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Why I am still a Democrat

August 08, 2003

Dear Editor:

I have on my kitchen table, a copy of the famous quote from Will Rogers: "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." With disarray in our party, this rings especially true today, and will only get worse as the many possible competitors to "Dubya" begin to duke it out in the primaries.

Some days I need to remind myself (and by extension your readers) why I am (still) a Democrat. It certainly is not due to our sterling organization or compelling candidates. It is, first of all, because I believe there is a job for government to do. Not only must the government provide for the common security (which today involves economic, environmental, and health matters as well as defense), it must assure that those who fall through the cracks are caught in the safety net of a human and humane society. Secondly, I believe it is possible for government to do its job well (or at least better than it does today), and so it can be improved. I believe that just as our language and culture and ideas of right and wrong change over time, so must our government. Finally, I believe that our country and our society is great through the great things we achieve together (putting a man on the moon, assuring the health of our world, opening the world to free exchange of trade and ideas, conquering disease and poverty and prejudice). Government is the instrument of our actions together, and our democratic government is the best system developed to allow us to work together.

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We get trapped in political discussions of preferences or entitlement, when we should be talking about making sure that everyone has an equal chance to succeed (regardless of what they make of it). We get trapped in discussions of how much of "my" money the government should give me back, when we should be asking how to best achieve the honorable role of government and how equitably we should share the costs. This is no longer "my" money, but the contribution I make to assure the common good. We get trapped in building more elaborate defenses to make us feel safer and more secure, when we need to identify the root causes of our danger and insecurity and respond to them.

I remain a Democrat these days, because even on our worst days, the ideals of freedom and justice for all still stir my soul. I remain a Democrat because the disarray we present to the country is preferable to the narrow (and narrow-minded) unity of the opposition.

Dan Nolet

Danville

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