Among 7.8 billion citizens of planet earth, 331 million in the United States, I am one. I have 80 years of experience in my native land, the United States of America. Everyone has their own story.
This is the first of several posts I will use to try to define myself, politically. The next will be tomorrow, a third on Joe Biden, after his expected nomination later this month. There have been prior, related, posts, July 11, 22, 25, 26 and 29 and 31, if interested.
This is about being a Democrat.
Best I can recall, I’ve been relatively active as a Democrat since about 1976
A while back I posted a sketch of my notion of American politics, and where I stood.
I’m not sure when I did this sketch but it was likely before I actively joined the 15% called “worker bees” which was long before 9-11-01. I never reached the “hard left”, which is no compliment to me or criticism of them. Being labelled a Democrat is not adequate. Democrats reflect the great diversity of America, imperfectly and with lots of room for argument among themselves. Will Rogers nailed it many years ago: “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” We are truly a ‘big tent’.
I choose the pronoun “WE” as the operating philosophy of the Democratic party I know.
In the near 60 years of my adult life, “Democrats” have been the majority the U.S. Congress most years. Here’s a chart I did recently: U.S. Government (click to enlarge). This has not always been an easy time. As we are often reminded, in the old days, not so very long ago, to be Democrat, was very often to be a supporter of slavery, and after Lincoln (a Republican) was assassinated the trip ahead was “State’s Rights”, “Jim Crow”, often under the “Democrat” banner.
The past doesn’t define us, however.
Then-Mayor of Minneapolis, and later U.S. Senator and Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, gave a stirring speech at the 1948 Democratic National Convention, a key part of which is memorialized on the State Capitol Grounds in St. Paul MN (below photo). This was not universally well received…by Democrat leaders of the time.
In the 1960s, southerner Lyndon Johnson, JFK’s Vice-President and successor President, did what was right, including support and leadership of the Voting Rights Act. Johnson himself acknowledged that such actions would bring difficult years for the Democratic Party – a prophecy fulfilled by the wholesale departure of southern Democrats to the Republican Party.
The rest of history is simple enough to follow without listing here. The Democratic Party that I know encourages enfranchisement and practice of democracy by as many as people as possible, as safely as possible (this year, by mail in response to Covid-19).
Personally: years ago, I was on a bus trip led by my friend Virgil Benoit, a kind and caring professor. Somewhere in the far north of North Dakota, I asked him what led him to become the person that he was, and he responded, and then he asked me the same question. It caught me aback – I had, after all, been the one who asked the question. For me, the epiphany came when I, and my young wife, Barbara, in our early 20s, were forced to come to grips with a new reality a few months into our marriage in 1963. Barbara, pregnant with our first child, was caught in what turned out to be fatal kidney disease, without insurance. In those extremely difficult two years, ending with her death July 24, 1965, leaving behind a son, 1 1/2, and mountainous debts. I learned what a caring society meant.. What it means when someone says “we’re all in this together”.
Life goes on. We will get through this extraordinarily unfortunate and divisive interlude in our history as a country. Where we are now, is without any precedent in my own life.
June 13, 2020, I wrote a letter to a good friend my age, who I’ve known for many years, about the political times in which we’d lived, and in which we now live in the present day. Re the President at the helm: “My one statement for this letter is this: in the last 62 years only in the last three have I felt totally excluded – and in 35 of these years a Republican was President.“
This is what we are up against in this election season – as a nation we have to come to grips with our division into little more than warring tribes, a tribal society intentionally birthed. I wish us well.
A proud Democrat. Dick Bernard.
COMMENTS (more also at end of post)
from Julianne: Why I am a Democrat.
My mom and Dad were first generation US citizens and took their voting privileges very seriously. There were many discussions around the kitchen table on who to vote for and why especially for president. Mom chose to vote for an individual. Dad, a union man, indicated that it was important to look at not just the man but who supported him (they were all men at that time.) He felt that you had to look at his supporters as well. what they stood for, and what kind of administration they would provide. His thinking made sense to me. The important thing was they went to vote together, Dad saying often, that mom would cancel out his vote.
It was an important lesson for me. Later in life I had people expect I would vote one way or another, and I knew that I had the right to chose for myself.
In my professional life, I was exposed to the hardships that people could face and what resource were or were not available to them depending on the government in charge. Democrats were about people. Republicans seemed to be more about how to be successful by making more and more money. That was not what I learned in church. That was not what I believed.
I remember attending a social event where a woman proudly proclaimed, “I don’t care what other people get as long as I get my share.” Her share was apparently much more than most. It prompted me to get involved in the local DFL party and I have been involved ever since. I believe in “we are all in this together” theme.
Unfortunately, there is a deeper division between the two major parties with no common ground. Games are being played. Our current president is making the division his “wall,” his “my way or the highway battle cry” and his re-election campaign. He has taken over the traditional Republican Party and has worked hard to lock in his supporters by making them feel that they have been left out and only he can save them. Compromise seems more difficult than it has ever been.
Now as the pandemic surges across our country and across our world, we are living in fear for our lives and the lives of our families. We lack leadership in turning this virus assault around. Everything is political even health care and resources to fight the virus. It feels like we have lost our way and our democracy is at risk along with our economy. Why is that? What has happened to us as a nation, as a people with common goals? These are strange times indeed when division is the rule. People are rioting in the streets and individuals are carrying guns and assault weapons.
We need to back off. We need leadership that will bring us back together. I believe that we must support Biden and everyone should support him with this awesome task. Our nation and our democracy depend on it.
from Fred: some well-informed and interesting notes on political history of the U.S.: Fred on Politics Aug 9, 2020 (click to enlarge).
from a grade school friend who I’ve kept up with for many years, a retired engineer:
As I have indicated in the past, I am a center-right progressive in the ilk of Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight D Eisenhower. I always have been and always will be. I was impressed by what I learned about Teddy Roosevelt in school and his time in North Dakota, and impressed by Eisenhower who was president while I was in grade school. Further, their actions were also consistent with my moral upbringing, which should and does play a role in my political views.
My views were also influenced by the actions of FDR, who helped our family remain on the farm during the days of the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. FDR showed how our government could come to the rescue of the people in a manner that some today refer to as socialism. Today’s so called socialists are no further to the left than FDR was. While I am eternally grateful to FDR for what he did for our family, what kept me from originally registering as, and voting as, a Democrat were the so called Southern Democrats; those southern racists that hated Abraham Lincoln for feeing their slaves, and hence parked in the Democratic Party. The influences of FDR results in my believing in such things as the safety net programs, Social Security and Medicare. And that led me to be a proponent of “universal health care” and the movements to uplift the working class, which again is paralleled with my moral upbringing.
When the last of those racists, the so called Reagan Democrats, moved over to the GOP, I started tending to vote more in line with the Democrats who were more in line with my center-right progressive views. I find it useful to remain a registered Republican because of all the info that I receive from the GOP which helps me to see the political “big picture”. History has also shown that Conservative Economic philosophies were instrumental in leading to the Great Depression, the Reagan Recession as well as Bush’s Great Recession, so I see no merits to conservative economic strategies. On the other hand, our (Seattle Area) experimentation with a $15 minimum wage showed it to be an very effective economic stimulus in addition to improving the lives of so may workers. Ultimately it is my philosophical views that guide me in my voting, not the names of parties. Those philosophical views also guide my lifestyle and my philanthropic activities as well.
As an adult and a [major corporation career] employee, I became involved with the engineering union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), and served on the organizations board for several years during difficult times… when the management was not doing justice to its employees in those difficult times, which again is in keeping with my center-right progressive views.
Something that I now find alarming as a US citizen is the attitudes of the nations eligible voters. While there are numerous voter disenfranchising activities in many of the red states, I am surprised by the low voter turnout across the nation. With our Washington Vote by Mail system, voting is so simple, yet only about 2/3rds of the voters take the time to fill in the parts of the ballots that could impact them. Your state leads all others with about 3/4 of the voters participating.
In closing, I am a center-right progressive; always have been and always will be. A posture that supersedes party affiliation.
more from Norm (see other comment at end of post)
- I grew up in modest means on a very hard scrabble farm where we had a few cattle; cut and harvested hay; cleaned the barns; milked the few cows that we had; filled the manure spreader by hand powered pitchforks (had to know the difference between hay pitch forks and the manure pitchforks); cut, hauled and sawed our own wood (dangerous as hell) to heat our home; went to Sunday school and Vacation Bible School; showed our calves at the county fair; etc, etc; just like everyone else in the community or so it seemed. On the other hand, we never thought that we were poor given the support that my parents provided including exposure to the nation and the world with daily newspapers and the mainline magazines of the day.
- I grew up in a political family that was very interested in the directions of the public policies of the day hearing many discussions between my parents of those issues.
- DFL Bean Feeds in the old Mpls. Auditorium to hear the likes of Adlai Stevenson with the famous hole in his shoe; county and CD conventions, DFL picnics, DFL food booth at the local county fair, parades with political candidates; and local and state wide candidates stopping by to see my dad when he was in the state legislature was the norm for our family. I was always surprised to realize that was not the norm for most everyone else including having daily newspapers and weekly magazines let alone being visited by and known by state wide elected officials.
- Having a father elected to public office where he served in the state senate for 18-years and coming to realize that not everyone liked his politics even if they liked him as a person…that is, people see the same things differently and, of course, to realize (Trump does not, of course) that voters don’t owe you a damn thing in terms of re-election, that is, you cannot assume that you will receive another term nor that anyone will remember who you are or were once you are no longer in office. That is just the reality of being in elected office. Not everyone seems to accept let alone understand that reality.
- Having a mother who was very pro-FDR and ever thankful for what he did to get the US out of the Great Depression, an event that long haunted her. She was very outspoken on issues and topics that she felt strongly about often blasting the Hoover Republicans for their lack of caring about the country let alone its residents. It is possible that I inherited my tendency to be out spoken at times from my mom but… Note: if so, then thanks, Mom!
- Putting up signs and handing out cards (they were almost all 3×5 black and white at the time) all around the very large (geographically but small (population wise) senate district that Dad served in. Again, being surprised that not everyone did that nor that my socials studies teacher was surprised when I elected to do a project in the fall of 1958 on all of the candidates running for office at the county and legislative district levels in our area. I collected those black and white cards and added a little summary of why they were running for the office in question as well as what the duties of the office entailed. I mean, wouldn’t anyone who was aware of things around them want to do that?
- Completing a paper on the dumping of essentially raw sewage into the St. Louis Bay (Duluth area) for the political ciene and conservation class that I took as a senior for my poly sci major.
- Watching the annual Democratic National Conventions in the 50’s at the neighbor’s home before we got our own TV and listening to the golden mellow tones of Robert Trout describing the events. Again, a surprise to realize that doing that was not something that most of my peers thought was worthwhile.
- Attending the 8CD conventions and . watching in awe when many of those Iron Rangers would argue and debate face-to-face with great passion to the point that I thought that I was about to watch a murder on the Iron Range Express…and then seeing the opponents, i.e. combants, on an issue or two leave the convention floor after adjournment arm in arm to head off for coffee or a beer. That was also an impressive lesson for me to learn, that is, people could disagree and debate on an issue so passionately and still be respectful of the other’s view and still be friends, something that seems to have been lost before him but certainly facilitated by Trump!
- Our family life when I was growing up was all about community, our local church, the importance of the public school (Go Cards!), modest resources, thinking outside of the box, knowing that there was a big wide world outside of my home town and community, and becoming a citizen airman via AFROTC both for the stipend during the junior and senior years prior to commissioning and my love of the concept of the citizen airman who returns to private life after serving his tour of duty as his perception of what it means to be a good citizen in a democracy.
- Egalitarian, opportunities for all consistent with their abilities and levels of interest, no special privileges for anyone based upon financial, historical or other status is the background provided for me when growing up. Jimmy Carter understood this reality about America very well and I have always admired him for that.
- In retrospect, I feel very privileged in having growing up in the strong DFL and community-oriented household and that foundation has no doubt played a large part in why I am a Democrat.
- On the other hand, my middle brother grew up in the same circumstances and has become a very avid far right Republican so…