I am a Democrat and proud of it.  Since the time of Thomas Jefferson, the Democratic Party has been the political voice of Southern gentlemen.  And gentility is still the party’s main hallmark; in fact, it is the only party with heart.  My ancestors fought for the Democratic Party in the Civil War, and I still can’t help viewing the other bunch as carpetbaggers - interlopers who are out of place here in the southland.

       My granddad, who came to Florida from north Georgia during the Great Depression, had a large picture of Franklin Delano Roosevelt hanging in his living room.  And he despised Republicans, always coupling any mention of that party with terms of scurrility.

       By long-standing tradition Southern society has been divided between cultured gentlemen and “poor white trash.”  Naturally, gentlemen were affiliated with the Democratic Party.  That all changed in 1964.  In that year President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, and he is said to have turned to an aide and remarked, “We have just lost the South for a generation.”

       Radical racists parted company with the Democrats and set themselves up as “Dixiecrats.”  Then when they were rejected at the polls, they turned Republican.  The Republican Party became the home to Southern bigots and still is to this day.  The first Republican, Abraham Lincoln, would not countenance this new breed that has infiltrated the GOP.  It has attracted simplistic absolutists, arrogant super-patriots, unschooled book burners, dogmatic Fundamentalists, short-sighted profiteers, racist fanatics, and chauvinistic isolationists.  They claim to stand for the Constitution, but they have not hesitated to trample its guarantees of freedom underfoot and to break laws right and left that stand in the way of their drive for power and more power.

       Some of these rightist politicians have the gall to call themselves “compassionate” conservatives, because they know that compassion is generally lacking in the Republican camp.  But this is just a ploy, because their entire agenda is still “Me First!”  By contrast, thinking people are drawn to the Democratic banner.  In any presidential election, the Democratic Party carries the most progressive states and the cities that are homes to the universities.  Why any woman, any schoolteacher, or any person from a minority race would be a Republican is beyond me.

       The direction the Republicans are headed in this country is toward bigger armies and loss of individual freedoms in order to guarantee security from foreign foes, both real and imaginary.  Benjamin Franklin once admonished, however, that any people who seek security before liberty are not deserving of either.

                                                                  Richard L. Atkins