The comments to my last post and Dr. James’s excellent post on Keith Olbermann’s blistering indictment of the Bush Administration’s assault on democracy and freedom have inspired me to finally get this down. While James and I are coming from different perspectives where faith is concerned (and I suspect we disagree on a few issues), I couldn’t agree with him more about the importance of this election. I encourage you to check out his post and to watch the video link.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about idealism and compromise. I’m an idealist struggling not to succumb to the cynicism that plagues so many of us as we grow older and learn that the world is not easily changed. Unfortunately for idealists, we cannot get everything that we hope for. This is hard to accept, but I have learned that we must be very careful not to use this disappointment as an excuse to abandon the good fight altogether.
Like many American liberals, I believe that the Democratic Party has abandoned its ideals in the name of winning elections. They seem unwilling to come right out and say that they support social services, that they support the rights of the poor, that they support the rich paying their fair share, that they support workers’ rights, that they support environmental protections, that they support women’s rights (including abortion), that they support equal rights for gay people. This unwillingness to take such stands, unpopular as some of them might be, have left the party with nothing real to say.
In 2000 I looked at Al Gore, and because he appeared to have turned his back on the principles I held dear, I didn’t vote for him. I lived in New Hampshire, a state heartbreakingly close to going blue that year, and I voted for Ralph Nader because Gore didn’t live up to my ideals. While the Green vote was not enough to have tipped the state blue (therefore rendering the debacle in Florida unnecessary), the general dissatisfaction with the Democratic party by lefties like me certainly did influence the outcome. I will regret my vote for the rest of my life.
Yes, the Democrats are the wishy-washy party, as Dive so aptly puts it. No matter how wishy-washy they are, however, they are not the Republicans. Make no mistake about who this party is and who it represents. This is not the Party of Lincoln. It isn’t even the party of Eisenhower. Sensing an opportunity to seize the votes of southerners who traditionally voted Democratic but who opposed the civil rights movement, the Republicans made a cold, calculated alliance with racists. Ronald Reagan did not kick of his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of the brutal murder of civil rights workers, because the weather was nice there that time of year. He sent a clear signal that the Party of Lincoln had undergone a fundamental shift. Don’t like civil rights? Vote Republican.
And, speaking of fundamentals, the Republicans also got into bed with the Christian fundamentalists, inviting the likes of Jerry Fawell and his Moral Majority into the fold (Southern Baptist Convention? Founded to defend slavery). The Gospel according to Fawell is that Jesus hates uppity women, science, and gay people, and that until these forces are eradicated from this nation that God will turn his back on it. He preached that America was founded by Christians as a Christian nation, despite all evidence to the contrary. And Christians, especially southern Christians, heeded the call of Fawell and those who followed him, and flocked to the Republican party in droves. As we saw in 2004, this powerful Values block delivered for the Republicans in a way that I hope woke the rest of the country up.
We can see the fruits of this unholy union. An illegal war of choice that many on the religious right see as a religious crusade. The destruction of the ideals upon which this country was founded. A movement to fight equal rights instead of advancing them. A culture of corruption and hate.
The Democrats, afraid to be who they are, have backed away from some of their ideals. They’ve gotten into bed with business interests in order to get money to be in politics. They are a tremendous disappointment on so many levels. But they did not get into bed with racists and religious fundamentalists. They would not have brought our country to the brink of losing everything we hold dear as a free and democratic people.
Even if the only difference between the two parties is that the Democrats are not the Republicans, that’s good enough for me this time. The Democrats do not live up to my expectations, but I now know that a Gore administration would not have been the same as the Bush regime.
I can’t take back my idealistic vote six years ago. But I can cast a better, wiser compromise vote this time. I’m voting for the Democrats.