In 1945, throngs of Americans stood and wept as Franklin Roosevelt's funeral train made its way from Warm Springs, Georgia to Washington, DC.Today the children and grandchildren of those people are weeping but for vastly different reasons. Many of the policies and protections instituted by President Roosevelt have eroded, and their sense of personal security is precarious at best.
Both FDR and Barack Obama came into office when this country was going through critically difficult times. And it was with great enthusiasm that many of us Democrats who grew up hearing about the legend of FDR, welcomed our 44th American President, who we believed would make things better for the populace and restore ethics and honor in Washington. A solid Democratic majority in Congress would ensure that our country would get back on the right track. We were so encouraged.
But a year into the Obama Administration, unemployment is up, jobs are continuing to be outsourced, first-time job seekers are failing to find any employment at all. Kids can't afford to pay for college, and classes are being cut to boot. Bailout money went to Wall Street and to the big banks. But those banks continue to hold back from lending to homeowners and small businesses, so more homes are being lost and more jobs, eliminated.
As if that weren't bad enough, the worst misdeeds of the Bush Administration have gone completely unpunished. Lost constitutional rights have not been restored, and it's still okay to eavesdrop on innocent American citizens.
We loyal Democrats longingly embraced the concept of "Change we can believe in". But the change is slow in coming, and many former Democratic Party members, feeling abandoned by the political party they believed in, have been leaving entirely and identifying themselves as Independents. This is certainly not good for our party, and it is definitely not good for our country. On the other hand, many committed activists have chosen to stay within the organization and work hard to push it back to the left where it was when we were proud to call ourselves Democrats.
In order to re-energize the Democratic base and to bring the disenchanted back into the fold, our President and our Democrats in the House and Senate are going to need to address the issues that are critical to our democracy.
I have a friend who describes what goes on in Washington as a "dog and pony show". I am not quite that cynical, but if the Democratic Party keeps on this road, taking for granted the people who need it to be strong in its principles, I fear this once courageous party will one day become obsolete.
Those sons and daughters of FDR Democrats put their hope in Candidate Obama to restore justice, to bring back ethics, to put an end to the war in Iraq, and to bring them a healthcare system that focuses on patients' welfare, not corporate profits. They want lawbreakers brought to justice and unfairly targeted people made whole. They want to know that Washington is looking out for their pension plans and is serious about dealing with global warming.
I'm afraid that the Democratic Party hasn't been vigilant enough in protecting our civil and constitutional rights, not vigilant enough in watching the Fed and the big banks and Wall Street. Those institutions like the FDIC were set up by Democrats to ensure that the public's money wasn't swallowed up by mismanaged banks. Social Security and Medicare were brought to the people by Democrats. The Civil Rights Act was brought to the people by Democrats.
It's time for the Democratic Party to go back to embracing its core principles and to stop compromising on issues of ethics and morality. And when it does, its greatness will return, and its ranks will swell with citizens who are once again engaged in our nation's political system.
Give the registered Democrats a party to be proud of. Give those who have left a reason to come back. Give democracy back to America by standing tall for those principles we Democrats grew up with and believe in. The party of the people is the one that can restore this nation's greatness, but you can no longer take for granted the grassroots Democrats. They will stand up and support you and show up at the polls, but they need to see you standing up and supporting them.