Monday, August 25, 2008

Why I Am A Democrat: Warning Political Content Ahead

"I belong to no organized party. I am a Democrat."--Will Rogers

I know this post might range afield from my usual chronicle of Stella's insomnia, ongoing colds and crying. For that I sincerely apologize. Fear not! I am sure there will be more to report on that front soon. (Although for now, she sleeps.)

Instead, in this political season, I felt moved to write about why I support the Democratic party, and want Barack Obama to be president. I feel that this will have a profound effect upon my baby's life, and that of many other babies, and as such still fits into my over-all theme: stuff that I care about as a new dad.

I, of course, am a Democrat. You probably could've guessed this by the fact that I live in New York, and am a Jew. It's practically a requirement. But I have my reasons anyway.

I have always been fascinated by politics. To this intensely rewarding hobby I credit my older brother Stuart, a lifelong Republican. He has a sharp mind, and was always hot to debate at our kitchen table. Since he is almost eight years older than I am for most of my life I lost the majority of our debates. This spurned me on to learn more.

I majored in government at Wesleyan University, a campus somewhat to the left of Lenin, and Lennon. Here I was considered a conservative by some, amazingly enough.

After college I interned at the office of Congressman David Skaggs (D-Colorado) (no relation to Randi, D-Brooklyn), and a fellow Wes alumni. It was interesting to see the governmental process from the inside: lots of boring requests from constituents and computers so old they looked like leftovers from Wargames. Here I learned that the everyday work of politics probably varies little from office to office, no matter the party affiliation: desks filled with mostly middle-aged women helping their local constituents get things. This, public service, is the meat and bread of most politics, whether for Jessie Helms or Nancy Pelosi. It was far away from the glamour of the campaign trail, which was where I wanted to be. I also realized here that a life fielding requests for free passes to local museums from spinsters probably wasn't for me.

In 1996 I got to know some Boulder/Denver area bigwigs in Rock The Vote, and as a result got to be a driver in Bill Clinton's motorcade when he came to the Mile High City during his re-election campaign. My car was the absolute last one in the whole 20 car motorcade. It was a copper colored Ford Taurus, code-named Straggler Two, by the Secret Service. For two days I had full permission from the President himself to blow through town, often doubling the speed limit, without having had any special driving lessons. Straggler Two was also empty on both days, as all the honchos were secretly ensconced in the first five cars of the 'cade. (A little trade secret.) The rest were mostly for show. I secretly dreamed that Straggler Two had a rocket launcher that I could launch from my control panel, but alas.

For two days of my motorcade duty I sat in the lobby of a hotel with other local party activists/drivers, as we eagerly awaited any news that Big Bill, the POTUS (also a Secret Service nickname, and the first time I'd ever heard it) might want to go to Wendy's. If he did we had to all haul ass NOW. But it wasn't to be, he mainly played golf, and did god knows what else.

The highlight was at the end, when I stood in a greeting line, and Bill came down, person by person, and shook hands with us all, the local wretches. The kicker was that he was supposed to pose with you and you would get a photo of it taken, and sent to you, to keep for life.

And, yes, I met a standing president of the United States.

And it was awesome.

For the 30 seconds I stood there, with Bill Clinton, and shook his hand, and mumbled that I drove in his motorcade I was the center of his universe. I basked in his warmth, his hugeness, his smile, his massive head, tilting down towards mine. This was the full Clinton. He made you feel like you were it, you were what it was all about. He was glad to meet you. He talked to me, I have no idea what he said. A photo flashed. Somewhere there is a picture of this, but I don't have it, as the Clinton team never sent it to me. And then he moved on; it was a hugely satisfying experience. (Utterly different than when I met Jessie Jackson a year later, and received the cold, dead eyes of a fish. Not that I was crazy about Jessie. After all, I am a hymie, and I live in Hymietown.)

And yes, Bill was a flawed, and in some ways tragic figure. I know Republicans hated him for many reasons: Monica, Whitewater, the Bimbo Brigade. But I also know the actual reason they really hated him: because he would fight back and because he would win. Which is why I loved him.

So I am a Democrat. And if anything being a business journalist has only clarified this for me. As I've seen the rich only get richer, and complain that it's still not enough. Meanwhile the rest of us have seen our economic dreams stagnate.

I am for a living wage for all Americans. I don't believe this will kill our businesses, or entrepreneurship. Why? Because I know some of our American states have already done it, like Oregon, and their economy is just fine.

I am for making those who can most afford it pay their fair share in order to fund our tragic mis-adventure in Iraq. Cutting taxes during a time of war, as we did, is a perversion. Specifically, I don't think it's fair that there are some people who make almost all their money from capital gains and end up paying less in taxes (just 15%!) than their cleaning women. This is insane. This is a sign of decay. This needs to stop.

I believe the environment is not a gift given to man from god, but that god created the world so that man could be a part of it. I don't stand behind drilling in our last pristine wildernesses, so oil might drop a few cents, decades down the line. Our environment is all we have, it's our home.

I am a Democrat because I saw New Orleans, my favorite city after New York, drown thanks to George W. Bush's ineptitude, and simple lack of care. This is a crime, this is murder.

I am a Democrat because I believe everyone deserves health care, especially children. People can differ passionately on when life begins, but we can all agree that it doesn't end at birth. It is a disgrace that there are children in this country who don't have real health care, with a real doctor. Who are we, that we don't all agree on this? Insurance companies and pharmaceutical firms should not be writing our health care scripts.

I am a Democrat because I believe gays and lesbians--like Mark Foley, Ted Haggard and Larry Craig--deserve the same rights the rest of us take for granted, including marriage.

I am a Democrat because I believe that while capitalism is the best economic system ever devised I don't believe it is an infallible moral system. And I don't believe the free markets have any incentive to protect things that don't make it money, like, say, endangered species, or forests.

I am a Democrat because I believe in the seperation of church and state, something I have in common with all those dead white males who wrote our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. I also believe we not only have to protect the state from religion, but we have to protect religion from the state; this latter point is what the Founders really meant, by the way. Since there is by law no state-mandated religion there can be no state-mandated interference in my right to practice my religion as I see fit. Or not. It's my choice as an American. I believe that.

I am a Democrat because of Iraq. I believe, no I know, that the war in Iraq had nothing to do with September 11, was premised upon lies, was executed in the shoddy manor of a second grade play, was done mainly for the benefit of the multi-national firms that control the West Wing, and has cost thousands of American lives and tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives, many of whom were, again, innocent children. In the process we have opened up the regime to the sort of vindictive revenge killings that would've made Saddam Hussein proud. I guess some people thought we had to kill the country in order to save it. And yet we ignored the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan for years, even though that is where the Taliban, our actual enemies, were from.

I am a Democrat because I believe torturing prisoners of war is disgraceful, and unwarranted spying on our own citizens is unconstitutional.

I could go on, and on. And I've gone on long enough. This is a watershed moment in American history. The Republican party stands for quite literally nothing right now. It doesn't stand for small government, fiscal responsibility or shrewd foreign policy. It's given all those points away. All you can say for sure is that Republicans, or at least their leaders, believe the rich should pay less and get more, that one they've stuck to. But I think poor children need books more than billionaires need another yacht.

Sorry for the tirade, but Stella deserves a world better than the one we have now. She deserves to know what a healthy forest looks like, and to see us finally, as a nation, try to live within our means. Some will say it's funny to hear a Democrat talk about living frugally, but to that I say we have no other choice. Our addiction to oil will kill us one way or another unless we kill it. If it's not soldiers quite literally dying to protect oil firm's interests and Haliburton's contracts, it's in the atmosphere that traps our greenhouse gasses and strangles us all.

I will wind down now. Good night my fellow citizens, and God Bless America.

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