My weekend visitor was one of the founders of the postwar Republican Party in the South, one of those stubborn men who challenged the Democratic rule in his one-party state. He was conservative enough that in the great struggle for the 1952 nomination, his sympathies were with Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio, not Dwight D. Eisenhower.
"My wife was thrilled by the veto" Bush administered last week to the bill expanding federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, because she shares the president's belief that those clumps of cells destroyed in the research process represent human life. "I thought it was stupid," he said. "I know too many people who are like this" -- and he shook his hands like a victim of Parkinson's disease -- "and their only hope of a cure is in stem cells. Now Bush is forcing that science to move overseas."
He also expresses anger at the Republican party's refusal to raise the minimum wage. Why isn't he a Democrat?
In the end, his dislike of the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, and his ingrained disdain for the Democrats may keep my friend voting Republican.
And yet the problem for the Republicans is that voters like this may not vote for them either.
Andrew Kohut's survey for the respected Pew Research Center last month found Democrats far more motivated to vote this year than Republicans. The Democrats held a 16-point advantage over the GOP on the question Kohut uses to gauge the level of interest in voting, exactly the reverse of the situation in 1994, the year the Republicans took over Congress.
In short, there's a lot of disillusionment in the party because the leaders of the party are the ones most out at the fringe, and even if they won't vote Democrat, a lot of Republicans may just not vote this time around.
That may be good news for the Democratic party, but I think it's bad news for Democracy. One reason I don't like the two-party system is that people can't vote for anyone who really represents their interests, but mostly because with these monolithic parties, it's hard to feel like anyone is paying attention to you anyway. Of course, I still feel it's a cop-out on the part of these Republicans who won't go against their own party out of some misplaced sense of loyalty. Many Republicans disagree with almost everything their Republican government has done since 2000 yet refuse to take action against them, partly because they feel as if their only option is to vote Democratic as a rebuke to the Republicans, instead of voting for a party that really does represent their interests.
Still, a choice has to be made. To anyone who disagrees with the policies of the current government but will not vote against them out of some misguided idea that being loyal to a political party means something, shame on you. Doing what's best for America has nothing to do with supporting one party to the death.