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The Zen of Republicanism

By Jack J. Woehr
web posted March 18, 2002

It has been a year since I became a registered Republican. It has been an interesting year, if only for the attacks I came under in online debate from individuals who misappropriate the fine English word "liberal" to describe their lycanthropic political tendencies. After two Lincoln Day dinners, I'm starting to grok the Zen of Republicanism.

The Jefferson County, Colorado Republicans' Lincoln Day fest was done up just right at the Denver West Marriot, even including a vegetarian entrée in a tip o' the hat to the new age. Chairman Bill Skewes was short and sweet and kept the speechifying moving along briskly, for which I congratulate him. A half-hour of free-from mingling followed by an hour and a half of dinner and dignitaries let me escape with my daughter right before the auctions started. Total investment was two hours. "Who could ask for anything more?"

Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colorado) accepts a copy from Jack J. Woehr of the November Coalition's Proposal to Amend Title 18 United States Code, § 3624(c) to decrease time served behind bars for nonviolent offenders. Sen. Allard and Mr. Woehr were attending the Jefferson County, Colorado annual Lincoln Day dinner at the Marriot Denver West Hotel in Golden, Colorado on February 23. Photo by Jelena Woehr

After being introduced by cheerful and subtle senatorial wife Joan Allard to my teenaged daughter, U. S. Sen. Wayne Allard was himself charming  and charmed. Allard was a veterinarian before he was a congressman, now senator, while my daughter wants to pursue a career as an animal behaviorist. Allard, up for re-election, has joked that he tells his wife, Joan, "I've got to win, dear, or it's back to cleaning cages." When Allard speaks personally or ex tempore, he is vastly more animated and compelling than when delivering set speeches. I have seen him in town meetings and sense that they exhaust him. This is hardly surprising, as he has consistently fulfilled his commitment to hold town meetings in each of the sixty-six counties of Colorado. I am glad that I do not possess a television so as not to have to see what I suspect the black magic of the boob toob does to this very human man.

U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, related by marriage to Allard (whose son married Campbell's niece, if I have the story straight), is sometimes viewed askance by the party ultraorthodox, but is more accepted each year since his party switch thither after the 1994 election. He and I have met and argued drug war policy several times over the years, once locked in the American Cancer Society jail together to be "bailed out" by our respective supporters by means of a donation to the cause. This time I had a much easier question for him, one about how to repair a piece of silver jewelry. Sen. Campbell is a world-class silversmith, when not busy riding his Harley across the Southwest or serving in the nation's capitol.

U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo was bullish on immigration reform, which means to him something not far from building the Great Mexican Wall. I pointed out that Mexico had nearly been against us in World Wars I & II, and that the likely future of North America was one nation, under God, stretching from the North Pole to Venezuela. In view of this, I asked, why not just support Pres. Bush's initiative to "regularize" the status of Mexican illegal immigrants? He replied, "You can take that position, and it's a reasonable viewpoint, one held by many in Washington. But I want it accomplished de jure and not de facto which is more or less what's happening under the present state of affairs." The conclusion was that the Hon. Tom was kind enough to invite me to sit down with him at his local office later this week, at which time I can strive one last time to convince him that Kurt Vonnegut's Bokonon was right when he said that Caesar never really knows what's going on.

Conservative Colorado Representative Shawn Mitchell from the newly countified Broomfield was seated at our dinner table. I confessed to being sort of a one-issue kinda guy and asked him if I was correct that he was associated with some drug policy reform measure before the Colorado Assembly? Turns out he's moving for civil forfeiture reform to hold the government to a higher standard of proof than currently. The interesting thing about this was that the Hon. Shawn associated the one reform with other reform, without any intermediate forensic hedging or logical or verbal gymnastics. There are definitely some well-clued younger conservative legislators.

Perhaps the most unusual guest at our table was a Jordanian gentleman in his 60's who had become as US citizen in the early 1990's. He is a Christian of the Eastern Orthodox persuasion. He told us that he became a Republican because they always talked about family values, and that these values are very important to him. He said that as part of his participation in his community, he always went to some other church Sunday morning before going to Orthodox church. He told us that the preachers rub their hands when they see him coming, thinking that they have themselves a Moslem convert. "No, I tell them, my family have had Christianity as their religion since the 300's when Constantine became Emperor of Rome." He was frankly nostalgic for the Ottoman Empire (1454-1919) under which his Christian forbears could easily and safely travel anywhere between Egypt and Greece without passports.

The Zen of Republicanism? Like satori, it can only be experienced, and not conveyed by words. However Zen offers koans, riddles that point to direct enlightenment. The Lincoln Day Dinner left me with the following koan to puzzle over:

Gov. Bill Owens had been scheduled to address the event, but was called away to Washington some weeks in advance for the Lincoln Day weekend. Lt. Gov Joe Rogers was present, but the governor's spokesman briefly greeted the faithful in lieu of a few words from the Lieut. This is not surprising, in view of

  1. the Hon. Joe's candidacy for the new Colorado Seventh U.S. Congressional District (which makes any speech from him grounds for Yet Another speech from one of the other primary candidates), and
  2. the incontrivertible truth that His Honor the Governor of Colorado cordially detests the Lt. Governor to the extent of having the laws of Colorado amended to allow the gubernatorial candidate to select his own running mate autocratically as of 2002.
No, it's not surprising the Hon. Joe didn't speak until you remember that Joe Rogers is one of the highest ranking African-American public officials in the United States of America today. In any sane political context you'd have this guy on the circuit as the number one state spokesman for the party, perhaps on national television once a week. So what's with the party's damnation of Joe by faint Lincoln Day praise?

Well, the Republicans are sticklers for form. Joe has openly contradicted our good and competent governor, to the point of going to law with the man at the taxpayer's expense. No matter that Joe is personally one of the sweetest, gentlest, most dignified human beings in Colorado politics. He has a tendency to issue statements in an ebonified prose that grates on delicate ears, writing, for example, of his past feud with governor as being "water under the budge".

When I was still a Democrat candidate for the state assembly in 1998, I really had to shake Joe Rogers' hand. I heard about what happened to him before a religious pressure group during primary season that year. They had thrown up in his face the fact that he had authorized induced labor for his seven-month pregnant wife. A friend told me that Joe had tears in his eyes, spoke and said that the doctors told him his wife was going to die, that her only chance was induced labor. And that they induced labor, and the child was born, and the mother lived, and the child lived, and that his daughter was now many months old, and that he loved that girl, and that he loved his wife. Joe's hosts at this point coughed a couple of times and said, well, they felt that cleared that up, with no stain on his character. Inquisition closed.

The cynic could conclude that the Republican faithful feel that if Joe Rogers wants Mr. Man's job, he'd better learn to act like Mr. Man, but this is unfair. Most Republicans feel that the party is one of the more refined meritocracies in human political history. They think that Joe's truly infantile rows with the governor showed he did not understand the rights and responsibilities of the office for which he successfully stood election. They don't want to promote the careers of demagogues, which tendency Joe has, quite understandably, exhibited on occasion.

There's something gentlemanly, in the Confucian sense, in the party's attitude, but if I were the power behind many thrones, I'd find some accomodation with Joe and let the rise in his stock buoy the rise of the corporation's stock. I don't know if that's True Enlightment, but I find it's all the Zen of Republicanism I'm able to muster at present.

Jack Woehr of Fairmount, Colorado knows the difference between Democrats and Republicans: Democrats promise to abolish death, Republicans promise to abolish taxes.

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