) $14
    Food Service Worker $8 – $13 (Estimated *) $10
    Cook, Restaurant $10 – $17 (Estimated *) $13
    Customer Service Representative (CSR) $11 – $19 (Estimated *) $15
    Dancer $16 – $112 (Estimated *) $28
    Accounting Associate $14 – $22 (Estimated *) $18

  10. What Republicans need to survive as a political party now is to change the country from democracy, hiring and firing those in a Constitutional government by choice of a plurality of voters, to hiring those who govern by a minority. That of course requires the identification of the minority with that power. Their choice is to depart from the trending demographics that democracy honors to the past majority of the country, white, Christian, heterosexual appearing, male extreme capitalists.

    The party’s political strategy is bi-directional in that it kowtows to that group in terms of laws favorable to them and identifies all opposition as against sensible government. None of that is the least bit unusual for authoritarians in government. (We just watched “Navalny” on CNN last night about the treatment of Putin’s chief political opponent who will undoubtedly rot in prison for the rest of his life.)

    We in this country have a choice between our traditions of freedom and their new tradition of power for the relative few by inflating their numbers to appear as a majority. Republicans against demographics have a short period in our history to grab power despite the dictates of the human race in numbers and preference for living with the same rights for everyone.

    Unfortunately, us versus them is an accurate description of our choices here.

  11. Paul; how do you know who and how many “crossed over”? I have always doubted our ballots were secret; your comments have made me doubt that even more.

    Can’t remember the Tennessee Republican candidate who is in the legal situation you referred to about not voting in earlier Republican Primaries. She is a new resident of Tennessee; claims to have voted in Primaries in another state…interesting legal, but more political, situation in that situation.

  12. I guess that’s one thing that hasn’t changed for Republicans. Always afraid of doing things that people like because they might want more of that.

    They must all be deathly afraid at the waterslide park, I suppose. They are so terrified by “slippery slopes.”

  13. Republicans 2005: Let the uninsured die.

    Democrats 2021: Let the unvaccinated die.

    Ukraine potentially joining NATO is considered an act of heroism while the Solomon Islands agreeing to a security pact with China has the Western media openly calling for regime change.

    We are living in interesting times.

  14. Hmmm–did that GOP ever exist? I graduated high school in 1987 and never knew the GOP was as you described. Then again, I come from a long line of poor, working class. On my dad’s side they came from Ireland and Wales and on my mother’s side her parents were German background w/ her father being a minister. My grandmother would rant on her disdain for Reagan for hours.

  15. Sheila’s effort today perfectly describes the histories of our two parties. I have written dozens of times in many different venues that if I as a lifelong Democrat had lived in the days of Lincoln I would have been a Republican. Democrats of that day were slave holders and right wingers while Republicans (a newly anti-slave party via its departure from the decimated Whig Party in 1854) were the progressive party in American politics. Somewhere along the Sherman Antitrust-First Gilded Age -Taft-Teddy-Wilson-Hoover-FDR axis the parties exchanged philosophies. Somehow Republicans became Democrats and Democrats became Republicans.

    I was unaffected by such an enormous shift in our political culture at the time because I was not around yet, coming up instead with the New Deal politics of FDR, my all time favorite president whose Four Freedoms and “I welcome their hatred” lines echo in my memory to this day. So Sheila’s party left her? So did the party I would have belonged to had I been on the scene.

    Time and circumstance are ruthless arbiters.

  16. Indeed the GOP of earlier years had a tangible e’lan and integrity. Nixon’s Southern Strategy was a case for civic equality and the rule of law. What a beautiful endeavor. It has resonated and been the undertow of the political landscape ever since.

    Anyone else miss Reagan’s right wing death squads in Central America? Those were the days . Bodies,bodies and bodies. The good ol’ days when Republicans would export American Civic Equality via a gun. Or, when America, led by Reagan ,brought rule of law to Guatemala? Reagan,Nixon and Republicans in general had a deep respect for freedom,no? Those were the days. Now seemingly gone. Now,Republicans are beating up Mickey Mouse,what is the world to do? What has it come to?

    I’m guessing the professor had left the party by 1970,no?

    No revisionist romanticism here.

  17. JoAnn – Paul is right because wonks like me look at history – usually, cross over voting has little effect – however, Michigan began open Presidential Primaries in 1972 – the first two were won by George Wallace and Jesse Jackson – I looked at the vote and will use one example

    A small suburb of Detroit gave each of those men about 1500 votes. No Democrat in history (at least the previous 20 years, in any event) had ever gotten more than 400 votes. That is how I know there was cross over voting. I looked at many other small majority Republican enclaves. I cannot claim an exhaustive analysis, but the signs were clearly there.

    As for trading places, I think Gerald summed it up so well that I have nothing to add.

  18. Paul Ogden
    Back then yes, maybe now no?
    I have the registration card that says I registered as a republican. I would send you a picture of it if I could

  19. Paul, in Florida our state minimum wage is $8.65 per hour. You gave the numbers for Disney World, but most of Orange and Osceola are not employed by either Disney or Universal. Orlando is only heaven in “The Book of Mormon.”

  20. Rubin defines it properly.

    Polis also understands how powerful “freedom” can be — freedom to run your company, freedom to raise your child (and seek legitimate medical care for them), freedom to choose not to give birth to a child, freedom for teachers to teach about civil rights without being sued, freedom to cast a ballot in the most convenient way for each voter, freedom to learn math. It’s remarkable how much control the GOP wants to exercise over every aspect of Americans’ lives and the economy.

    As a lifelong Hoosier who intentionally retired in Denver, I’m not surprised that that cost of housing in the Colorado has skyrocketed. People of all ages continue to flock here… and legalized pot has little to do with it.

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