The quote above from the 34th President of the United States from November 8, 1954 provides a glimpse at a point in time when there actually was a Republican Party that could be called moderate. President Eisenhower in particular understood that while he believed in the free market, the same free market today’s conservatives constantly lecture us about, there also was a vital role for government in our society. Yes, of course government is there to provide for the common defense of our country. Yes, it’s also there to referee the massive economic system we call capitalism. From time to time however it becomes necessary for government to do more. Sometimes capitalism is brutal. Sometimes people fall through the cracks. Sometimes people play by the rules and work hard their entire life only to see themselves never getting ahead. This is the reality of capitalism. It’s why we expect our elected leaders to address these issues. Many of these issues came to a head during the Great Depression. Perhaps no leader understood this more than President Franklin Roosevelt. Out of his administration came Social Security, unemployment insurance, and minimum wage laws. These programs are still with us today. Even though the majority of Republicans were against these programs, pragmatic politicians like Eisenhower knew their importance to everyday Americans and had the good sense to speak out in favor of them. Where are today’s Eisenhower Republicans? Answer: They don’t exist.
No, today’s Republican Party bears no resemblance to the Party of ‘Ike.’ In fact, were he alive today Dwight Eisenhower would not recognize the party he once belonged to. For example, the Republican leadership of today, led by the soon departing Paul Ryan wants to dramatically alter Social Security. They would like to privatize it, raise the age limit, alter the way benefits are calculated as well as means test recipients. Ryan likes to call these changes ‘entitlement reform.’ What they really are is an assault on a successful social insurance program that has kept millions of elderly and disabled people out of poverty for decades. Instead of working with the opposition party to try to strengthen the program for generations, the current Republican Party finally has all three branches of government in their control, setting the stage for what they have been wanting to do for generations: nothing less than a full and complete gutting of Social Security and other vital social programs in order to pay for cutting taxes massively for millionaires and billionaires.
At the time of Eisenhower’s quote, Social Security had only been the law of the land for 19 years. It’s importance then, and it’s importance now have not changed. Eisenhower understood it. It started under Democrats and it will be up to Democrats to protect and preserve the program. It’s quite clear the other party is unwilling and unable to stand up to special interests and others that would love nothing better than to destroy the program. Only when every day Americans begin to vote for their best interests instead of against them will things change in Washington D.C. Ike would no doubt agree.