As I See It? 7-20
Sunday, October 26, 2008

                                            WHY I AM A DEMOCRAT
By Dr. Paul DeWeese

   Although I was a Republican State Representative I have decided to become a member of the Democratic Party.  My journey to change my political party was interesting and full of challenges as I grew to question my original positions.  I was brought up in a solid West Michigan Republican household. Over time I was drawn to Republican Congressman Jack Kemp's  focus on ensuring that economic growth includes groups who had previously been left behind.
   But over the past several years the Republican Party has become ideologically rigid, narrow minded, and arrogant.  If you believe that enhanced government revenues are necessary to fund crucial programs you are nort accepted by the Republican Party.  If you believe that government has a right to stop armour piercing bullets from being sold in order to protect our plice the Republican Party, at the demand of the NRA, has no use for you.  If you hold that our environment needs to be protected - even if it requires government regulations and taxes to do so - the Republican Party holds you in comtempt.
   I would like to go over seven areas that I have come to disagree with the Republican Party.  Over time it was issues such as these issues that compelled me to leave the Republican Party.
   1.   Republicans have traditionally believed in limited government and low taxes.  But today this has become an ideological straigt jacket which holds that all taxes are bad and that no taxes should be supported regardless of whether the public purpose they support is worthwhile or not.  This has resulted in mammoth government deficits which are immoral as they are economically destructive.  They are immoral because we are burdening our children with large debts which they will have to repay.  This ideology, for example, says that although Michigan's roads are the worst in the nation that we cannot consider an increase in any tax to help fund our roads. It also means that vital government programs such as ensuring that the DNA data base which our police and courts depend upon to convict the proper people is up to date.  Currently there is a five year waiting list of DNA samples which need to be analyzed and put into the system.  Among the most important functions of government is our infrastructure and public safety  but the Republican insistance on no new taxes is undermining our economic competitiveness and injuring our capacity to do justice in our courts.
   2. Republicans of today believe that economic growth should take precedence over protecting the environment.  This was not always the case. President Teddy Roosevelt was a strong environmentalist.  President Richard Nixon started the Environmental Protection Agency.  Governor William Milliken was a strong advocate for our environment.  But today when it is imperative that we all join together to protect our global ecosystem from global warming the Republican Party continues to insist that vital governmental regulations should not be supported because they may undermine current economic growth.  This is reckless and highly irresponsible.
   3.  Traditionally the Republican Party emphasized a foreign policy of "internationalism" and focusing strictly on our national interest.  Today the Republican party under the influence of the "neocons" have highjacked what was previously a wise and sensible foreign policy.  Now we arrogantly throw our weight around the world as if we can dictate to everyone how they should shape their own public policy.  We ignore international institutions when they don't immediately agree with our positions.  It is because of this philosopy that our international standing is now at the very lowest it has been since we emerged as an international power at the beginning of the 20th century.
   4.  The Republican Party is owned and operated as a sister organization of the NRA.  This means that the government is unable to regulate the use of firearms even when crucial public purposes are at stake.  Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City has worked vigorously to bring together large city mayors in an effort to stop armor piercing bullets from being sold because they are used by criminals to murder the police who so heroically protect us.  This effort has been undermined by the NRA and in turn the Republican Party on the basis that everyone has the unlimited right to bear arms.  This has led to unsafe communities and unnecessary deaths.
  5.  A successful society is one in which the great majority of people are permitted to prosper socially and economically.  This requires wise government policy which ensures that barriers to economic progress are eliminated in order to sustain social stability.  Under Republican Policies we have seen economic sclerosis for the middle and lower-middle classes.  While the wealthy in our society have continued to enjoy large increases in their incomes the middle class have fallen behind.  These policies include tax cuts which are heavily weighted towards the rich and laws which permit CEOs to receive gargantuan compensation packages even when their leadership has resulted in the implosion of their companies, the loss of stockholder value and the number of people employed.  This aspect of current Republican policy has left our society increasingly fragmented and much less cohesive.  A successful economic policy not only concerns itself with increasing the total economic pie but also emphasizes that it increases the number of people who are invited to sit at the table of economic abundance.
    6.  One of the most successful stories of the American experiment has been the recognition and public rejection of our racist past.  Much has been accomplished.  But we have not yet arrived at a point in history where the color of our skin has no impact on our life chances.  People of color still face barriers to their advancement in diverse areas of our common life - including an educational system which too often does not adequately benefit students equally, a criminal justice system which arrests, prosecutes and incarcerates people of color at much higher rates for the same crimes, and a health care system which does not provide equal access to life saving medical interventions.  The Republican Party has too often ignored these systemic illnesses and barriers to advancement - instead insisting that everyone can be successful if they only work hard enough.
   7.  Republicans have traditionally emphasized limited government.  But today this has metastasized into a rigid philosophy which says that any government regulation is bad - that the private sector always does it better.  This philosophy has been the midwife of the financial collapse that we are currently witnessing.  At every step the Republicans have argued that the government should not put into place critical financial regulations which would protect the public from greedy and unscupulous individuals and companies.  For example, too little regulation was in place to monitor the independent mortgage brokers who encouraged people to purchase homes they could not afford.  Too little regulation was established over the industry which appraised properties fraudulently.  Insuficient regulation was permitted over the sale of bundled mortages.  The truth is that our capitalist system can work effectively ONLY when there are well crafted, strong, and effective government regulations in place to protect the public from excessive greed.  This requires a well paid, well educated government work force with sufficient power to police and prosecute financial fraud.  It is because of a lack of government regulation that we are now witnessing the collapse of our financial markets and the requirement that governments around the world must intervene in the private marketplace more intensively than they ever would have been required to if prudent government regulation had been permitted in the first place.
   President Ronald Reagan often said that he had not left the Democratic Party - but they had left him.   Perhaps in a similar way I would say that I have not left the Republican Party of Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Gerald Ford and William Milliken.  I am delighted to be a member of the Democratic Party.  I feel the Democratic Party is best positioned to advance the truest and best interests of the United States both domestically and internationally.


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