Daily Planet, 6/2014

An old friend wrote me an email reminding me that she was raised “an Evangelical, liberal-hating, NRA-supporting Republican.” Now, she said, she’s terminally disenchanted with Republicans but isn’t ready to become a Democrat. “I don’t want to be under the same roof with all those wacky liberals,” she said.   She changed her affiliation to Independent.

I won’t comment on her wacky liberals other than to say that indeed, there are liberals who scare me, too – but they don’t scare the beejabbers out of me like the no-government, gun-in-every-pocket wackies on the extreme right.

Instead I want to use this space to argue with my friend at a distance, and with the many others like her closer to home in WNC (190 have gone from GOP to Unaffiliated in my small county) – that they should go all the way over the fence and switch from Republican to Democrat.

Today, according to Gallup, 31% of Americans consider themselves Democrats; 25%, Republican; and 42% independent. If the independents are pressed as to how they lean and tend to vote, Democrats and Republicans each add 16%, totaling 47% ideologically Democrat and 41% ideologically Republican.

In 1988 the three groups were bunched at 36% Democrat, 34% independent and 32% Republican. The trend is definitely toward voter independence.

I only have room for one argument against Republicans’ switching to Unaffiliated rather than switching to Democrat. This is it:

Democrats solve problems.

Democrats were in power when all the great and positive changes in American life took place: women’s right to vote, Social Security, minimum wage, overtime pay, GI Bill, Medicare, Civil Rights Act, on and on. Democrats passed the Civil Service Act of 1883 to end the spoils system after Republicans had refused for 20 years.

I raise a question to those who would switch to Unaffiliated: Which of these actions taken by problem-solving Democratic would you do away with?

That’s precisely the difference between the parties. Democrats do.

John Kennedy said it well:

“Government is…a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.”

That’s the heart of Democratic thinking: first, observe points of pain for the people, then be willing to use government power to relieve the pain.

Republicans, on the other hand, find highest virtue in doing nothing. A leading GOP theoretician famously said he wanted government small enough to drown in a bathtub.

The Tea Party, now in power, takes the idea to anarchy. Raleigh Republicans downsized state government and then walked away, leaving counties, school districts – and the people – to pick up the pieces. They’ve created problems where good order existed before them.

Republicans believe that government should stay out of the way and let “the market” do what it will. Problem is, the market believes in bonuses for bosses and disposable working people – and for-profit schools.

That’s my appeal to the pre-Unaffiliated. Don’t go halfway and express yourself only on Election Day. Join the Democratic Party and work to elect Democratic candidates who will do their best to solve problems.

Don’t shrug at GOP disdain for Meidcaid recipients, the mentally ill and other areas of society that don’t turn a profit.

John Kennedy spoke of the Democratic approach as “not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.”

May it be so.