Why are There Still So Many Democrats?

JFK would not even recognize today's Democratic Party. So, despite all the changes, why are there still so many Democrats?

Sometimes it is difficult to admit, let alone accept, that I am no longer a young man.  It’s not just that my children are grown and I have been a grandfather for nearly seven years, but I just went on Medicare.  Ugh - reality.  However, that also means that I have over 50 years of more than casual interest in the political scene, and I find myself increasingly reflecting on what has happened in this country since John F. Kennedy was inaugurated.

America at her best is a nation of lifters and givers and big ideas.  Now we increasingly seem to be a country of leaners and takers and partisan nitpickers.  We prided in our work ethic, but fifty years of social re-engineering has turned us into a land where too many would rather whine than work, and created a dependency culture in which too many have found it too easy to be treated as entitled victims, and too few see it as their responsibility to be achievers.  And, that “all American boy and girl” has been reconfigured into a hyphenated-American “person.” We have lowered our expectations and in the process we have diminished America

Like so many “seniors” (gulp) I am worried, and not about myself.  I am worried about our intergenerational legacy through which one generation leaves America better off for the next.  We are failing in this responsibility, and I am not the only one believing this.  In many respects it has been the subtext to my blogs, and the key to the upcoming election.  “What do we want America to be?”

Overlooking the point that JFK was elected only after a still under-explained series of “voting irregularities” in Chicago, the Democrats were much different in 1960.  They were for a strong National defense, lower income taxes, individual freedom and personal responsibility.  JFK asked the people to think of their Country first, and not what Uncle Sam could do for them.  He called the Nation’s youth to public service in the Peace Corps.  And, he led - front and center - as those of us old enough to recall the Cuban missile crisis can proudly recall.  When I was old enough to vote, I did not hesitate to register as a Democrat, because JFK was a Democrat.

Somewhere between then and now the Democratic Party has taken a U-turn.  Ronald Reagan often told America that he was a Union President and Democrat long before he became a Republican, but …  “I did not leave the Democratic Party,” he would often say, “the Democratic Party left me.” 

Me too … and millions of other Americans.

I don’t think that JFK would even recognize his brother’s Democrat Party, let alone Obama’s view of the Democratic Party’s role in America.  And yet, despite 50 years of transformation, Massachusetts still has three Democrats for every registered Republican.  It makes me wonder, “Why are there still so many Democrats?” 

When someone asks a Republican why s/he is a registered Republican, they will usually provide specific reasons.  When the same question is asked of Democrats, my admittedly anecdotal experience has been that they are less clear, but usually begin with the “I’ve been a Democrat all my life…,”as if nothing has changed, including their thinking, and often includes the misperception that Republicans are for the rich, hence they could never be a Republican.

This is not especially helpful. So, this week I am asking Democrats, and Unenrolled voters who typically lean Democrat, to tell us why you are what you are.   Here are a number of potential reasons to start your thinking:

  • It’s all about pro-choice abortion rights for Democrats.  Republicans are typically pro-life.
  • Even though Democrats were responsible for Vietnam, and the expansion of Afghanistan, Republicans are seen as the more likely party to be at war.
  • Democrats believe that in-state tuition, free public educational and medical services, and even tax credits for illegal aliens are fair, while Republicans want protected borders and an orderly legal immigration process.
  • Democrats are for higher taxes on the “rich”, even if 50% of the people do not pay any.  Republicans want lower taxes because they are all so very rich.
  • Democrats believe government regulations and controls more effectively steer the economy.  Republicans believe in free enterprise.
  • Democrats are more comfortable with the formation of victim’s groups, and a hyphenated-America.  Republicans believe that America was founded on the individual’s inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
  • Democrats believe in redistributed earnings – sharing somebody else’s wealth.  Republicans believe that the money you earn is your property.
  • Democrats believe the role of government is to provide free stuff.  Republicans want the people to be free from government.
  • Democrats believe that society must redefine the role of the family to meet new lifestyles.  Republicans believe that the traditional family is essential to the success of the culture and the Country.
  • Democrats promote the expanding reach of the Federal government to create social justice and fairness.  Republicans believe that the Constitution limits the powers of the Federal government.
  • Democrats are strongly supportive of Unions for all the good they have done for working people in America. Republicans realize that America now competes in a world economy in which cost of labor is a critical component.
  • Democrats believe that government sponsored discrimination remains an acceptable practice (except in the Olympics).  Republicans believe in equality of opportunity, but not a guarantee of result.
  • Democrats believe that government is the answer.  Republicans believe that government is the problem.

I am worried for America and the opportunities that will not exist for future generations. So Democrats, what do you see that so many of us do not? 

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Kelly Roney September 06, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Jim, you do understand, don't you, that Bush policies (war, tax cuts, Medicare Part D) and failures (the financial meltdown and recession) account for almost all the debt accrued under Obama? You don't get to abandon Bush just because it's no longer convenient. Republicans in Congress didn't abandon him, and he retained power after 2006. Republicans do not care about the deficit. Look at what they do, not what they say. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney both have dishonest tax plans that violate the simplest elementary school standards of arithmetic. Neither actually reduces the deficit. Republicans in office only care about using the threat of deficits to ram through more tax cuts for the wealthy. I've already debunked the 50% claim in this very thread. Give it up, it's a half-truth at best - like practically all your claims.
Dianna Vosburg September 06, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Jim, let me be as polite as I can be: You are misrepresenting Democrats. "All responses to this blog clearly depict Democrats as wanting more and bigger social programs, with no concern for their costs." I responded earlier in this thread that I am a fiscally conservative Democrat, which is NOT the same as what Republicans are referring to when they outrageously adopt the language of "fiscal conservative." What they mean is a policy of neoliberal shock doctrine: predatory, unregulated capitalism. I believe in real fiscal policies that balance the budget ETHICALLY through wise investments in education, green energy development, scientific research, small businesses, the middle class, healthcare, and infrastructure. Social programs should be paid for by fair, progressive taxation. Read that again. Social programs should be paid for by fair, progressive taxation. As you know, our global elite millionaires/billionaires have hoarded over 21 trillion dollars in secret tax havens, and that's the tip of the tax evasion iceberg. I believe in ethics over corruption. The debt is a tragic reflection of Republican mismanagement, or rather a scam on the American people to redistribute the wealth of working families to the ultra rich, who have bought so much government influence that they now form our shadow government. How did this happen? Through systematic propaganda and people who stubbornly believe and/or pass on complete fabrications of reality for profit/power/whatever motives.
Jim Hatherley September 06, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Kelly and Diane, thanks for these notes, but you are making this too complicated. At some point you have to just say that it is what is is, and we are where we are. Just as I note that Bush was no fiscal champion, neither has been Obama. Together they have failed the taxpayers, added greatly to the debt, and constricted the ability of the Federal Government to live within its means. Kelly, do you really believe that Romney and Ryan are dishonest? Really? Dianna, do you really believe that all the taxpayer money paid out via the "stimulus" to the labor unions, alternative energy companies etc. were all above board and completely ethical? My sense on taxation is that it is far more complicated than we understand, otherwise we would simply have a flat tax. On the one hand half the people do not pay income taxes. Is this really a good thing? On the other hand, S-Corporations are engaged in the global economy and they cannot be taxed beyond their ability to compete and provide jobs. I have no knowledge of a conspiracy that has allowed a "shadow government" of Republicans to hoard their money. For as much as I read, and as big as an issue this would seem, we would all know about this were it so clear cut. The bottom line for me continues to be that our Country is broken. It needs a fixer and not a partisan. We saw Clinton last night and saw a Centrist, not an ideologue, and we realize why his Admin succeeded and Obama has failed. Time for a change.
Kelly Roney September 06, 2012 at 04:56 PM
I see, you want people to base their votes only on the things you want them to remember. You want people to choose to go back to the economic policies that allowed financial institutions to cause this meltdown, because, heck, the past is past, and you don't remember it. No thanks. Our country is broken because traditional Republicans have been replaced by radical right-wing Teapublicans. They've steered the GOP so far to the right that it won't compromise on anything, while Democrats have become much more centrist. You claim to appreciate Clinton now, but there's no doubt your party hated him while he was President.
Jim Hatherley September 07, 2012 at 11:38 AM
Not even a nice try.


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