John Lupton ponders politics
John Lupton is a lifelong Republican. His father, also named John Lupton, represented this area for 10 years in the state Senate. The elder Lupton was co-chairman of Barry Goldwater's Connecticut campaign in 1964. He also ran for governor and U.S. Senator, losing to Lowell Weicker in 1970 in the first-ever Republican primary in Connecticut.
The younger Lupton was president of Staples High School's senior class in 1965-66. He gave the Memorial Day address that May, and after graduating from the University of Minnesota went to work for the Republican National Committee. He was Bob Dole's administrative assistant, and described Washington during Watergate as "fascinating."
Lupton spent most of his professional career in advertising, in New York and Atlanta. He was elected to the Georgia General Assembly in 1982, and served five terms. In 1988 he was Georgia co-chairman of George H.W. Bush's presidential campaign. In later years he spent enormous time and energy "holding off Ralph Reed and the religious right, who were trying to take over our party."
Now back in Connecticut, he is reassessing everything he knows about politics.
"I'm at a place right now where I cannot call myself a Republican," Lupton said. "I am embarrassed by the approach these hate-filled, angry zealots are taking today."
But he is not leaping across the aisle to the Democrats' side.
"It's both parties, not entirely the far right," Lupton said. "Our system is broken. Our elected officials never ask if something is logical, or `the right thing to do.' They all want to know what's in it for them."
Lupton offered a long list of problems with today's political parties.
"Why should our representatives, and eight million other federal employees, be granted their salaries for life, as is now the way?" he asked.
"Why is there not a legal, binding overseer in Washington that can shut down the unbelievable number of earmarks and add-ons to legislation that is of a completely different nature? This makes simple good sense; it's not conservative or liberal. If you don't have the money, don't spend it."
Lupton continued: "We need some serious healthcare reform in this country, especially to include the 40 million people who have none right now. Do the logical thing first and fix that problem, before you turn the whole system upside down without any understanding of what the longer-term consequences will be."
Our political system was created for "a smaller, less complicated country," Lupton said. We must change now "to make the current conditions and system more viable." For example, he said, citizens' right to bear arms was important "because we had no police, no National Guard, no army for protection."
Other political traditions that date from an earlier time include voting on Tuesdays. "Why not spread it out over a weekend or a week, as they do in many civilized countries? Why don't we limit the length of campaigns like the British do? Why not make a candidate prove his charges and claims against the opponent?"
Politics has been Lupton's "love and passion" throughout his life, he said. In the current climate, however, he no longer wants to participate.
"I think we're seeing the end of the American two-party system," Lupton said. "If neo-conservatism goes as it has been going, where is the home for independent, moderate-thinking Republicans?" He said that his father -- known as "Mr. Conservative" in the 1960s -- would be thought of as a moderate in 2009.
"But there's also no home for moderate Democrats," he added.
Lupton sounds apologetic when he tells fellow Republicans, "I believe in a woman's right to choose, and I don't think people should have handguns in their back yard. I feel almost embarrassed, like I have to apologize for saying those things."
He enjoyed his time in the Georgia House. "It was one of the greatest times of my life," he said. "I actually helped make a difference on massive problems. Politics is a lot more than sound bites."
But, he said, "I worry that our system is irretrievably broken. I love Chris Shays, but why should he get a $150,000 pension for the rest of his life. We can't repay soldiers who fight our wars. Why do we keep paying politicians like this?"
And, he fears, "no one is asking questions like this. We need to start a dialogue on these issues. I don't know who will start the discussion, but we have to have it."
Lupton concluded, "I worry for my son and daughter, and their friends. Something has to change. Our system has to be much more pragmatic.
"Maybe I'm naïve, but I worry about this country, and the direction we're racing in."