I am a Democrat; I was born into a Democratic family. My father worked in the Democratic Party for over 20 years. My mother worked the polls as an election judge for over 25 years. I grew up with politics as a daily staple, and after a Hubert Humphrey rally when I was twelve, I picked up the discarded signs and took them home and passed them out to neighbors. No one told me to do it; it just seemed like the right thing to do.
My sister and I both preferred Robert Kennedy to Humphrey, but when a chance to work on the floor of the convention came her way she jumped at it because she was supporting the party. She was in the melee in front of the convention hall in Chicago, and a friend of mine's father was a Sun Times reporter who had his camera smashed and his cheekbone broken by Chicago policemen running amok. Police who were following the orders of a Democratic mayor, it was a tough time to support the party.
I've supported every Democratic candidate and never, I repeat, never have I voted for a Republican. I supported Jimmy Carter and thought that he did a good job despite facing issues beyond his control. He created a real energy program and built test facilities that were supposed to lead us into the new era of alternative energy. Those test facilities are still there and still online, and sadly, for the most part, still ignored. Lest we forget, Carter was a nuclear engineer who didn't think much of the nuclear power industry.
My own father went to work as a project engineer at a facility that cost the taxpayers $17 million to construct. Their goal was to remove the sulfur from coal and make what we call today "clean coal." The facility was completed in 1980 and one of the first acts of the Reagan administration was to cut the funding and shut them down. They were rescued, ironically, by the coal industry's pressure on the White House.
This is the dynamic in our government. The Carter administration plan was to use tax revenues to develop clean energy technologies. The Reagan administration plan was to cut taxes and let the energy companies develop clean technologies if they felt like it. This is the fundamental difference between our two parties.
During the last Great Depression the Republican answer was to loan banks and industries more money to jump-start the economy. The plan failed miserably as the economy drifted ever downwards into a morass. FDR took $2 billion from Hoover's loan program for big business and diverted it to the Homeowners Loan Corporation. How long did it take FDR to do that? Less than 100 days, and in one year it saved over one million homes from foreclosure. The federal government took over fifteen percent of all home loans in America. How much did this big-spending liberal program cost the taxpayers? Nothing. The Homeowners Loan Corporation went out of business in the 1950s and returned a small surplus.
George W. Bush's answer to rising home foreclosures was to pay the banks to refinance loans for troubled borrowers. The banks were in control of the program; they made all the rules and decided who got what, who was saved, and who was denied rescue. It was a Reagan redux of let the corporation decide what is best, and on the last day of Bush's administration, one percent of all applicants to the program had been rescued.
This is where I become frustrated because I read comments by so many Democrats who don't seem to understand what Democratic policies are supposed to be about. Our party has done a poor job of educating our members what it is that we stand for. When FDR created the Tennessee Valley Authority it was the poorest region in the country. It suffered from devastating annual floods and poor infrastructure and that made it a poor place for business to move into. Yet more than that, people in Tennessee and Mississippi and Alabama were dying from malaria and dysentery.
Had the Republicans had their way they would still be dying there today. The TVA changed everything. It changed Tennessee completely through direct government investment in improving people's lives. It was FDR that originated the minimum wage when we were the only power in the world without one. John Kennedy's administration raised the minimum wage twice in three years by a total of 25%. Did the sky fall? Were millions laid off?
Will Rogers said, "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." It is the other side that believes Der Fuhrer is always right and that it's wrong to question his leadership. As FDR fought to put through the New Deal he was threatened by industry and corporations with a coup d'etat. The Republicans were trying to pull FDR to the right while Huey Long was trying to pull him to the left. Huey Long was a Democrat, so when I hear Democrats who don't know who or don't care who Huey Long was I shake my head in wonder. It would be like Republicans who didn't know who Barry Goldwater was.
In today's political environment Harry Truman would be viewed as a liberal's liberal. He championed the working man and castigated banks and Wall Street interests and disliked the private ownership of utilities, but when he ran for the Presidency in 1948 the liberals in the Party abandoned him as not liberal enough.
"Something happens to Republicans when they get control of the government... Republicans in Washington have a habit of becoming curiously deaf to the voice of the people. They have a hard time hearing what the ordinary people of the country are saying. But they have no trouble at all hearing what Wall Street is saying. They are able to catch the slightest whisper from big business and special interest." Harry Truman
In Harry Truman's era racial desegregation was a policy that he pursued despite being warned not to by his political advisers. "Not all groups are free to live and work where they please or to improve their conditions of life by their own efforts. Not all groups enjoy the full privileges of citizenship... The federal government has a clear duty to see that the Constitutional guarantees of individual liberties and equal protection under the laws are not denied or abridged anywhere in the union." What do you think Harry Truman would have thought about the policy of DADT or indefinite detention?
Truman desegregated the military with the stroke of a pen. He didn't form a committee or ask Congress to frame legislation. He issued an executive order and got the job done. When members of the military complained with dire predictions that it would destroy our fighting forces because white troops would never tolerate serving with African Americans, Truman told the officers, "Then quit!" He was the Commander in Chief and he just gave them an order.
Since the dark days of the Reagan administration our party has been drifting to the right. Too many Democratic candidates want to play "Me Too!" with the Republicans. Democrats for decades championed "Fair Trade" agreements while Republicans favored "Free Trade" agreements. Democrats for decades championed a social safety net for the poor as a barometer of our society. The Republicans talk about welfare queens and fight against raising the minimum wage.
The six-year-old who shot a classmate dead got the gun from his uncle's house where the boy was staying with his mother after they were evicted for not paying the rent. The mother was a victim of Bill Clinton's welfare reform, forced to ride buses 90 minutes each way to work a minimum wage job at the mall. So the mother couldn't be with her child.
It all sounded so positive; sure, "welfare to work," but who gains from this? In a good economy it forces more competition for lower wage jobs thus keeping the wages low. In a bad economy it is a reason to eliminate the person from the program so it becomes not "welfare to work" but pathway to homelessness. A Democrat passed this plan; I thought it was an abomination at the time and I still do.