“I believe in a relatively equal society, supported by institutions that limit extremes of wealth and poverty. I believe in democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law. That makes me a liberal, and I’m proud of it.” Paul Krugman, “The Conscience of a Liberal,” Oct. 1, 2007
I used to be a Republican until the party began discarding the ideals I was taught. A conservative friend of mine says Republicans stand for what is right. I see them trashing the values and institutions Americans used to hold in common. That made me think that maybe Democrats need to clarify what we believe.
Following are some Democratic beliefs. This list isn’t comprehensive, due to word limits, but it should give a good idea of what our basic values are. Democrats believe in:
The rule of law. We believe the law should apply equally to everyone. We don’t believe that anyone is above the law, including the president. President Donald Trump claims to be for law and order, while he attacks the FBI, the Justice Department, and the entire American intelligence community, just to protect himself. Trump even claims he can pardon himself, meaning he thinks he can break any laws he wants with no consequences. Democrats believe that’s wrong.
The Constitution. Many Republicans seem to think the Constitution begins and ends with the Second Amendment. What they forget is that dictators don’t start by taking people’s guns away. They start by berating the press, suppressing free speech, and forbidding or limiting peaceful protest, to keep people from communicating freely. Real oppression begins not by taking guns away but by limiting the ability to share ideas. Democrats support the full Constitution, including the First Amendment, protecting everyone’s rights.
Honoring our alliances. One of our strongest alliances, NATO, was established in 1949 to stop Soviet expansion and protect member nations. Trump is trying to weaken NATO while he cozies up to dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. Since 9/11, more than 1,360 NATO troops have died fighting alongside American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Trump’s attacks on NATO and the European Union are exactly what Putin wants. Democrats think these attacks on our allies are disgraceful.
Fiscal responsibility. Republicans believed in fiscal responsibility until President Ronald Reagan instituted the policy of “borrow and spend” while tripling the national debt. Republicans call Democrats the “tax and spend” party, apparently forgetting that government gets its revenue from taxes. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama followed the policy of PAYGO, which prohibits increases in federal spending without also raising revenue or cutting other spending. Clinton left a budget surplus. Republican presidents just add to the national credit card, leaving Democrats to clean up their mess.
Responsible gun ownership. Republicans keep spreading the repeatedly debunked lie that Democrats want to take everyone’s guns away. Millions of Democrats own guns. What we want are policies that the majority of Americans agree with, such as universal background checks. This isn’t taking guns away. It’s making sure that those who get guns are responsible people who know what they’re doing.
Reasonable immigration laws. Democrats don’t want open borders. We want fair hearings for asylum seekers. We want families kept together. We want permanent protection for DACA recipients. This helps, not hurts, America.
Affordable health care for everyone. The Affordable Care Act was a good start, but Republicans are working hard to destroy it. They’re also working to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Millions of people will lose their health care coverage if Republicans succeed. Democrats want to prevent that.
Helping those who need it. Republicans are trying to cut the SNAP program (food stamps), housing subsidies, and other aid programs. Most recipients of these programs are working people, including veterans, who need some assistance. Republicans want to punish them for being poor; Democrats want to help.
Democrats value many other principles such as quality public education, individual rights, religious freedom, environmental protection, and free and fair elections without foreign interference or unnecessary barriers. Republicans appear to work against these values. I asked my conservative friend to tell me one right thing Republicans stand for. I haven’t received an answer yet. Sad, but not surprising.
Democrats aren’t trying to destroy America. We love America. We just want to help her fulfill the ideals toward which we’ve been striving for 242 years. As the opening quote says, we “believe in democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law.” I would hope every American would agree.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.