Why I am a Democrat
By Christopher B. Daly
It’s not because of the “gifts” that I supposedly get from the government, if we are to believe the recent confidential statements by Mitt Romney. Luckily, I have not needed the government very much in my life (so far) except for the blessings that good government brings to all the people – a terrific public education that lifted me to places I never thought I would go; safe streets and fire protection; clean drinking water and wholesome foods; confidence that my country would not be invaded and occupied by hostile armies.
The reason I am a Democrat is simple: on balance, over the long haul, the Democratic Party has been the single most effective agent for progressive change in America.
No, the party is not perfect. We have our own problems. We have our own corrupt and hypocritical leaders. Some Democratic leaders pander; some are slow to lead; a few are corrupt bozos. Democratic administrations sometimes screw up. Some Democratic voters do indeed have their hands out.
But look at the record. Since 1933, the Democratic Party has been the leading change-agent behind the following:
–the New Deal, including the right of workers to organize and the minimum wage
–the defeat of fascism in World War II
–the civil rights movement
–the (eventual) opposition to the War in Vietnam – and to all the subsequent unwise U.S. military adventures abroad
–the environmental movement, including global climate change
–the women’s movement
–the gay rights movement
–control of assault weapons and high-capacity ammo clips
Needless to say, the Republican Party, as an institution, has resisted each of these long, broad campaigns to recognize the essential humanity of all people and to ensure their rights under law. The issue is not handouts; it is dignity, decency, personal rights, and global peace.
And it’s not as though the Republicans don’t give out “gifts” to their own constituents. If we are talking about political parties that use government as a source of giveaways to their supporters, I would say Republicans do not make such a charge with clean hands.
Republicans spend vast amounts, for example, on defense contracting (even more than the generals ask for). Through tax breaks, they reduce the effective tax rate on many rich Americans to a level below that of the average worker. Through tax expenditures, they subsidize agribusiness, the fossil fuel industry, and a host of other businesses that donate to Republicans or hire lobbyists to look out for their interests. This is the activity that progressives denounce as “corporate welfare” – a charge that many Republicans seem not to even acknowledge.
All that said, I am happy to grant that there are many issues where reasonable Americans can disagree. I will even stipulate that most Americans love our country and have its best interests at heart.
–Should taxes be a little higher or a little lower?
–Should government be a little bigger or a little smaller?
–Should we pay our public bills now or later?
Those questions define the bulk of what we in this essentially conservative, centrist society argue about when we engage in politics. Does anyone seriously think we could not solve those problems if we really put our minds to it?
If Mitt Romney does not understand all this, then he never deserved a role in our public life.