Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Why I am A Democrat

Still Democratic After All These Years

My party is held in a big tent with no burly security guards at the flap. I am a Democrat because my party looks like America. It is not crowded with one race, ethnic group, religion, etc. You don't need an expensive ticket to get in. Everyone's invited. There are some there I won't ask to dance. There are some who are a little too wild for my tastes. There are some who dance with Democrats but, you can tell, are really just slumming: they'll sip champagne with the fat cats next week. There are some who begin as the life of the party but end up hogging the hors d'oeuvres or even robbing the cloakroom... er, the table in the corner piled with coats and purses. But I find the revelers here, in general, more congenial to my beliefs and inclinations than those corvorting at the country clubs. And ours are much better dancers.

Admittedly, I have some negative reasons for my party choice. I am a Democrat because I believe there are, among the other guys, more politicians who are rotten guys. McCarthy, Atwater, Schlafly, Limbaugh, Nixon, Agnew, Bush, Cheney, Starr, Rove, Ashcroft, Coulter, Robertson, Chambliss, Delay, Falwell. Those who look to the worst in human nature. Those who are greedy and arrogant. Those who see themselves as intellectually superior and therefore more deserving. Those who think that those worse off than themselves are deservedly so. Those who are dismissive of, unconcerned for, arrogant toward people of lesser wealth, lesser ability, lesser intelligence. Those who have little or no respect for honest laborers. Those who trust the free enterprise system to cure all ills. Those who demand self-sufficiency from the poor but welcome government perks themselves. There are, of course, many at the other party who do not fit those negative stereotypes.

My choice is primarily a positive one, though. I am a Democrat because I believe my party has, over the the years, most closely supported my political ideals: civil rights and equality of rights, collective stewardship of the environment, strong public schools, separation of church and state, a role for the government in promoting the general welfare of all its citizens, a strong, sensible, diplomatic foreign policy.

I am a Democrat because, as I review my life, I find that my votes have proven right much more often than not. My party adopted the civil rights movement that is accepted as the correct position by almost everyone now, even some who fought it tooth and nail 40 years ago. It was primarily members of my party who led opposition to the Vietnam war and virtually all Americans eventually came to see that war as the mistake that it was. Democrats saw Richard Nixon for the fraud he was when he was the darling of the Republicans. My party opposed Ronald Reagan’s economic policies and those policies nearly bankrupted our nation. Many in my party told America that George W. Bush was the blustering little bully he has turned out to be. They told America his policies would divide us, derail our economy, lose us our allies, and make the world a more dangerous place. They were right.

I am a Democrat because I revere so many of our party leaders of the past and present: Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J.Q. Adams, Jackson (blemished though he was), Cleveland, Wilson (warts and all), FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, Truman, Stevenson, Marshall,
Humphrey, JFK, LBJ, (despite Vietnam)
Russell (warts and all),
Ellis Arnall,
Charles Weltner, Fulbright, Scoop Jackson, Robert Byrd, John Lewis, RFK,
McGovern, Nunn, Carter,
Andrew Young, Christopher, Mondale,
Wyche Fowler, Kerry,
Al Gore, Bill Clinton (warts and all),
Hillary Clinton, Allbright,
John Edwards,
Obama, Warner,
Bayh, Bo Ginn
(despite the mistakes of his last years),
Rockefeller, Cleland,
Buddy Childers,
Mildred Greear...

Not that our Democratic heroes don’t have faults. We have our share of charlatans and lechers. But in general I prefer our flaws to those of the opposition. I recognized Bill Clinton as the blemished genius he is. I was not surprised that he disappointed us in his personal life (he is a member of the sexually undisciplined baby boom), but his public decisions and appointments were right on target. It seems that, in our history, those who make the most show of public piety often turn out to be rats, while those who acknowledge their sinful natures often have the most saintly public records. I’ll take Cleveland over Blaine. And I’ll take the lustful Clinton over the surface piety of Bush any day.

It seems to me that our forefathers understood that it is perfectly legitimate for us to covenant together as a society to do things for the common welfare. My party understands that. These days it is in our interest as a nation for all our citizens have good opportunities for education and good medical care. We need to have opera, art, folk music, storytelling, serious and civilized radio and TV discussion: none of which will survive a “free-market” that prefers sentimental, or sexy, or “reality”, or flamboyant programming. It is important to have a reasonably intact passenger rail capability, even if the market won’t support it in the short term. It is in our national interest that big business be regulated; that laborers receive a fair wage; that the difference between the rich and the poor not be so extreme that it foments hatred and revolution. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet deserve to make good profits from their hard work, and smart investments and should not be so severely taxed that they do not want to keep building the economy; but no one “deserves” the money those guys make as long as poverty exists in the world. A progressive tax is NOT unfair to those of us in the top twenty percent of the household income scale. We are incredibly fortunate to have been born with the brains, energy, health, sanity, emotional stability, connections, and luck to have climbed over more than 80% of the population.

I chose my party carefully and I have never been sorry for the choice. The choice has never been clearer. It is the right one for me. I am clearly, proudly, plainly, undeniably, comfortably, to my yellow-dog marrow, a Democrat.


I would argue that most, if not all, the views I have expressed are majority opinions in the United States. On the Liberal Quotient scale, I couldn't be more than one standard deviation above the norm. Maybe a 115 L.Q. or so. (I realize that there are those among my readers who would prefer to express this as 85 C.Q.) Therefore I will continue to lay claim to the label of moderate. I have liberal friends whom I admire, and there is no disgrace in that label, but I don’t think I qualify for it. But I’ll save that discussion for another post. By the way, here is the thesaurus's take on "liberal". So if liberal is the label you, dear reader, want me to don, I'll wear it with pride.


  1. thank you so much for articulating why you are a dem because in so doing, you give me voice

  2. I have been so enraged by the Republican Party and their recent convention that I was thinking about writing a piece for my own blog, www.nana-c.tumblr.com, and titling it, Why I Am a Democrat. I remember reading a biography about Eleanor Roosevelt, who expressed why she was a Democrat. I found your site after a Google search for the specific Roosevelt quote. You so beautifully expressed your views, far better than I could ever do, I felt compelled to comment. Thank you!