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LETTERS: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

I will be voting in November to return incumbent Republican Sheila Harrington to the office of State Representative in the 1st Middlesex District. I wish to add my voice to the growing chorus of calls made in prior weeks to this paper by prominent members of the Groton community, including former State Representative, Hon. Robert S. Hargraves, and former Groton Select Board member Anna Eliot. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
     Too often in today’s boiling cauldron of civil discord, we find fault with political parties and apply that disdain to all its members. Let’s not confuse a man (or woman) with his political party. Even though I will be voting to oust the current occupant of the White House from office in November, that does not negate my appreciation for the stability and opportunity brought to Groton by another Republican, Hon. Sheila C. Harrington.
There are good people on both sides of center in local and national politics. Representative Harrington has served her constituents well over the years in a calm, industrious, and affable manner. Conservatives and Liberals would do well to view her record considering Groton’s successes and be wary not to tarnish it with the brush of vitriolic national party politics. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.
     In 1972 in Acton, I was recruited by Mrs. Rita (Leys) Dolan, the wife of retired brigadier general John C. “Jack” Dolan, Jr. to co- found the Acton chapter of the Teen Age Republicans, (TAR). As a young teenager, I learned early the traditional values of the Republican party, which at that time was experimenting with Libertarianism, a movement more culturally liberal than Democrats, and more fiscally conservative than traditional Republicans.
     When voters were asked in 1972, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago,” the question did not apply strictly to wealth and income. It also referred to safety, global standing, and economic opportunity. A Republican in 1972 would not have condoned today’s National Debt -- now estimated to be about 137% of the Gross Domestic Product, (GDP). A Republican in 1972 would not have condoned extremist militias on the far Right or the far Left.
     Before and since, political parties have been decried as void of character, values, and benevolent intent. Alexis de Tocqueville once wrote, “There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.” In 1972, the Grand Old Party was the home of Eisenhower, Nixon (whose 1972 election cry was for Americans to “answer the clarion call” to end the fighting in Vietnam), and soon to be home to Reagan and Bush.
     In my youth, TAR taught me that these men were patrician figures who stood for traditional values. They asked for and earned respect in a hierarchical system that ended where the buck stopped at their desk. These values were equally held by capable Democrat leaders of my youth such as Johnson, Humphrey, Carter, and eventually Clinton, although their approach was more plebeian, as men “of the people.” I recall reading in 1980 that Ronald Reagan insisted he be chauffeured down Pennsylvania Avenue in a show of pomp and circumstance whereas “Jimmy” Carter preferred to walk.
The two may have had differing methods but possessed a shared morality. I recall when President George H. W. Bush called to a “kinder, gentler nation” for civility, honesty, thrift, sobriety, hard work and assistance to the poor. The competition between Republicans and Democrats was always intense and occasionally broke rules of conduct, (I am thinking of Watergate or the McCarthy Hearings), but eventually reigned in the extremes of hatred, litmus-testing, forced ideology, and demonization of “the other” that we see running rampant today and culminating in the extremes of violent militia groups on both sides of the debate.
     The parties may be teetering on the edge, but they have solid members conducting the business of America within their ranks.
     Voters can too often be quick and overly eager to eject capable politicians from office when their ire ought to be directed to the renegades who have hijacked the Republican and Democratic Parties. It is misguided to burn down the house and evict all its tenants.
     The extremists in power are in danger of losing not only the election for themselves but for many fine, capable conservatives and liberals who believe in civil business. Let’s not jump the gun. If you want rabbit stew for supper, catch your hare before you start your fire. We need to slow things down. Representative Harrington is keeping our house in order. Slow and steady wins the race. All is well in Groton.
Gus Widmayer
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