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Guest Opinion: An aristocracy of the people

E.M. Forster wrote in “Two Cheers for Democracy”: “I believe in aristocracy, though — if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power, based on rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure, and they can take a joke.”

When I think of progressives, what comes to mind is not the lefties so easily stereotyped in the '60s; rather I think of those who created the New Deal, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, who were in office when we landed on the beaches of Normandy and sat next to Stalin and Churchill as allied troops slogged across some of the most lethal terrain imaginable on their way toward Berlin.

And, to be fair, there was Teddy Roosevelt, who created some of the most jaw-dropping parks Americans continue to enjoy today. And not to forget, post-World War II, the Republicans who embraced the construction of the Interstate Highway System that now connects our nation, coast to coast.

When I think of those antecedents, men and women — and not to forget Lincoln — Forster’s words come to mind.

And when I think of conservatives today, those who righteously stand on the right, I cringe at the thought that in this coming mid-term election they could be rewarded by the electorate. Granted, I sit in the cheap seats, but I also try to pay attention, and the Republicans seem like a mean-spirited, narrow lot, perpetually cranky, folks driven by the uncompromising edict that government is the problem, not the solution, and are not above shutting down Washington, costing billions, in a dark attempt to blackmail President Obama.

Mitch McConnell, running for re-election in Kentucky, has promised, if given a majority in the senate, the Republicans will tear the Affordable Care Act up by the roots.

And that same majority will make sure the federal minimum wage will not be raised and equal pay for equal work will never pass. Our failing infrastructure will remain unrepaired. Man-made climate change will still be questioned. And in the grim shadow of Sandy Hook, those same Republicans will stand with the NRA while rejecting even the most benign gun registration.

Meanwhile, conservatives will continue to shut down women’s wellness clinics and make it all but impossible for many to avail themselves of their still-legal right to have a first-trimester abortion, even if the cause is rape or incest.

And to insure that they win the much coveted majority in the Senate, while buttressing their majority in the House, they have pushed for onerous voter I.D. laws, despite the fact that voter fraud is all but non-existent. Such laws will, of course, suppress the votes of blacks and Hispanics (who tend to vote Democratic).

How to comprehend that the Republicans are riding a growing wave of voter support, one they hope will crest on Election Day and result in their winning a majority in the Senate and thereby take control of both houses?

What has been equally disconcerting is the retreat of the Democrats from what has been accomplished since President Obama was elected in 2008 (where’s their pluck?). Start with health care. Defend it. It’s a fine start. Stand with the president on any given dais and point out that it is the Republicans who have malevolently obstructed the president’s efforts to fix what the previous administration wrought while having the temerity to accuse him of being ineffective.

How is their strategy not obvious and why would they be rewarded?

Chris Honoré lives in Ashland.