Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving and American Principles

Thanksgiving brings to mind the founding of this country, and the principles upon which it was established. Recalling these principles may be helpful in framing future political arguments and presenting Democratic views to a divided nation.

In 2004 polls found that Americans supported Democrats on virtually every issue, even if they voted Republicans. Where Republicans win is in the perception that they have a philosophy which voters agree with even if they disagree on specific issues. Democrats often fail in not realizing that a laundry list of issues is not enough to move many voters.

In order to get people to not only oppose the Republicans, as a growing number now do, but to actively support them, Democrats must provide a vision and philosophy of government which the voters find attractive.

Republicans win with a combination of rhetoric supporting freedom, capitalism, moral values, and national security. We’ve written often on how Republican policies have actually undermined our national security and strengthened al Qaeda, so today I’ll look at these other ideas.

Republican sell themselves as the party of freedom while actually pursuing policies which make the government more intrusive in individual’s lives. Democrats must stress the idea of freedom. An overall support for freedom will make other positions more understandable and acceptable. Rather than being the party which supports criticism of the war dissenting against current policies, Democrats must stress the freedom to dissent. Rather than being the party which supports gay rights or abortion rights, Democrats must be show they are the party which supports freedom of choice for all. Once freedom becomes the guiding principle, even those who are not personally prone to support freedom of choice for gays who wish to marry might be willing to accept this choice for others.

On economic issues Republicans benefit from the residual belief that the left supports socialism or communism. While true in the past, and to a limited degree with the fringes today, whenever I see liberal groups describe their positions socialistic economic views are rarely represented. History has well proven the benefits of the free market and the disastrous consequences of socialism, and any political party in any way tainted with such views is doomed to failure.

Modern liberals see both the benefits and limitations of the free market system, and are less likely to openly embrace the free market out of concern for the abuses they see. The average person, regardless of economic position, sees the benefits of the free market and, whether or not this is realistic, sees the free market as providing at least the possibility of greater wealth.

Democrats must embrace the capitalistic system while showing that the crony capitalism of the Republicans (or robber baron capitalists as John Kerry put it), is as great a distortion from true capitalism as socialism is. Democrats must stress how actions needs to be taken to make the free market fair, and to provide everyone with the opportunity for advancement. Elliot Spitzer has often done a fine job of this. John Kerry understood this when he has fought abuses in the mutual fund industry which harm the small investor. Unfortunately Kerry’s long time support for small business was virtually ignored in the 2004 campaign.

The Republican support based upon moral values is a perversion of traditional American beliefs. Historically religious groups, stemming from those coming to America to escape religious persecution, were strong supporters of separation of church and state. Only when the state and religion are kept separate can every individual be assured that they can practice their religious beliefs. Republicans campaign with bogus claims that Democrats will take away their bibles. Democrats must counter with the argument that they can be safe in the knowledge that their bible will not be replaced by that of another religious group only when religion and government are kept separate. Separation of church and state is not inherently a belief in opposition to religion. It is a belief which is necessary to guarantee that everyone will remain free to practice their religion, or to not practice religion, based upon their personal beliefs.


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