This I Believe

Joseph - South Bend, Indiana
Entered on January 3, 2007

This I believe …

I believe in the New Deal. I believe Franklin Roosevelt’s work to ensure the protection of the little guy against the power of unfettered wealth was a noble political program. I believe Harry Truman’s attempt to solidify that protection with universal health care was a noble failure. I believe the great domestic programs of that era lacked one crucial element, and I believe that significant failing was corrected by the sacrifice of Martin Luther King, Jr. and those who fought with him for civil rights. I believe these leaders helped to make the Democratic Party a noble institution, confident in purpose, formidable in the use of necessary force, and always compassionate toward those most in need.

Those beliefs explain both my allegiance to and my disgust with the Democratic Party of 2007.

I believe there has been a damaging constriction at the heart of the party for the past 30 years, and it has done more harm than its apologists are willing to acknowledge. The weakness I speak of is the Democratic Party’s fundamentalist position on abortion. That the party standing up for the weak against the strong categorically denies any protection for the weakest humans there are surely gives the lie to any other expressions of compassion. The incoherence of the party’s position on abortion infects its other positions. It has learned the art of doublethink, and the consequent diminution in the quality of its other ideas cannot be surprising; and the quality of the party’s discourse seems no better than their opponents’ – lots of sound-bite-sized platitudes with all the resonance of advertising copy, and not very much meat.

I don’t want to be told to join the Republican Party if I dislike abortion. I am not a Republican. And I do not believe there is a natural consistency between being a traditional Democrat and being an abortion supporter. The great mistake of the party was equating the necessary good of supporting the rights of women with the abomination of destroying innocent life.

The leaders of the party must suppose that the average, working-class voter cannot smell corruption. The alienation of these potential party loyalists is due in part to the fact that they see the hypocrisy within the Democratic Party. That there is also hypocrisy in the Republican Party can be pointed out, but it is the primary duty of Democrats to excise it from our own party first. Republicans have hijacked the debate, making opposition to abortion a purely religious issue, and thus removing it from the realm of simple, secular justice. And Democrats have allowed that to happen. Part of the justice of traditional Democrats includes giving the little guy a fair chance. When the issue is life itself, shouldn’t we give the benefit of doubt to that littlest of the little guys?