Why I am STILL a Proud, Liberal Democrat

Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch

Yesterday, I received an email that began “Get used to the idea of Obama not winning.” This email came not from some Republican, but from a Democrat who supported Obama in 2008. The writer echoed the thoughts of some of my friends with whom I worked directly on the campaign four years ago. And a year ago, I shared those thoughts.

But this is 2012, and I'm voting for my president, and my party. I've given some money and I'm going to give more. I've been to my first meeting, going to my second next week, and working hard to get off crutches before voter registration season begins in earnest. (Turns out my left knee is 27 years older than the rest of me.)

This is as good a time as any to explain my turnaround, and why I am IN.

Like many on the far left, I spent 2011 incredibly disappointed that President Obama was nowhere near as liberal as Candidate Obama had been. Stunned and mortified by the outcome of the 2010 elections. Appalled at the rise of a right wing that was increasingly hostile. Saddened by the lack of fight from the left beyond petitions. Floored by the lack of speeches and action on the part of our progressive elected officials beyond and excluding Bernie Sanders.

First, there is the basic set of reasons that caused me to choose to be a Democrat. Back in 2007, at the dawn of blogs and before social media, I had an article published in a magazine entitled “Why I am a Proud, Liberal Democrat.” I have posted it in its entirety after the jump, in case you missed its previous publication. I read it again, and everything in the article still rings true for me. My party may be imperfect, but I am imperfect, as are we all. 

Second is the issue of how I define myself and my beliefs in rank order. I am an American, but also a citizen of the world. I am a woman, but also a human being. I believe in civil rights, gay rights, religious freedom, saving the environment, and on and on, it's a pretty long list. So which, I ask myself, are the most important facets to me? Today, in America, my most important are being a Baby Boomer female member of the 99% who enjoys religious freedom. As such, the war on women, the evisceration of women's reproductive rights, the importance of taxing the rich, the ability to NOT be a Christian, and of keeping the economy on its path back from red to black are my issues. 

Finally, there is the decision of who to vote for: I do not consider “not voting” an option. 

In all three areas, there are stark differences between President Obama and whichever one of the remaining clown car riders runs against him. Those four candidates lie with impunity and cling tenaciously to a set of values I consider heinous. I am not an Etch-a-Sketch person, I read and remember, Mitt. I do not believe in Jesus, so Rick, when I saw you cheering the pastor saying we must all worship Jesus, I came to the conclusion that you believe Jews have no place in America. I believe in government as a force of good, and therefore, I can't let you shut it down, AGAIN, Newt. Dr. Paul, you're the kind of doctor that makes me slightly shamed that we passed the same medical boards. Support my president? You Betcha! I put our chances at getting the House back at about 60/40 against, and holding the Senate at 60/40 for. Take a chance on the White House? No way.

As a liberal, I hope that being in his second term, President Obama will act more like Candidate Obama. I hope that he will push back much harder against the wacko right. I will stand with him on women's rights, on education, on climate change and a host of other things. I will swallow his support for Keystone. I will tolerate that he's not yet on board on gay marriage. I have come to the conclusion that no single candidate will mesh 100% with every belief that I have, and I prefer having a candidate who matches me 90% to one representing less than 1% of things in which I believe.

And so I will NOT “get used to the idea of Obama not winning.” I will work, I will spend, and I will remember that elections are won one voter at a time, issues are won one heart at a time….and I will be out there finding my voters.

When she died last year at the age of 106, my grandmother was a proud Democrat who had never missed an election. I was born into a family that valued not only the Party and its principles, but the political process. In my extended family, if you were old enough to stand on a box and reach a table, you were old enough to stuff envelopes. I worked my first election at the age of 3.

But “because that’s how I was brought up” is not reason enough to make the choice as an adult as to which party one wishes to belong. I am a proud, liberal, Democrat because of the ideals and principles involved in the Democratic Party platform and its proud history. While I may not always agree with all of the members of the party and what they stand for as individuals, one of the fundamental tenets of the Democratic Party has always been that many voices are better than one.

The Democratic Party is the oldest continuous political party in the US.  The party was founded by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the early 1790’s as a congressional caucus to fight for the Bill of Rights, a strict interpretation of the Constitution, and a weaker Federal government (relative to States Rights). Jefferson was elected as the third President of the US under the banner of the “party of the common man”, officially named the Democratic-Republican Party. The party split in 1824, emerging as the Democratic Party with the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828, Abraham Lincoln later being the first Republican president.

In the 20th Century, the Democratic Party brought great change to America. Things that we take for granted today were codified by Democratic administrations and Congresses; including, but not limited to: the eight-hour work day, Civil Rights Legislation (integrated schools, voting rights, prohibition of discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex and national origin, and prohibition of housing discrimination), affirmative action, the lowering of the voting age to 18, and the repeal of prohibition.

But it is not just the elected officials who make a Party, it is the people who work for the party (formally and informally). The first US party platform was put forth by the Democrats in 1840. To this day, any registered Democrat can apply to be a part of the platform committee, and Democrats can also testify to make their feelings known to the whole platform committee. It is truly a big tent. The platform is the framework of goals and aspirations: what the Party views as imperative to make America better.

The 1840 platform was brief, and was concerned with limiting the powers of the Federal Government, including avoiding chartering a National Bank, and conferring most powers to the individual States, resolving that every citizen had the right to equality of rights and privileges, and to protection from domestic violence and foreign aggression.

The current platform, from 2004, is much longer then the first, and reflects a world which faces challenges inconceivable to the early Democrats. It is entitled “Strong at Home, Respected in the World” and answers not just to making America stronger in terms of reformed health, education  and jobs programs, but also handling terrorism, nuclear weapons, the world-wide AIDS epidemic, renewable energy, and equality for all.

The final words of the 2004 Platform are as follow: “Members of our party have deeply held and differing views on some matters of conscience and faith. We view diversity of views as a source of strength, and we welcome into our ranks all Americans who seek to build a stronger America. We are committed to resolving our differences in a spirit of civility, hope and mutual respect.  That’s the America we believe in.”

That is the America I believe in, and the Party I think has the best chance of getting us to where we need to be in a dangerous and difficult world. Democrats have a long history of being able to set lofty goals and then achieve them: FDR and his Kitchen Cabinet got us out of the Depression, JFK wanted a man on the moon in a decade, and that occurred sooner than expected, Johnson fought for a Great Society, and much was accomplished in those turbulent times. Were these men, and their associates, perfect? No, certainly not. But their intentions were true, and they made great strides.

I leave you with the words of two great Democrats, who espouse better than I ever could, why I am a Democrat. First, JFK, speaking to the Liberal Party of New York in 1960: “What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label “Liberal?” … [I]if by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I'm proud to say I'm a “Liberal.””

And finally, his brother Ted, after losing the nomination in 1980: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Originally published in Mensa Bulletin, September 2007, p 37.


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