WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A DEMOCRAT?
The Democratic Party is comprised of a large number of people of diverse origins, attitudes, and philosophies. By design and tradition, it encompasses a very big tent. As a result, it is difficult to summarize effectively what Democrats stand for. The truth is that Democrats stand for a multiplicity of causes and political philosophies.
In attempting to define the essence of the Democratic Party, it is reasonable to say that many of the beliefs that Democrats hold dearly are embodied in those ringing phrases in the first part of the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Certainly, Democrats have proven to be the great champions of the concept that “all men are created equal”. The dramatic advances that minorities, women, and gays have made in being treated as equals before the law have been strongly supported by the great majority of Democrats. The Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were initiated and signed into law by a Democratic President, Lyndon Johnson, and supported by a Democratic majority in congress. The long battle for equal rights for women has been actively supported by the Democratic Party and its members. The recent removal of restrictions on gay marriage and civil unions and discrimination against gays in the military has been largely initiated by Democrats. First and foremost, Democrats believe in equal treatment before the law. Democrats believe that without equal treatment there will be no liberty of the type envisioned in the Declaration of Independence.
Democrats also believe that, in addition to legal equality, we must have reasonable equality of economic conditions. The Democratic Party created programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to provide some measure of basic security for all members of our society. As Democrats, we generally believe that a true democracy cannot survive and prosper unless every citizen has a realistic opportunity to have a roof over their heads, adequate food, and access to medical care. Democrats believe that there can be no real “pursuit of happiness” for a large element of our society unless we reach out to take care of our least advantaged citizens.
Most Democrats possess a healthy dose of skepticism for the ability of our free market system to equitably distribute the benefits of our economy to all stratas of our society. We, therefore, believe that one of the legitimate roles of any government is to attempt to provide basic levels of support for the average wage earner, and especially for the poor, the old, and the disabled. Most Democrats believe strongly that “we are our brother’s keeper”.
These views are in direct contrast to the philosophy of most Republicans who contend that every individual is responsible only for themselves and that government has no legitimate role in attempting to reduce the economic disparities inherently created by a largely unregulated free market economy.
Ultimately, these contrasting values can be reduced to one of compassion for their fellow man by Democrats and the reliance by Republicans on individual responsibility and the glorious benefits bestowed upon us by an unrestrained free market.
Democratic Party Chairman – Washington County, Texas
Published by Roger Sessions on behalf of George Dillingham