Saturday, April 28, 2007

Why I Vote Democratic

Yes, that's right, "Democratic," not "Democrat" as the Republicans have been saying lately. "Democrat" is a noun; "Democratic" is an adjective. I believe the English majors in elected office and on TV news are just trying to get liberals' goat with their misuse of the words, or maybe they think "democratic" is too close to "social equality" in its meaning, which would in turn mean that "Republican" equates to "social injustice."

I have voted in every presidential election since 1976, eight in all so far. In fact, I vote in every election, whether it's mid-term, referendum or special. And I have never voted for a Republican candidate. Not once. It's not that there maybe aren't some worthy Republicans running for office, but they'll never get my vote because of what the Republican Party stands for to me.

If you have read this blog before, you know that I value nothing more than fairness, personal freedom and thinking for oneself. I don't believe the government should legislate morality or otherwise concern itself with the behavior of its people unless that behavior infringes on the rights and freedoms of others. On the Left vs. Right scale, this puts me pretty far out to the Left, just shy of anarchy, and at almost the polar opposite of modern Republicans, who seem to want to control every aspect of people's lives and make each other rich at the expense of those less fortunate.

When I was younger, I believed it was important to vote my beliefs, so I voted for Independent candidate Eugene McCarthy in 1976 and People's Party candidate Barry Commoner in 1980. I think each received less than one percent of the vote in their respective elections, but this dismal showing didn't change my thinking so much as watching the 1980 presidential election returns did.

I remember sitting in my friend Curt Haensel's apartment in Madison while we were both still in college there, watching in utter disbelief as Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter to become president. It was like watching the death of hope. It was like, what were the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam protests, the Feminist Movement, the Watergate trials and all the other progressive events of our lifetimes all about? How could it all have led up to this, America putting the brakes on the free society it had been creating since John Kennedy was elected?

What followed was twelve years of nothing socially good or progressive happening, eight with Reagan and then another four with the first Bush. Money that had been budgeted for programs benefiting the people was now reallocated to defense. We outspent the Soviets and ended the Cold War. But to whose benefit? The Soviet Union splintered into several poverty-stricken, corrupt fiefdoms. America was now the world's sole superpower, and the rest of the world had better watch out, as we proved in the Gulf War. We began meddling in the affairs of other countries, toppling disagreeable leaders and providing arms for uprisings. When questions were raised, ignorance or forgetfulness were claimed. Conservative values became "family values." The anti-abortion movement gained ground. The national debt climbed into the trillions. Nationalism was seen as a virtue. And the rich got richer, the poor poorer.

While all this was going on, there were presidential elections in 1984 and 1988. I voted for Democratic candidate Walter Mondale in 1984, and I voted for Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988. Neither won of course, but I was no longer voting my beliefs, I was voting my conscience. Enough with the independents! If my vote would help get the neo-conservative Republican monsters out of office, that was good enough for me.

I have voted Democratic ever since--the straight party ticket every time. If ever I have a doubt, I just need to be reminded with situations like the recent voting of Ronald Reagan as "Greatest American in History." Ahead of Abraham Lincoln. Give me a break! The nostalgia our society feels for this era of rah-rah conservatism and "America first" is completely beyond my understanding.

Hope lives again though, in the form of Democratic candidate Barack Obama. He is the breath of fresh air we all need right now. A man of the people and for the people. He will be elected our next president, and he will put us back on the path to freedom and equality for all.

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