Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why I’m a Democrat (as opposed to "Why I’m Not a Republican")

I believe that we are defined by what we do, not what we don’t do. In the same way, our political choices should be made on who we support, not whom we dislike. In the wake of the government shut down this week, I began to question: am I a Democrat because of what I don’t like about the Republicans or is there something about the being a Democrat that relates to who I am in a positive way?

My parents have more often voted Republican than Democrat. Part of this had to do with the fact that my father was had a small business and Democrat tax policies seemed to hit him harder. Lately in my discussions with them, they have been increasingly annoyed with the Republicans stance on homosexuality and woman’s rights. I doubt that they would call themselves Republicans at this point, but I don’t think they would put an Obama bumper sticker on their car.

It was never clear in my household where my parents felt I should be on the political spectrum. In high school I started developing views that social welfare and public services were essential to our country and I remember my dad arguing these points with me. But at the end of it, I always felt he respected my opinion.

In college, I would say, I was pretty apolitical. I wouldn’t get into discussions about politics with friends and even though most of my friends were Democrats, it didn’t make me lean towards that side any harder.

The first time I felt truly proud to call myself a Democrat was during Obama’s first presidential run. People joke about “so how’s that ‘hope’ working out for you?” For me, the spirit of that election still energizes my passion for this country, my interest in politics and my belief on America.

Today, I am proud to call myself a Democrat, and here’s why:

The Platform: The 2012 Democratic National Platform is a fascinating read. Anyone who claims to be part of either party really needs to read the party’s platform. The foundations of this platform are based in the idea that everyone deserves a quality of life if they work hard and play by the rules. Gender, sexual orientation, access to health care, and education should not hinder people’s ability to fulfill their American dream. It is our collective responsibility as a people and a government to ensure that everyone is given a fair chance.

The platform recognizes critical programs like Head Start, values the roles of great teachers and the rights of workers to organize. It asks for equity in law so that a minority because of money and influence cannot get away with crimes and acknowledges immigration not as problem, but as part of the American tradition that has made our country great.

For the Democrats family values are about allowing people to have flexibility in their jobs to care for their children and protecting children in foster care and adoption programs. In one of the most touching parts of this platform, the Democrats continue to work to offer men support to be good fathers and help them create stronger bonds with their children and their families.

The part of the platform that hit home the most was about women. From making sure women have fair pay to having access to protecting reproductive rights, the Democratic platform addresses one of the most important social issues of our time. Gloria Steinem’s words echo in this document:

Whether or not woman can determine when and whether to have children is the single biggest element in whether we are health or not, whether we are educated or not, how long our life expectancy is, whether we can be active in the world or not.

The Heroes: Hillary Clinton is taking on global changes with optimism. Dan Savage is the most important voice in human sexuality tirelessly spreading the idea that sexual expression is a freedom and universal right. Oh yeah and you can’t forget Bruce Springsteen. Many of my heroes, the people, I respect most in this world are Democrats. These are people who understand facets of our society in deeper ways than I can comprehend. I respect their work and in this way, I honor their beliefs and support the causes and the party they hold dear.

The President: I am proud of President Obama. As a political leader he has weathered a storm of political turmoil with grace and honesty. His instinct is to take the high road without being afraid to point out the truth, which while is sometimes unpopular is necessary. As a Commander-in-chief he has navigated some of the most challenging conflicts of our time while representing the best in American diplomacy opening lines of discourse without compromising our safety and security. As a legislature he has made steps forward to protect the rights of American woman, workers, families and children through economic acts like the Libby Ledbetter act and the Affordable Care Act.

And as a moral leader President Obama epitomizes the best in the American spirit embracing the plurality of the citizens of America with his statements on Gay marriage, Civil Rights and immigration.

The reason I’m a Democrat is because my optimistic belief in the American people is the same belief I have in the American government. The government is not some demon out to destroy our society; it’s an expression of our shared beliefs. To say that government in the problem is to say that our values are the problem, and I simply don’t believe that.

The Democratic Party is not flawless. However these flaws are not in the philosophy of the party or the values that are defined by this philosophy. The flaws are in the choices that are made by politicians. As frustrated as I get when Democrats make bad choices, I know that their motivation lies in the values that are important to me politically and in my personal life.

If the reason you are a Democrat is because you hated Bush or the reason you are Republican is because of your disdain for Obama then you are not what you claim to be.  At best you are simply being a contrarian.

Go beyond the headlines and the talking points and find the party that resonates with your beliefs.  Be with the party that lays out a path that will make for a greater America and challenges you beyond your fears to be a better American. 


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