I am a lifelong Southern Democrat. Born in the mid forties in southwest Florida, I grew up in the Jim Crow South when it was a Democratic stronghold as solid as Gibraltar. One of the most furious reactions I ever saw from anyone in my family was the time when I was (young) and, within earshot of my grandfather at a family get-together, happened to utter the phrase, “I like Ike.” His reaction was both visceral and instantaneous and, if he had not recognized me as he rose, I do believe he would have crossed the room and smote me where I stood.
I identified with those Democrats when I discovered that they spoke to the interests of labor, that they saw a role for government in providing a safety net under those who had fallen, and generally considered government a possible tool for establishing standards of protection and assistance for the wider citizenry when that was needed. They appeared to me to represent a more human(e) approach to government, to stand for a vision of the role of government that included compassion and the collective use of our financial power to advance solutions for some of the pressing social needs within the country.
I never left that Democratic Party and I never abandoned those interests or visions. It appears to me, however, that the Democrats have left me. I see what looks like a huge PAC into which has been concentrated the control of what used to be, and still is called, the Democratic Party. That PAC is essentially indistinguishable from a twin that is at the heart of the Republican Party. They are both fed by the “free speech” ($$$$$$$) of what is in effect the world community of international businesses.
The Republicans, however, in addition to maintaining their organic connection with that business community, have connected on a much wider scale to a constituency that I believe once was actually Democratic: the Church. Religion, and most especially its evangelical and more fundamental expressions, was and still is part of the bedrock of the South and those people were Democrats, solid and proud. Since the basic tenets of the Church have remained essentially unaltered for several hundred years, I must consider the likelihood that it is the Democrats that have moved and not the Church.
The Democrats have grown a symbiotic connection to the Republicans’ core constituency: Business, as that constituency has increasingly spread its very substantial power in the form of “free speech” ($$$$$$$) to the parties. Since (as they say in “South’r’n”) “Ya best dance with him as brung ya.” what is still called the Democratic Party has had to increasingly act like Republicans. Acting like Republicans while talking like Democrats has left most of the party’s constituents standing alongside the path confused and annoyed, scratching their heads and looking around trying to figure out whether they accidentally left the Party or the Party deliberately left them.
Both parties’ centers are built on the same foundation: The “free speech” (ok, ok…I’ll stop doing that..) of business, which “talks” to both, though more “loudly” to the one it thinks will win and/or act most effectively in its behalf . While the Republicans have approached and won a new and very solidly united and active constituency in the persons of the millions of faithful in the nation, the Democrats have drifted away from and lost not only that constituency but labor, in whose interests it is hard to speak when you are connected by transfusion to the very corporations for whom those people work; Greens, for the same basic reason, but the Greens see what those corporations are doing to the environment as they convert resources into capital; I think there are more to list and I think the point is made.
The Democrats try hard to distinguish themselves from the Republicans, to create distance between them, and it is hard to get very far away when you are connected to the same umbilicus or even share organs. The Party has a dilemma: It has found the riches and to access them it must leave home. It must choose. At stake is the two party system because, sooner or later, those of us from which the “center” of the party has walked away will, once again, seek to build the kind of representation and power in political expression once offered by the Democratic Party. It is an organic necessity that from within a country founded upon the most Liberal vision of government ever conceived on the planet there must arise a political expression of the values that shape that vision. Be that the Democratic Party, as it has historically been, or be it a rising third party, it will happen. Perhaps the two party system will persist in the form of the Redemopublicratican Party and a Second Party Yet to Be Named.
Democratic thinking has not disappeared. Liberal values have not lost their power. The party that calls itself Democrat has left the building.
I will be a constituent of a party that values human labor; sees government as a tool, not the answer, in ameliorating suffering and bringing social conditions toward civil resolution; that works to tax its citizens accurately and fairly and then turns those revenues to commonly agreed purposes (Yes, I do mean “tax and spend.”); that supports a military that is superior in its quality and then seeks to build alliances and partnerships with neighbors and others in the world community so that military can be used for its best and truest purpose: providing for the common defense. I will join and vote for a party that establishes civil liberties and the sanctity of citizenship as its cornerstone and builds upon that cornerstone administrations that recognize and act as though they are the property of the people and not the other way around. If those principles can be brought home to the evangelical faithful as natural to their faiths, connected to and growing from the basic tenets of the Gospel of Jesus, that’s fine with me, the party I’m talking about really is a big tent. When I hear these principles strongly and genuinely spoken and followed by actions consistent with that speaking I will seek out and support whoever that is.
Or, I shall keep speaking them myself and watch and listen for an echo or a chorus until either there is such an echo and subsequent chorus or I exhale and do not inhale again.
I am a Democrat.
Thank you for your consideration. I invite your reply.
April 18, 2006