It seems fashionable these days to formulate views and opinions based on that which we don’t like, instead of that which we do. This is especially true in politics with the Never-Trumpers or the Never-Bernies serving as recent examples. Everybody is entitled to their own way of thinking, and anyone with a Twitter account and a modicum of free time can make pronouncements, steeped in a lack of self-awareness, that something is categorically right or wrong.
But in my mind, being a Democrat or a progressive or a liberal, is more than the sum of what I’m opposed to, it is about the ideals I believe in and the policies I embrace. It just so happens they run counter to much of what the Republican Party stands for, especially the party as led by Donald Trump. It would be mindlessly uncomplicated to say that I’m a progressive simply because I’m not a conservative. That I’m not a conservative because I don’t see conspiracies lurking around every corner, nor do I view hypocrisy with the expediency the Religious Right does. After all, Donald Trump represents everything they supposedly oppose. Yet their hatred of the Democratic Party is so irrationally ingrained that their inherent hypocrisy wins out as they support a twice-divorced womanizer whose grasp of the Bible is less secure than his self-purported grasp on female genitalia.
Nevertheless, the primary reason why I’m a Democrat is because of what I believe, not what I don’t.
E. Pluribus Unum
To me, E. Pluribus Unum is more than a slogan on our paper currency. “Out of many, one,” carries a two-fold meaning. First, we are all in this together. And, second, our diversity must continue to be celebrated. Being one of the most heterogeneous countries on Earth is what has made us the symbol of hope that we are. Here in Cleveland we regularly celebrate our diversity with events like our large-scale St. Patrick’s Day festivities, the Pride parade, the Feast of the Assumption, or any of the astounding Greek festivals in our county. Indeed, the fact that we have an African-American mayor, a Jewish County Executive, and a Catholic City Council President highlights the varying backgrounds that constitutes our city’s history. By the way, if you think the aforementioned are failing us as residents of greater Cleveland (and there’s ample evidence to support your opinion), it isn’t due to their race, religion, or ancestry I assure you.
Everyone to Whom Much is Given, of (Them) Much Will Be Required
I don’t often quote the Bible, nor do I want to cause anxiety amongst conservatives who believe God is a Republican (I’ll let them find the answer to that one in due time), but this concept is about the idea of sacrifice. As an American, it is incumbent upon all of us to be involved. Yet at the end of the day, it is this simple notion as represented by St. Luke that underlies what it means to be a Democrat today. For example, it clearly characterizes the Democratic Party’s belief in progressive taxation; a belief that has been torn asunder by the modern Republican Party’s fealty to corporations and the wealthy. Yet, it is the conviction to require more from those who possess it, in order to benefit those who do not, that explains why Democrats use government to create and enforce a more just society.
One of my all-time favorite Democrats (who happened to hail from Cleveland) was one of the foremost representations of the above proverb. Paul Newman spoke often about the role luck played in his life. Accordingly, he established a massive enterprise whose profits go to charity, numerous camps for children with life-threating illnesses, and donated the bulk of his personal fortune when he died. St. Luke would be proud.
A basic quest for fairness and justice undergirds the modern Democratic Party as much as any other ideal. Thus, equality of all before the law and therefore within our political system, is a cornerstone belief of Democrats today. In essence we seek equality of opportunity for all no matter their skin color, orientation, socioeconomic status, sex, religion, or nationality. Republicans will have you believe that Democrats want everyone to be equal. It is this bastardized argument, simply stated and more simply swallowed by many of their followers, that fulfills the conservative mindset that the world is a zero-sum, black and white place with no shades of grey nor tolerance for complexities. Democrats do not seek equality of outcomes, just an equal opportunity to let people live out their lives without barriers in their way due to how or where they were born or by anything else that is beyond their control. A child born into poverty, with a flourishing intellectual capacity, should not be prevented from going to college because she was born poor. Nor denied necessary medical coverage because she’s not rich. Nor pulled over in her car because she’s black, or Latina, or female. When this threshold for equality is not met, Democrats believe it is the job of government to step into the fold with remedies.
A Belief in Science and Data
I’m not typically comfortable when politics intrudes on science. Yes, I think human cloning would be bizarre, but otherwise I tend to believe science should be used for the betterment of humanity. If the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice, the arc of the scientific world bends toward progress. For example, measles was once considered essentially eradicated in the United States, yet when simpletons get involved and start making pseudo-scientific claims, actual science steps back in. Thus, more Americans have measles than at any other time in the past quarter century.
I Care About People I’ve Never Met
It’s easy to live in a bubble and think the world revolves around ourselves, our families, and the infinitesimal fraction of the world’s population we call our friends, but billions of other people share this planet and this small period of time with us. Accordingly I want my fellow humans to have the best life possible. And while I won’t say I stay awake nights hoping people on other continents are living the good life, I am sympathetic to the plight of those who suffer
The Constitution is a Living Document
A document written over two centuries ago can hardly be seen as the last word on American society in 2019. The changes in the world since 1789 are so vast that it hurts the mind to think of them. But, when it comes to the difference between progressives and conservatives the debate over the Constitution really gets at the heart of the matter. Conservatives inherently prefer order and maintaining an unbending view of the Constitution fulfills that desire. Meanwhile, progressives view society itself as improvable and rely upon a document that must be interpreted for the times in which we live. Progress can hardly be achieved if we stay rooted in the past.
Capitalism has inherent flaws
The free market doesn’t have a heart. It doesn’t see, much less correct, injustices. Thus, it is the responsibility of a duly-elected government, not some “hidden-hand,” to make corrections. I do not believe government is our enemy. Nor do I believe it is our savior. In most cases it is our last line of defense against countervailing forces whose primary goal is neither justice nor equality. Simply put, I believe in the free-market, but it needs regulations from time to time.
So we’re clear, socialism has its own inherent flaws as well. As does communism, militarism, and especially fascism (if you don’t know the difference between these ideologies or systems feel free to contact me). As Winston Churchill pointed out with his typical elegance: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Any form of government or economic system, created by human beings, will inherently be flawed and not making corrections just because you’re a believer is like not turning the volume up on your TV when it’s low because you’re a believer in Sharp.
The Democratic Party’s History and Evolution
Lastly, the history of the Democratic Party, and its many, varied leaders and proponents, and what it has accomplished and championed over the last century, are an immense part of why I am a Democrat. After all, it’s the party that led America to victory in two world wars while also reducing poverty amongst millions of people of all backgrounds and geographies. The party that helped unions construct the middle class as we know it today with legislation like the Wagner Act. (And, seeks to lift more into the middle class by fighting for minimum wage increases). The party of Head Start and CHIP that aims to help children after they leave the womb. The party that ensured the aged would have health care and a way to avoid poverty in their twilight years with Medicare and Social Security. The party that cares about families, of all kinds, passed the Family & Medical Leave Law and found themselves on the right side of history by championing gay marriage, even if the latter took too long. And of course the party of Kennedy and Johnson who, spurred on by the civil rights movement, introduced and signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, codifying legal and political citizenship for all Americans at long last.
Yes, some Republicans voted for and supported these programs. But clearly today’s Republican Party does not support these ideals. And, I’m equally proud of the Democratic Party and its adherents for driving the segregationists out of their party and into the arms of…well you know where I’m going.
If some or all of these seem interconnected, that’s because I sorta intended it that way. I hope. The history of the Democratic Party is not without mistakes. And practitioners, elected and unelected, are not without flaws. But these are the underlying reasons why I’m proud to be a Democrat today.