Over the past month, the current Administration and the Republicans in Congress seem to be imploding on themselves. It shouldn’t be hard to make some gains in the 2006 elections, but frankly, I’m not sure I have confidence that Democrats are going to do a good job articulating a message. So far, we’ve been sitting on our hands watching the Republican tent crash around them, but the American people aren’t going to switch to the Democratic side unless they hear a message that resonates with them.
What do Democrats stand for? It seems a common refrain, or assumption, that Democrats do not have an overall theme or narrative, and I will certainly agree that the party as a whole does a rather bad job of articulating the message. But it lodged in my brain, and after a half hour of thought I realized that I, at least, know what I stand for. And it’s not complicated. And I think, in reality, it encapsulates the Democratic Party rather well:
Strong Families. Strong Communities. Strong Nation.
If it sounds "Republican", it shouldn’t. It represents the three core principles of the Democratic message. And it’s easy to explain.
Strong, viable families build strong communities. Strong communities build strong economies, and strong states, and support the basic framework of American resilience, competitiveness, and high quality of life. Those, in turn, build a strong, prosperous, well protected, well respected nation.
Strong Families. We believe America should nurture and support the American family. This means providing American families, and especially children, with the education they must have. This means that no family — no child, at bare minimum — should be left without health care services. The notion that a child’s medical safety should be left to the random wheel of which company their parents work for is absurd, and in a country as prosperous as America, immoral.
All children. Not just some. Not just the upper class, or the middle class, or those in some states but not others. Education, health care, minimal fall back housing, and the basic promise of a future in which poverty can be shaken off by education and dedication should be considered the essential obligations of America to its children, regardless of the income level of their parents.
All families. Not just ones that meet the tests circumscribed by a small set of religious partisans. If two men, or two women, decide to partner themselves as a family unit, that bond should share the same legal rights — regardless of the religious convictions of others — as other family bonds.
Strong Communities. This is a nation that thrives on the strength of its every part. Each community in our nation contributes to the national strength, and national prosperity; to abandon a community to crime, poverty, unemployment or disaster is to weaken the nation as a whole. The towns and cities of this nation are its lifeblood; even indifferent to the morality of allowing poverty and destitution, there are unequivocal national economic and competitiveness reasons to not allow these communities to remain withered and fragile.
It should be the goal of the nation to raise poverty-stricken communities out of that poverty. Skill programs for those who are out of work; incentives to encourage business development in high-unemployment areas; at least minimal housing and welfare opportunities as necessary. A community lifted out of poverty becomes an economic source, instead of an economic sink. Maintaining and expanding the competitiveness of American communities in relation to the international marketplace should be a key and essential role of government.
The most effective protector of communities against aggressive and destructive levels of corporate profiteering (and you may insert WalMart here as the prototypical example of the converse) has always been the union, and unions should be therefore supported, and defended when necessary.
The environmental well-being of communities should be protected. A community should not be subjected to dangerous pollutants or contaminants, endangering life, welfare, property and prosperity, simply because it is in the financial interests of a particular company or industry to do so. A community should guard and protect its greatest natural treasures, as monuments to the greatness of the land we have inherited.
Strong Nation. It is easy to declare a nation strong; it is harder to produce it. Merely spending outrageous sums of money on weaponry does nothing, if the weaponry is the wrong kind, designed for the wrong war. National security should start, fundamentally, from a military that is equipped for the needs of its soldiers; space-based weapons systems do little if soldiers on the ground do not have enough armor, or are hindered and endangered by outsourced logistical efforts run for profit, and not for security, or by ill-defined missions that bleed lives and resources. The military strength of a nation is essential and non- compromisible, and must not be squandered in ideological flights of fancy or for-profit corporatization of key elements.
But the economy of a nation, and the ethical compass of the national government, is every bit as vital to the national security of a nation as its military, and should be treated with the same seriousness, expertise and responsibility.
Supply side or voodoo economics — the notion that the economy will grow only if the most prosperous benefactors of that economy are excepted, in regal fashion, from contributing to the infrastructure and national framework that produced their wealth in the first place — has been roundly met by economic disaster in the administrations that have asserted it. The Republican Party cannot refrain from pork spending on behalf of its party members, and cannot refrain from pork tax handouts to its richest contributors: the result has been American money pouring out of the country, an expanding solidification of an impoverished underclass, and staggering deficit payments that will severely damage the future of American education, infrastructure, security, and competitiveness.
Large deficits are a bleeding open wound on the economy of our nation, the interest payments stealing government finances from every citizen and community. Returning to a balanced budget must be a goal of the nation, lest even our best-laid efforts toward national security and stability be carved into mere unsteady twigs by the lost economic strength of decades to come.
Corruption represents an infection in the wound; money not only bled from our families, communities and nation, but bled into the pockets of the most unethical and amoral. Corruption is a cycle, breeding more corruption as standards of legislative morality become ever-lowered by the very charlatans that rewrite the laws to protect whatever last-worst-behavior they have become accustomed to. Regardless of party, politicians that put themselves, their benefactors, or their party above the well-being of their country are anti-American, by definition, and have no legitimate place in a government for the people, by the people.
Corruption fractures the framework of our economy, and endangers our national security; party cronyism places the most critical functions of government into the hands of those that must, by the very nature of their relationship with their party benefactors, belay those functions if they conflict with that benefactor. Both should be swept from government; through exposure and shame, if sufficient; by law, if severity compels it. Both represent an anti-Americanism that should not be tolerated by the leaders of our government, and represent threats, through ignorance or incompetence, to our basic national safety.
There may once have been a time when Republicans were against deficits; any such claim has now been splintered into kindling. There may have once been a time when Republicans were for "strong"
national security; their efforts have produced anything but. There once was a time when Republicans claimed to stand against corruption; the ongoing, snowballing scandals revolving around the party money machine have utterly devastated, made laughable, that notion. Our country has suffered from more wounds, in the last years, than just those our foreign enemies have inflicted upon us. Our country has suffered from a leadership that has never been able to break from hollow election rhetoric into the actual tasks of leading the country, and not simply their preferred portions of it. Our country has suffered — greatly, as it has come to pass — from the installation of cronies, instead of experts, scattered throughout the government like well-paid land mines. Our country has suffered from erratic and increasingly indefensible tax policies that seem more designed to bleed future American strength than any other purpose.
If you thought, upon first seeing the rather simple mantra Strong Families, Strong Communities, Strong Nation, that it was uncomfortably Republican in both tone and focus-group terseness, I urge you to rethink the point. Democratic ideals can be boiled down into simple, easy to understand frameworks. And national strength, despite the current Republican conviction to the country, cannot merely be summoned from hem and bluster, but by an encompassing framework to produce that strength — not the illusion, but the actual structure that can withstand decades and generations.
Where the Democratic voice can be heard is in the same place it has always existed: in the notion that it takes more than military maneuvers to produce national greatness. It takes actual military strength; it takes economic strength; it takes community strength. One without the others is doomed to be unsustainable.
Do Democrats stand for something? Of course we do. We stand for strengthening America from within. Every family, encouraged and protected. Every community, made economically stable and prosperous. The entire nation, made strong through policies that encourage economic strength, dismantle corruption, bribery and cronyism, and produce a tiered homeland security framework both within and outside our borders.
Can’t get much more basic than that.