The Woman From Maine

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On February 9, 1950, a young woman freshman Senator from Maine got up from her desk to give one of most important speeches ever given on the floor of the United States Senate. Her name was Margaret Chase Smith. This Republican from Maine knew the speech she was about to give to the chamber would not make her popular nor many friends. She was a conservative woman in a man's party. She was the first woman elected to both houses of the congress. Susan Collins now holds her senate seat.

The name of her speech was called the Declaration of Conscience speech. It was a speech many Americans to this day have either never heard of nor have read. Margaret Chase Smith herself is probably a politician many Americans don't even about. She wasn't popular. She was never President. Her memory faded away over the years, but her words are truer now than they've ever been. We often learn about John F. Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and so on... But sometimes it’s the obscure politicians in American history who have helped shape this country for what it is. The freshman Senator from Maine helped shaped our national conscience.

Her speech was on how the Republican Party must stand up against Wisconsin Republican Senator Joe McCarthy and his involvement in the House Un-American Activities Committee. McCarthy made outrageous claims alleging that there were communists in the federal government. McCarthy never provided evidence as to who was a communist. He was remembered in history for being a fool. He was remembered for what he did and said. But Senator Smith was almost forgotten.

She said in her speech that the Republican Party must stand up against these untruths, hatred and bigotry. That members of the deliberative body of the United States Senate must not only stay true to the Constitution that they swore to uphold, but to themselves as people. Joe McCarthy threatened to throw her out of the Senate Committee on Investigations if she gave the speech. Smith gave the speech and was thrown out. She knew complicity in the face of McCarthyism was un-American and wrong. She risked her political career because she believed in the things she thought America should stand for in her speech. They were: The right to criticize, the right to hold unpopular beliefs, the right to protest, and the right of independent thought.

Today, McCarthyism is gone. But it was because the woman from Maine who wasn't popular or well known stood up for the sake of her country. Today we have Trumpism, the belief that you can't criticize the President without being called a RINO, you cannot hold unpopular beliefs and win a primary election in 2018 as a Republican, you cannot protest against the President without being told to join the opposition, and you cannot think independently without being referred to as disloyal. This isn't conservatism. These are authoritarian beliefs. I cannot stand for this as a Republican. I believe in limited government, lower taxes, sensible regulation, a ready national defense, and personal responsibility. But I cannot support those things at this price. These are no longer the majority values of the Republican Party as they once were. If only a few Republicans are allowed to speak out against the opposition in their own party then what’s the point of open debate and independent thought? If the Republican Party will not change this year or in the next four years or whenever then the conservative cause has been destroyed temporarily I hope by those who claim to be conservative.

So today, I've made the difficult decision to drop my Republican Party registration and become an Independent. I didn't do this because I don't care about the conservative movement of lifting people up. I did it because I do care. This does not make me happy. The party that was formed out of northern anti-slavery activists after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act signed by Democratic President Franklin Pierce, which ripped the slavery issue open, has become the party of Joe Arpaio and Donald Trump. No Republican today who supports Donald Trump has any right to claim they are still the party of Lincoln. They are not.

If we become a country where the truth does not matter, where alternative realities are implemented into policy, if we claim fake news at everything we see then why should Republicans govern at this critical moment in history. A moment when we face serious issues such as a $21 trillion debt, an entitlement system that is wobbly, and a world that is becoming more dangerous. We cannot afford to retreat. Our history has shown what happens when we have gone into retreat.

Great Republican Presidents drove this country into the future. Lincoln ended the Civil War that led to the abolition of slavery, William McKinley made America the global superpower it is today, Teddy Roosevelt championed the environment and our country’s beauty and warned against the concentration of trusts, Dwight Eisenhower pushed the party away from a dangerous isolationism to becoming more involved in world affairs because he understood well the price of neutrality in war, Ronald Reagan spoke out against en evil empire and demanded a wall dividing a nation be torn down, and worked hard for an agreement so that nuclear weapons would never be the reason for world annihilation. These are the some of the people who helped forge what was called the American century.

Maybe one day I'll return back to the Republican party, but for now I cannot for I would be complicit in the actions and words of Donald Trump and many in the party. I cannot at the moment make the change that I want. Maybe some day I will though.

I leave you with this sentiment; when President Eisenhower left office in 1961 he was asked later why he sent federal troops into Arkansas to allow young black girls be able to walk peacefully into school and register for classes he said, "God dammit it was the only thing I could do!". He said at the time it was the hardest decision he had to make since D-Day. He was a strong believer in the separation of powers, but he put what he thought was right over everything else. If he had not done that he would have set back the country an entire generation and he knew that. Will we ever have a Republican President like Eisenhower again? We have to decide that. We are the makers of our own futures. We shape our own destinies. It is up to us to forge another new American century. The responsibility rests on this generation to do what is right and not what is popular not for this generation’s sake only, but for generations to come.

Patrick Murray's picture
Patrick Murray