Why are you a Democrat?

Ten months into Trump’s Presidency, Trump’s approval rating is historically low and members of his campaign are under indictment, yet the prospects for the Democratic Party appear bleak. At a time when we should be harnessing the energy of a grassroots movement to revitalize American democracy in 2018, Democrats are beset by infighting and chaos. Most of this is driven by disagreement over what, if anything, the party represents.

The major rift is between bold progressives who want a new direction and the fellow Democrats they see as the Old Guard establishment wing of the party. The two sides mostly agree on about 98% of issues, but have serious differences on key points. One of the main sticking points is the role of corporations in our political system.

The Democratic National Committee has drawn criticism for appointing corporate lobbyists to powerful positions as “superdelegates.”

Let’s look at the numbers. In 2016, there were about 4700 delegates to the Democratic Nominating Convention, including about 700 superdelegates, most them elected Democratic officeholders. Recently, DNC chair Tom Perez nominated a slate of 75 superdelegates, three of whom were corporate lobbyists. One was Harold Ickes, who worked in Bill Clinton’s White House and who has long been influential in the party. One was Joanne Dowdell, who ran as a Democrat for a New Hampshire State House seat in 2012 and is a party donor. Another was Manual Ortiz, who also lobbies for U.S. territories like Puerto Rico.

Three out of 4700 votes is 0.06 percent of the votes, not even a round-off error.

The dispute is a matter of principle, not numbers. Christine Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, has argued that there should be no corporate lobbyists at all appointed as superdelegates and that corporate lobbying should not be what the party is about. That matter of principle is the basis of the uproar over the Perez appointments. I agree on the matter of principle, though the practical effect is nil and certainly not worth a damaging split in the party. Especially since most of the superdelegate appointees are union officials and long-term party workers, loyalists, and donors whose work accords with such principles.

I should also mention that the party is in dire financial straits. At a time when a strong Democratic Party is more necessary than ever, they can’t raise any money.

This may explain the need to cozy up to three corporate lobbyists. Of course, by doing that, Democratic leaders increase tensions with progressives who want a politics completely free from corporate influence. Ready, set, civil war.

Or, at least, that’s the unfortunate narrative emerging – a narrative Republicans are eager to cheer on. They enjoy watching us divide and conquer ourselves. It’s straight out of the Cambridge Analytica playbook. Stoke discord among Democrats and use our differences as weapons to defeat our overwhelmingly common goals. They know the absence of a strong Democratic Party will likely add up to seven more years of dominance by Donald J. Trump and his Republican Party.

Will we fall for it? I hope not, but I only see one way to avoid it. It’s time for the Democratic Party to examine its soul and remember why it’s the only major political party that reflects the progressive idea of our nation – a government of, by, and for the People.

It is also the only major party to accept the founding idea of our nation, that citizens care about their fellow citizens and work through the government to provide public resources for the benefit of all. Whether private lives or private enterprise, public resources from roads, bridges, airports, and sewers to public education and public health, to science and technology — computer science (thank NSF and DARPA) to satellite communication (thank NASA) to modern medicine (thank NIH). The private depends on public resources! Every Democrat knows this truth, and it is assumed by almost all Democratic legislation.

Yet almost nobody says these truths out loud and defends them in public discourse. A short paragraph each, powerful truths, yet there is no Democratic message expressing these truths.

These are among the deepest reasons to be a Democrat. But when you get down to the crucial details of everyday lives, there are thousands of reasons. Let’s hear them!

We start right here, with one simple question: Why are you a Democrat?

I want to hear what you think it means to be a progressive and a Democrat. Let’s engage in some Citizen Research and see what emerges. I can make some guesses to start, but I regularly hear from all corners of our country about new and important reasons — Democrats working for real human needs and against real human disasters due to Republicans. What are your reasons?

Let’s start:

I’m a Democrat because. . .

38 responses

  1. Here’s why… Democrats seek to protect the poor and the weak, whereas Republicans seek to enslave them. Republicans won’t admit this — they’ll say they honor personal responsibility and loathe freeloaders — but you can see this across everything they do, from healthcare to corporate taxes.

    PS: Huge fan of yours, George! For a long time too!

  2. I feel that it’s time for a new party that really represents the people…a rehab of the whole “democratic” system in this country. How can we right a corrupt political system without becoming corrupt ourselves?

  3. I believe that the rights an value of people are more important then profits and property.and should be paramount when the two philosophies come into conflict, especially where laws are concerned.

  4. I am a democrat because I believe in the fundamental ideas of a government of, by and for the people. The “government” is not the “solution” to all problems, but the people who come together to form the government, particularly those in the democratic party – need to turn our attention to working together, acknowledge important differences and work toward reasonable steps forward that lead to our ultimate goal. Some of the “instances” of working out the differences may be contentious, but if we all can seek understanding of one antother and make reasonable comprimises – then we will all be stronger. After all, democrats for the past dozen or so years have accused the Repulbicans of being unwilling to come to the table to negotiate and compromise to reach reasonable solutions. Rather than focusing on their short-comings in the governing process, let’s model ways to accomplish doing this very thing as a party!

    • I took a quick peek at your blog and this is apropos of nothing in your comment above, but it made me so happy to see the first video – I love Blame Sally – I was lucky enough to see them in a house concert in Seattle a number of years back and it was amazing! I just wanted to tell you that!

  5. I saw an old ‘Hollywood Squares’ program the other night. One of the answers was ‘ostrich’. I thought, ‘Why isn’t there a political party with an ostrich as a mascot?’ [The question was ‘What bird doesn’t stick its head in the sand?’]

    I’m without a party. I was a Green for some years (having helped get it permanent ballot status), until I attended a few meetings.

  6. One reason the party is in dire financial straits is because they are seen as weak, ineffectual and not serving the interests of the membership. I, for one, will not donate any money to the DNC until I see a real change in message and strategy.

  7. I know you can vet responses to your blog, and I’ll understand if you vet this one out.
    I am NOT a Democrat because I am a progressive of less-than-infinite means and energies. The Democratic Party (the organization) is far from being the most effective channel for my finite political contributions and volunteer time.

    The sad fact is that corporatists have nearly all the power within the Democratic Party. It’s not just a few superdelegates–it’s the officers, the committee chairs, the rules committee, all the levers of power that common citizens rarely think about, but that greedy corporatists and their servants focus on 24/7. Having power means that they control things–which motions get tabled and which get voted on; who will make the procedural calls from the podium; who gets accidentally left off the strategy meeting invitations; who gets the money, mailing lists, and the behind-the-scenes boosts to the editors and reporters. Voting these people out of leadership is a fool’s dream–they can determine who is allowed to vote, what they are allowed to vote on, and when. That’s What Power Means.

    Tossing my measly $500 annual political contributions and shoe leather into that pot is utterly futile. Grassroots progressives like me can have more effect on the party by leaving it than by staying with it.

    Corporate Democrats, once in federal office, do not act (ACT, not talk) in accordance with my progressive values:
    + Single-payer health insurance to make sure everyone can obtain the health care they need and that all our healthcare dollars go to health care rather than middle-man insurance companies;
    + Strong protections for investors and financial-services consumers to ensure honesty and stability in financial dealings;
    + A funding system for education that makes it possible for wits, not wealth, to determine how much education each American child can earn, and that allows current student debtors to escape from the crushing debt that keeps them from living normal lives (marriage, kids, home-owning, etc.) and participating fully in our economy;
    + A tax system that keeps the wealth of our nation circulating and producing prosperity for all instead of ‘pooling up’ in just a few pockets;
    + Intense action for renewable energy to care for this beautiful planet that gives us life and joy;
    + Serious government support for labor rights, so that every honest worker on every honest job receives benefits commensurate with his or her productivity, and does not have to risk health or life to do so; and of course, the key to all of that:
    + A constitutional amendment to make it clear that money is not protected free speech, and that lifeless, soulless corporations do not have human rights that they can enforce against us real humans.

    I can put my money and energies into so many other channels, outside the Democratic Party, that will amplify and represent my progressive values.
    + I can support individual candidates whose records generally please me (unless, for a real-life example, the Democratic Party won’t let me canvass for Feingold unless I also actively work for Clinton.)
    + I can support issues I believe in–state and local chapters of Move To Amend are all over the nation, along with other groups pursuing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.
    + I’m actively involved in election integrity work–trying to get our election officials to do the checking necessary to make sure our elections are never decided by computer glitches or hackers.
    + Run for local office as a progressive independent (I did–it’s much more fun than you would think. You get to run around talking politics–even to strangers!–without breaking social norms);
    + I could go on….

    My sense is that if enough of us get to work directly on the issues and causes that reflect our values, Democratic Party leadership will eventually be forced to go where the energy is. I cannot control how soon they will come to their senses, but I hope it’s soon.

  8. I am and always have been and will continue to be a democrat because we are inclusive of people, etc. but also of ideas. We are messy in our discussions but always come together for the country to be of service to all.

  9. I am a democrat because strong federal protections are the only way to avoid tragedies of the commons where individuals gain (wealth), but communities pay the cost (pollution, overuse of resources).

    On a lighter note, some in my community have advocated switching to registering as a Republican in order to vote in primaries. But what if I got hit by a car and died? I can’t have an obit that says registered Republican.

  10. I was born with high levels of empathy, a quality that is lacking or nonexistent in the Republican party. I see change as a constant and am not afraid of it. Progress-ive means that forward progress is being made adapting to the world and its people as natural change occurs. I truly believe that ‘All Men are Created Equal’. I enjoy diversity. I enjoy helping others and see us all connected as human beings. I am not afraid.

  11. I am a democrat because:

    1. It’s the only game in town.
    I am not a party hack, I hate the idea of being for party first and everything else second. Our local party has on occasion nominated a person that is clearly unqualified to hold office, and I refused to vote for them. But . . . every other choice is ridiculous, excuse my French. I think Libertarians are extremist do nothing or else, I like the Green party – but there is no way it is going to be a power at the state or national level. If everyone that had voted GREEN in the last election had voted BLUE, we would not be in this mess. Check it out.

    2. I grew up in Pittsburgh – where people died for the right to organize and improve their lives.
    I have spent my life trying to help others – family, neighbors, the kids down the block – you name it. I see NOTHING in any other party that comes anywhere near that heritage. We at least have a modest hope that we can share values that speak to fairness and togetherness, that hold out hope for a future that our children and grandchildren can thrive in. That OTHER party is so focused on themselves and getting rich and fat, that they cannot even see a path forward. It is impossible for me to believe that they actually think that tax cuts generate growth of any kind, or that the planet is not actually dying under our feet. They are so protective of their position and power and winning the game, that they are not even aware of what they are doing.

    3. My principles are twofold – and fairly simple.

    a – Life is NOT a competition – let go of that. It’s not about winning – it’s not about you.

    b – We are all in this together, and I am pulling for you.
    Every person on the planet has enormous potential, has a skill or capability that could benefit everyone else. I want to give them and you the opportunity to share, to learn, to grow. We are on the cusp of being able to do that – eliminating hunger and poverty, universal education, etc. There are some pockets of resistance – but it is unfathomable to me that anyone does not support this effort.
    Let’s get on board, folks. There is NO other train out there.

  12. I’m a democrat because the Democratic Party is on the right side of all of the issues I care about, from health care to climate change, infrastructure to international diplomatic leadership – but I am concerned that the Party is losing sight of the forest for the trees – losing the big picture (that Democrats are better in office than not) for the small technicalities (like the issue Prof. Lakoff mentions about corporate lobbyists being included as super delegates). We can’t let the opposition divide us, and we can’t let disagreement about how we get to power keep us from getting there…where it counts.

  13. I’ve been pondering my “democrat-ness” of late. I don’t want to be a racist, a nationalist, a selfish person, a money grabber, a denier of climate change and its repercussions, an extremist on left or right, wall-builder (on many levels, not just a physical wall), an exclusionist, and other right of center positions. I’ve heard this: All republicans are not racists, but racists are republicans. So are nationalists, evangelicals, and gun toters. Therefore, I’m a democrat.

  14. Because until recently, Democrats conversed with each other to find solutions to issues, presenting arguments and listening to others. That ended with the Sanders campaign. It ended when Democrats began making corporations the devil. I want to remain a Democrat, but I cannot bear the way we now tear each other apart. Government needs to help people, yes, but do not try to tell me that corporations are not also necessary in today’s world. We need to learn how to talk with each other again.

  15. When I asked my mother which party she sided with 20 years ago she told me she didn’t like either, but she leaned Democrat because Democrats are for pro-worker and Republicans are pro-business.
    I still believe that to be true.

    • My dad said the same thing to me 35 years ago when I was growing up in the northeast corner of Wyoming. I knew three other Democrat families, and one of them was my aunt’s. I also still believe it to be true, and important.

  16. Perhaps this chaotic situation makes for a ripe opportunity to create something that is trying to emerge within the evolution of the U.S. political system. The Bernie phenomenom showed us it is!

    If Boomers can listen deeply to Millenials, the magic could happen.
    Working together, they are the power we need for radical systemic change.

    LISTENING from one’s deepest open heart to ALL THE PEOPLE,
    is imperative for the change to be successful. Being inclusive must be more than a post-modern idea. All of us need to be seen, and heard, and validated, as counting in our human family.

    We can all benefit from learning how to be truly empathetic and compassionate when we hear other opinions and beliefs, AND avoid the temptation to voice our own. Just listen and hear and feel what that person feels, and understand why they do.

    With that experiencial learning, we can truly find ways to include and avoid marginalizing anyone. Trust that it is possible; assume we will rise to a next step of collective higher consciousness and
    allow the answers to come bubbling up to the surface.

    The words “I am a democrat” can no longer come out of my mouth.
    The system is too entrenched. Perhaps we can build on the basics from Bernie, but not within the Democratic party. It’s time for a new way of being.

  17. I’m a Democrat because we believe, 1.) “We ALL do better when we all do BETTER.” 2.) Corporations are not citizens. 3)Trickle down doesn’t.

    To sum it up Democrats work to protect freedom, promote opportunity and provide security for all citizens regardless of race, color, gender, age and societal status.

  18. Rather than defining a Democrat or a Republican, I wonder if our time would be better spent coming together as fellow citizens to define our priorities, the issues that require our attention and commitment, and then work together to transform our country and build a nation that reflects these ideals.

  19. I’m a Democrat because it’s not 1776 anymore. Society has changed in a multitude of ways and we’re not going back (despite what Republicans would prefer). Another reason is that I know that what I have is not just about me and all the wonderful things I’ve done (or imagined I’ve done), but that other people (and the government) played a part. It’s not about “me”, it’s about “us.”

  20. …The Dems more closely align with my values. Originally I was a registered Independent. I am fundamentally for people and planet above profits. I agree that I seem to not be moved by the Dems’ messaging.

    And, are we going to follow the lead of the Republicans over the past 15-20 years and have a public and very ugly fight over the heart and soul of the party? Or is there anything we can learn about what’s still happening with the Republicans and what we could very likely avoid? I don’t mean don’t change, I mean be more cognizant of the process and learn from others’ (and our own) mistakes.

    It is not lost on anyone that there are so many people working in progressive orgs since the election that operate outside of the Dems.

  21. I’m a Democrat because the alternative is too painful to imagine…we’ve had the proof since November 2016. I was going to write what Nancy wrote, but I can thank her instead. Not one penny until real message, strategy, and policy changes emerge. In the meantime, VOTE.

  22. I am a Democrat because I believe our government is not “the problem.” Rather, I believe our government is US. Our government is the means that we establish to allow us to accomplish those things together that we cannot do, or do as well, as individuals.

    I am confident that Reagan and those who followed him did our nation great harm by refuting Lincoln’s claim of “government of, by and for the people.” While Lincoln bound the people and government together into a single enterprise, Reagan sought to split them apart and to make the government “other” than the people. It is Democrats who will, one day, restore Lincoln’s wisdom.

    I may be considered by some to be a “conservative” Democrat, in that I think that the role of government should be strictly limited to doing only those things that require collective action rather than all those things that it might do. But, unlike Republicans, I think that the scope of government evolves, and grows over time, in part as a result of the advancement our of capabilities to the point where beneficial collective action, once not useful, becomes useful. Thus, today, health insurance is proper is a proper function of government while that was less the case in the past.

    I agree that in the days when doctoring was little more than superstition, it would have benefitted few to include health insurance in the list of “proper functions of government” (defense, police, courts, roads). But, today, now that the science of health care and its financing has advanced, we find that collective action for health clearly is, in fact, able to benefit the people more than ever before. As such, we should accept that health insurance is now a proper function of government while it might not have been in the past. Government grows, in part, because the utility of government grows…

    Sometimes, I am accused of sounding like a Republican because I believe that we should leave to the “market” those things that the market does well. However, unlike Republicans and traditional “conservatives” I believe strongly that a “free market” can only remain free as the result of careful and wise regulation by the government. Too often, those who champion the “free market” fight to remove those protections which ensure its ability to remain free of monopoly and manipulation by the few. So, I often find that while the Republicans claim to value the market more than Democrats do, Republican policies tend to weaken the market by removing its protections while the policies of Democrats, who often rail against the market, tend to strengthen it with regulations and protections. The irony is, I think, somewhat amusing. Nonetheless, it is easier to revise an overzealous regulation than to rebuild a market that has fallen into monopoly or oligopoly.

    But, of late, I must say that I also find myself being sure that I’m not a Republican since, as Paul Krugman says: “It is no party for an honest man.”…

  23. You said it well, George. I am a Democrat because, “It is…the only major party to accept the founding idea of our nation, that citizens care about their fellow citizens and work through the government to provide public resources for the benefit of all.”

  24. I’m a Democrat because when my first opportunity to vote decades ago approached, I asked myself what issues were most important to me. Physical survival and quality of life were/are very important to me. That meant protected water, air, and land, and protection and support for women. The Democrats were leaders in these areas. The Republicans, except for Nixon when instituting the EPA, were not. The decision was easy then and still is.

  25. I prefer not to self-identify as either Republican or Democrat, though I am more inclined to side with the latter. I do this because I don’t buy into the former’s belief that all people are equally capable of becoming the next Bill Gates/Warren Buffet/[billionaire of your choosing] if only they weren’t so lazy. Want health care or a decent education? Get a job and pay for it yourself. Don’t want to live next to a toxic waste dump? Move. Yes, it’s just that easy if you’re a Republican. On the contrary, I happen to believe that people sometimes need help and someone or some thing to protect them from the various misdeeds and misfortunes that may befall them. And if I have to pay some taxes for that, so be it. In my mind, it’s no different from a charitable contribution (albeit enforced) and I’m willing to pay my share (and I expect you to as well) to live in a society of decent (hold the god-fearing, I don’t need that fairy tale to enforce morality) individuals.

    But bad news for the Democrats: Even if you get your act together, I’m probably done voting. Why waste my time standing in line for something that benefits no one other than politicians and corporations? The two-party system is doomed to gridlock and even if they do get something done it’ll just be undone by the next guy. I don’t believe in this country any more, now that corporations are on equal legal footing with people (aka Citizen’s United) and have far more resources invested to protect their interests, often at the expense of ours. The “American Experiment” has failed. The USA has become an “every man (or woman, but mostly men) for himself” society, celebrating only individual achievement, so as soon I have the means I’m out of here.

  26. I am also a Democrat because I believe that for wealth to “trickle down” it must first “bubble up.” Wealth is primarily created at the bottom of the pyramid and accumulates at the top. If wealth does accumulate, then it must be that less trickles down than bubbles up. This means that the most effective way to grow an economy, and also the most sustainable way to increase wealth, is to grow demand lower in the pyramid. If you want to make rich folk richer, then first make low and middle income people richer and thus enable more wealth to bubble up and bubble up faster.

    Also, I agree with Andrew Carnegie, once one of our nation’s wealthiest men, who said: “Where wealth accrues honorably, the people are always silent partners.” To me, this says that the “people” are owed their fair share of the wealth that bubbles up to the top and accumulates there. I agree with Carnegie that this is one of the best reasons for an estate tax. We may accept that one should be allowed to enjoy great wealth during one’s life as a means to incentivize the generation of wealth, but at least at death, it seems right that the people are right in claiming their full partners’ share of that wealth.

  27. I’m a Democrat because I believe that we, as a society, have a greater potential when we work together in an organized manner than when we rely solely upon the primal forces that underlie the market and individual objectives. We can be better as a community than as self-serving individuals. We can be even better when we build systems that continually course-correct to guide our communities to be even more optimal at delivering a better context and condition for said community. We can accelerate our potential if we believe in the greater good our our society and minimize the impact of ideological and unempathetic groups.

  28. I am a Democrat because I love my grandchildren, the grandchildren of my friends and the grandchildren of people I do not know. I want to leave them a safe and habitable world in which they are free and prepared to pursue their talents and their desires. Democrats have a least a chance of making my wishes possible. Republicans, well, the less said.

  29. I am a democrat because I believe the function of government is to protect and provide for the citizens of the nation. It is to promote an atmosphere in which business can thrive without abusing the public. I believe government requires oversight by citizens. Those are different levels of oversight but without that oversight we waste a huge percentage of our resources. We have to hold the police, the courts, and the military accountable. I do not see these beliefs in the Republican party. I don’t want tax cuts, I want promises kept. I want the banks held accountable, which they are again not being held to. I want promises made to every generation since FDR to be kept. To beggar seniors by not providing for a living income and then cutting back on their health care is unconscionable. To take the insurance the lower income families finally have away by lying about it is simply unacceptable. I am a Democrat because I believe government is for all the people, not just businesses and the rich.

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