Remembering John Anderson, The Once and Future Anti-Republican

John Anderson died on 3 December 2017 at the ripe old age of 95. He took all that was once honorable, decent, and respectful in our two-party system with him, I’m afraid. He was a vestige of a past that may never have existed or only existed to a very limited degree when he ran for president in 1980. Now, he is as anachronistic as a penny-farthing. His style and brand of politics is but a wisp of a fleeting dream just the vaguest hint that it ever was there to begin with.

We are not simply knuckling under to pressure or listening to the voices of unreasoning fear and hysteria if we seek to do that which we believe in our hearts is right and just

— John Anderson, 1968, floor speech supporting the Fair Housing Act

By the time he ran for president in 1980, he was the Don Quixote of Republican politics. As the Southern strategy dog-whistling racists were ascending, moderate Rockefeller socially liberal-fiscally conservative Republicans were a rare breed.  Reagan’s election cemented the deal, but John Anderson, bless his soul, was not going quietly into that night. He was tilting at those monstrous windmills marching over the horizon taking over the nation and eventually casting us into this Orwellian nightmare.

Anderson’s trajectory was the opposite of his party’s. He started out as Goldwater-nuke-’em-all-and-let-god-sort-’em-out, Bible-thumping, the-liberals-are-taking-us-to-hell-in-their-hand-basket type. But, instead of hunkering down during the turmoil of the sixties, he popped his ostrich head out of the sand and went to Martin Luther King’s funeral. He toured the impoverished areas of the country. He learned. He evolved.

I legislate today not out of fear, but out of a deep concern for the America I love. We do stand at a crossroad. We can continue the gadarene slide into an endless cycle of riot and disorder, or we can begin the slow and painful ascent toward that yet-distant goal of equality of opportunity for all Americans, regardless of race or color.

— John Anderson, 1968, floor speech supporting the Fair Housing Act

Can you imagine any Republican saying such things now? You barely get lip service to any type of racial equality or notions of any kind of equality. The current political climate has loosed the barely functional much less literate horde armed with bump stocked shotguns loaded with birdshot: they don’t care what they hit as long as they are firing as fast as they can and something  out there is dying.

The time has come to stop telling the American people only what they want them to hear, and start talking frankly about the sacrifices we must all make.

Anderson Offers Barter: Ideas for Votes, Bernard Weinraub, The New York Times (12 March 1980) listed in Wikiquote

If the Republican party stopped telling its base what they wanted to hear, they’d die of the shock and withdrawal of their favorite drug. We live on a steady diet of lies and deception. On super-sized servings of lies served with super-sized sides of deception and washed down with endless super-sized big gulps of trumpery.

But, it takes real heuvos for a politician to put governing above personal political expediency. Heuvos that few in office have now. Consider the positions he took:

  • Pro-Choice — can you imagine it? Political suicide for Republicans now.
  • ERA — that’s the Equal Rights Amendment explicitly extending equality to women in the Constitution for all you young whipper-snappers who don’t remember the fight to amend the Constitution.
  • Supported food stamps back when the program was starting.
  • Opposed the war in Viet Nam
  • Called on Nixon to resign to spare the nation one last agony. Can you imagine any Republican calling on the Ol’ Pussy Grabber to resign to spare us one last agony? They are willing to torture us endlessly just to give the wealthy more of our hard-earned money and our other types of wealth. Giving away our national parks, installing deregulated carcinogenic polluters in our neighborhoods, destroying the environment we live in, pitting neighbor against neighbor…

[My position] is not designed to win votes. It is designed to address itself to what I think is a problem of crisis proportions. I believe that when you are facing that kind of emergency, you have to be willing to prescribe some pretty tough action. I think the American people are ready for some straight answers… When you are confronted with a genuine emergency, then I think you have to look at the interest of the country first.

Issues and Answers (9 March 1980) in Wikiquote

In the fight for the Fair Housing Act, he actually brought some Republican votes with him. In the deadly fighting among Republicans now on the Affordable Care Act or the Milking Every Last Penny from the Poor and Middle Class Act who are the John Andersons? In the horrible moral debacle that is the Roy Moore for Senate campaign, who are the John Andersons?

Is it Susan Coffins (R-Ghost-of-Medicare-Future)? Barbra Milquetoast (R-Fuck-the-Poor)? Jeff Flaked Off (R-I’m-in-on-the-DACA-conversaton… stop laughing they said they’d consult with me!)? Bob Put-a-Cork-in-it (R-My-Soul-Itches)? John Look-at-me-I’m-all-maveriky McCain (R-Mavericky)? These wet noodles who are at best inconsistent with their votes and only find their moral fiber as they sift through their shit? These Republicans? They couldn’t take a moral principled stand if the gallows about to hang the country were built on it unless it didn’t hurt them at the very least as in Bob I’m-Quitting-So-What-Do-I-Have-To-Lose Corker and Jeff I’ll-Be-Primaried-Out-Of-My-Seat-Anyway Flake and John The-Big-C-Has-Finally-Caught-Up-With-Me-So-I’ll-Be-Mavericky-Only-When-It-Makes-Me-Money McCain or if it will mean their re-election as in Susan Are-Those-PROTESTERS-at-MY-Office Collins or Barbara I-Won-A-Write-In-Campaig Murkowski?

Did you know that John Anderson was an Evangelical Christian? He was an evangelical who had internalized his Christian values so thoroughly that when he finally got out of his Mid-Western white cocoon and saw the absolute aparthiedic abomination that our country had become he didn’t cinch his mouth shut into the anus-like countenance necessary to prevent the truth from seeping in through the cracks, but changed his positions!

Changed. He. Changed.

His passing is a reminder of what the loyal opposition can be, how necessary compromise and dialogue are in a democracy, and why we need to govern from the center. His passing is a warning, perhaps one of the last warnings that we’ll get, too, as we continue our slide into authoritarianism.

God bless, John Anderson. They don’t make ’em like that any more.

Categories: Thoughts

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4 replies »

    • Howdy Chatty!

      That’s the way of most third party independent candidates, after the election, they fade away. At most they’re good for two cycles like H. Ross Perot or are perennial candidates like Ralph Nader lurking in the shadows threatening to run and once in a while they do and throw an election.

      Anderson blazes brightly in my memory because that Reagan-Carter-Anderson race was the first I could vote in and one of the first that I paid careful adult attention to. I had been a political junkie since LBJ’s run and resignation, but the political musings of a six year-old hardly count for much.

      At his passing, I was reminded of his basic human goodness that seems to be lacking on both sides of the aisle nowadays.



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