We Are the Democrats

dems2My dear fellow Americans who don’t know the truth about who we Democrats are and what we believe: there’s a lot of nonsense being said about us, so I just wanted to set the record straight on a few things. 

It seems like Trump and the rest of the Republican leadership are hellbent on telling the public that Democrats are sickening, evil people who love late term abortions, want open borders, hate Christians, and want to impose socialism on the country. So, here’s the thing: all of this is wrong. Here’s what Democrats actually believe about these particular issues:

Abortion

Democrats believe that abortion is complicated. That it’s in a gray area. That Americans of different religions and of no religion have different beliefs about when abortion should be a legal option for a pregnant woman or girl. 

In our country, that we all share, there are some people who believe with all their heart that as soon as there’s a fertilized human egg, even if it’s in a test tube in the lab of a fertility clinic, we’re talking about a fully fledged human being who has the exact same rights as a child. There are also some people who believe, and some religions that teach, that abortion should be legal only in cases of rape or incest. There are people who believe that abortion may be a sad but necessary decision if carrying a pregnancy to term poses a serious threat to the health or life of the mother, and there are religions that teach that belief, too. There are people who more or less agree with the Supreme Court justices of Roe v. Wade, who ruled that until a fetus is viable outside the womb, the government can’t restrict access to abortion, but beyond the point of viability it is permissible for the government to impose restrictions if that is the democratic will of the people. And also in the mix of our society are people who believe that the question of whether or not to have an abortion is incredibly private and personal, and that it represents an inviolable right of every woman. 

So you see – abortion is complicated. Most Democrats think Roe v. Wade basically got it right. Abortion is sad, personal, private, involves a woman or a girl’s body, and therefore should be a decision she has control over, and at the same time nobody thinks a fetus is a meaningless thing. For Democrats, Roe means that states have a little bit of leeway to regulate third trimester abortion, but beyond that it needs to be a private, personal and family decision. Lots of Democrats are personally opposed to abortion and would not opt to have one or advise someone to have one, but they get that it’s complicated, that there are many sincere beliefs on this issue that good Americans hold, and that we need to treat it like the grown-up, complicated subject that it is. 

The other thing Democrats believe is that there are proven strategies to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, especially among teens, and that those strategies should be part of our government’s policies. Democrats want policies that lead to far fewer abortions, but don’t want abortion to be wholesale outlawed. By the way, something like 2/3 of the American people more or less hold something like this Democratic perspective.

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Immigration Policy

Democrats believe that the US should have an immigration policy that is humane and fair. The idea that we want no borders at all is just dumb. Nobody says that. The people who say that we want that are lying, and frankly shame on them. 

So what does humane and fair look like to most of us? Well, we do believe that it’s an  American ideal to welcome more immigrants from more places than most other countries do, because unless you’re a Native American, you’re part of the 99% of the country that came from immigration. We can’t have unlimited immigration, but we should have a generous immigration policy, and we should be a place where people fleeing tyranny of any kind can apply for asylum and have a reasonable chance of getting it. These are things that have made America the amazing, diverse, and incredibly successful place that it is. We should be proud to be this.

We also want our immigration policy to protect our security by screening and vetting people who want to come here, whether for a visit or to apply to immigrate. Here’s the thing: we actually have already been doing that for years. Democrats think we should keep doing that, but that we shouldn’t turn it into some kind of crude religious or racial profiling thing.

On the subject of our economic well-being, Democrats believe that we should seek to be fair to the existing American citizens who don’t want their jobs threatened or their social services overburdened, and also be fair to newcomers in our land. That might mean increasing or decreasing the number of visas we make available in specific job industries. But there is more than enough in this country for us to have a healthy number of immigrants coming here and have a growing economy, good jobs, good schools, and good health care for those of us who are already here.

In fact, because America is such a desirable place, we’re a magnet for many of the world’s best and brightest, and often we all end up benefitting economically because of the innovation engine that immigrants help us to be in every generation. And while we’re talking about the economy, let me add that Democrats believe that it’s not immigration that’s causing the middle class and the poor in this country to have to keep working harder for less and less while the 1 percent keep getting richer. That’s Republican economic policies at work, folks. We fix that, and we end up with less of a terrible gap between the wealthiest few and everybody else.

Finally, Democrats believe that there are realities that our policy should deal with in a way that is fair, realistic, and humane. That’s why we support DACA. And that’s why it makes sense to create a pathway to citizenship for most of the 12 million or so people who aren’t here legally, but who in many cases pick the fruit and vegetables that we buy on the cheap at the grocery store and do a lot of other jobs that big American companies wanted them to do in the first place. 

So – immigration. Open borders? No. Fairness, security, pragmatism – yes. Oh, and for sure, immigration shouldn’t be a cover for just hating on specific minority groups. Duh.

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Christianity, Religion, and America

Democrats believe in religious liberty and the First Amendment, which starts with the words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Most Democrats, like most Americans, are Christians. Of course, in our very religiously free and diverse country, that means we’re talking about dozens of different denominations of Christians. Some Democrats are members of other religions, some are atheists, some are people who have belonged to more than one religion during their lifetime. The idea that Democrats “hate Christians” is so stupid that it’s hard to dignify it with a serious response, but clearly the rightwingers are going to keep on saying it, so let’s get into it.

What Democrats are against is letting any religion assert itself as the official religion of the United States. We’re for a society that respects religious freedom. This is a big part of what liberty is all about. That’s why we go to bat so vigorously for religious minorities when they are targeted for hatred, exclusion, or humiliation. Because to act that way is really un-American. Our passion for religious freedom and liberty is part of our patriotism. 

One last thought on Christianity, Democrats, and America. Democrats have a deep love and admiration for Christian-American heroes who have embodied the best ideals of Christianity and risked their lives for others. People like MLK. Like Rosa Parks. Like the Abolitionists who fought slavery and the pastors and churchgoers who set up safe houses on the Underground Railroad. These are all examples of deeply religious Christians. So if you really want to break it down, the people who say that Democrats hate Christians tend to be the kinds of people who actually hate the Christians who are heroes to the Democrats. I’m not going to say anything more about this now because hopefully you’re as mad as I am that people have been slandering Democrats with this “they hate Christians” BS. Side note: not only do we not hate Christians, we don’t hate Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, or anybody else for reasons of religion. Because America. That’s, like, kind of the whole point of America.

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Socialism

Okay, let’s make this simple. Socialism is when the government owns all the industries that make up the economy and plans the economy every year with the goal of everyone having a good standard of living and a relatively equal distribution of wealth. Instead of private businesses competing in a market-place, under socialism the government owns the factories and the farms. Also, sometimes socialism means that there can only be one authorized political party, unless it’s Democratic Socialism, in which case multi-party democracy remains and the citizens maintain democratic control over their government’s economic decisions, including the option to vote to stop being socialist. 

Socialism is in the news a lot, and Bernie Sanders has made Democratic Socialism a much more visible political philosophy. While there are some ideas that come from socialism that some Democrats admire, Democrats don’t want to live under socialism and never have. (That’s why Sanders isn’t a member of the Democratic Party.)

What Democrats believe in is a market-based economy that is fair. We’re for capitalism with rules. We’re for almost all industries to be run by the private sector unless there are really good reasons for a particular part of the economy to be government-run (hello, Medicare!)

We are against socialism, but we are also against extreme capitalism – capitalism that doesn’t care about fairness or about people not having equal opportunity. We don’t believe that people should never interfere with or regulate anything in the world of business, or that the government should never act in order to protect the average citizens and the common good. We do believe that overall, the free-market is a fantastic engine for creating wealth, innovation, and improving everyone’s standard of living. But we also believe that a democratically elected government is the people’s way to place some limits on the worst excesses that can come with big time capitalism (pollution, predatory lending scams, ripping off the elderly, that sort of thing). And we very much believe that it’s not fair for the biggest corporations and banks to get away with all kinds of shenanigans and get richer and richer while the rest of us work more hours for basically the same pay but minus more and more benefits every year (once upon a time people got pensions, better insurance, and CEO’s didn’t make a bazillion times the amount that their average worker made). 

The free market is like a game. It works for all of us when there are enough rules to make sure everyone has a fair chance to succeed and nobody is so privileged that they can make everyone else suffer because of their recklessness. If there aren’t enough rules in place to make sure the game is fair, then greed ends up making the game totally unfair and unworkable for the vast majority of the people playing it. At the same time, if there are so many rules that it becomes too complicated and difficult to even play the game, then that’s too many rules and the game won’t actually help everyone do well in the long run. 

Democrats are the Goldilocks of a free market economy with rules. Too few rules, and most of us get screwed and everything gets polluted to hell. Too many rules, and we end up without a way to grow new businesses and ideas and use competition to make products and services better and cheaper over time. In this moment, the pendulum has swung way over to the advantage of the billionaire class, and we need some corrective. Part of that corrective includes the 1 percenters paying their fair share of the taxes, so that we can once again have great public schools, affordable college, national health insurance, and an environment that isn’t bad for future humans. That’s not socialism. That’s working for a market-based economy that is fair. Got it?

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In Summary

So, what have we learned? To review: 

Democrats believe that abortion is complicated. 

Democrats believe that the US should have an immigration policy that is humane and fair.

Democrats believe in religious liberty and the First Amendment. 

Democrats believe in a market-based economy that is fair.

Obviously, there are other things that Democrats believe. We’re very big on the idea that America’s greatness comes from its history of expanding equality and respect to more and more different kinds of people over time, and that we learn from our mistakes and try to become more fair in each generation. We’re big on the idea that the people who do the work deserve a life that’s not only decent, but that gets better from generation to generation. We love people, and we love being a country that inspires the world by proving that a really, really diverse group of human beings can form a single nation, committed to the ideals of liberty and justice for all. We really like our nation’s motto: E pluribus unum, which if you recall, means “Out of many, one.” That’s us. There’s more to talk about (taking science seriously and saving the environment, for instance) but this is enough for now. Thanks for reading. If you’d like me to unpack some more of what Democrats believe on other issues, please tell me in the comments.

 

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