Democrats’ greatest weakness is our commitment to good government
The reason I’m a Democrat is that I believe in the value of each individual person, and that government can play a role in empowering them to benefit from that value.
There are some specific ideas that flow from that basic commitment. I believe in the right of people to make their own decisions regarding their most fundamental concerns, such as religion or family. I believe in a process that protects the rights of all of us. And most importantly, I believe that the most powerful do not need the protection of government.
I think most Democrats believe some variation on this theme. The result is that when we have power, we treat everyone fairly, respecting the rights of those out of power and in the minority to express their opinion, and taking those opinions seriously. The ultimate expression of this commitment occurred when Democrats controlled all the levers of power in the wake of Obama’s election to the Presidency. Rather than forcing through multiple pieces of legislation, we took our time passing a health care reform bill, holding dozens of hearings to give people the opportunity to express their opinions and making changes based upon that input.
The problem is that the Republicans take advantage of this commitment to unfairly further their agenda. While they stand up for the rights of the rich and powerful, they act as if their constituency is an oppressed minority. This approach plays to our sympathies because we believe all oppressed minorities deserve to be heard.
The problem is not so much that Republicans don’t treat us with the same respect as we treat them. That is true. Consider the way they forced through their tax cut for the rich without hearings, or how they hid documents related to Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. What’s more relevant, however, is that the Republicans represent a group who need no protection. Due to their wealth and power, they can advocate for their own interests. They don’t need the consideration the oppressed need for their voice to be heard.
Throughout my life of political activism, I have witnessed how Democrats may be pushing through an agenda that will benefit a large number of people, perhaps to the detriment of the rich — like Obamacare or the Clinton deficit reduction legislation. We back off, however, upon hearing the “poor me” cries of Republicans, worried that their “rights” are not being respected. It’s just like the debate about “free speech” on campus. Yes, the wealthy have a right to free speech. The difference is that everyone else does too. The conservatives use their resources, however, to privilege their own speech to the detriment of everyone else’s.
The point is that we can no longer allow Republicans to turn our strengths into weaknesses. Rather than treating the claims of everyone with respect, we need to focus our attention on the needs of those without the ability to advocate for themselves. Rather than holding dozens of hearings on legislation, we need to move quickly, ignoring the Republican crocodile tears just as they ignore our legitimate concerns. We need to pass something while we can, and modify it if needed later.
I look forward to the time Democrats finally have control of government again. It will happen. The pendulum always swings back. I just hope we don’t waste our opportunity when it does come.
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