A guest commentary by a committed activist who served on the Iowa Democratic Party Platform and Rules Committees and currently serves on a county central committee. -promoted by desmoinesdem
I believe in obeying the Constitution. The 14th Amendment says that debts of the USA shall not be questioned. Steve King–and most Republicans–voted to not raise the debt ceiling which would have put the government in default. That vote led to the downgrading of the government’s credit rating. The 14th amendment also guarantees equal protection under the law. But Republicans don’t think the Constitution applies to same sex couples who wish to marry. George W. Bush violated the constitutional rights of Americans by spying on them without a warrant. Democrats objected; Republicans didn’t. President Barack Obama nominated a replacement for the late Justice Scalia. Republicans senators refuse to do their duty and vote to confirm—or not—that nominee.
I don’t believe judges should legislate from the bench, but I do believe they must strike down laws that violate the Constitution. Republicans applauded the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down the Washington D.C. handgun law, but went nuts when the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously struck down the law banning gay marriage. Republicans agreed when activist justices on the U.S. Supreme Court created a new right for corporations to spend unlimited secret money to try to buy our elections with misleading TV ads; Democrats want that decision overturned.
Originalists, who claim that the Constitution must be interpreted as the Founding Fathers meant it, are contradicted by the Founding Fathers themselves.
Thomas Jefferson wrote: “laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. … institutions must advance also and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the same coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regime of their barbarous ancestors.” Our Founding Fathers were the wisest revolutionaries the world has ever seen, but they were men of the 18th century and flawed by 21st century standards. The original Constitution prohibited laws against the slave trade, counted black people as 3/5 of a person, didn’t let the people vote for president or U.S. senators, didn’t let women vote for anything, and had a flawed method for electing a president that resulted in a constitutional crisis in 1800. Do we really want to retain all that?
I believe in the rule of law. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney publicly admitted to violating international laws against torture. Democrats objected; Republicans didn’t. George Bush made numerous signing statements saying he would not enforce the law he just signed. Democrats objected; Republicans didn’t. But the law serves justice, not the other way around. Punishing “dreamers” for the actions of their parents makes no sense.
I believe in fiscal discipline. When Ronald Reagan took office, his tax cuts and military buildup exploded the deficit. At least he had the sense to reverse himself and raise taxes multiple times. George W. Bush cut taxes so much he ran up the largest deficit in history and crashed the economy to boot. Under President Obama, the deficit was too high, but at least it went down every year. Republicans pledge to cut taxes again and increase military spending. The U.S. already spends more than the next 10 or so militaries in the world, and most of those 10 are allies. This will increase the deficit—just like it did under Reagan and Bush II—not decrease it. President Obama saved millions by making student loans directly instead of giving money through banks (who siphoned off millions for themselves). Republicans wanted to go back to the old money wasting method. Republicans tried to fund a jet engine project the military didn’t even want; Democrats didn’t.
I agree with Romney in not spending tax money unless the value obtained is worth borrowing it from China. Democrats believe that investing in our future by buying infrastructure and education is worth it, especially since borrowing costs are at historic lows. Saving lives with health care is worth it. Republicans prefer cutting taxes on the wealthy.
I’m pro-life. Over 30,000 Americans are killed by pollution each year. Republicans want to increase that number by reducing EPA regulations or even abolishing the EPA; Democrats don’t. About 45,000 Americans die a year due to lack of health insurance. Democrats partially fixed that with the Affordable Care Act; Republicans want to repeal it and deny people affordable health care. I don’t want our troops being killed. President Obama got us out of Iraq and committed to ending our war in Afghanistan; Republicans want to send troops back to fight a war that can’t produce a durable peace. Over 30,000 Americans are killed by guns every year. I’m for tightening gun laws while preserving the 2nd Amendment; Republicans see the carnage as acceptable. I’m against the death penalty; most Republicans are for it.
I believe in not burdening our children. That’s why I’m against tax cuts for the rich that will increase the deficit. That’s why we need to get serious about climate change. It is real and not a hoax, and is man-made, not a natural cycle. It’s caused by burning coal, oil, natural gas, and forests. It has already caused major disruptions like stronger storms and altered rainfall patterns costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars. And it will get worse. Adapting to it will cost far more than preventing it. Democrats know this and work for switching as fast as possible to alternative energy sources. Many Republicans refuse to believe the overwhelming scientific evidence since it doesn’t suit their predetermined beliefs. The ones who accept the facts refuse to do what is needed to tackle the problem.
I believe in free enterprise. So do nearly all Democrats. I don’t believe in micromanaging corporations or imposing unnecessary regulations. But Democrats oppose corporations abusing their employees, cheating their customers and poisoning the environment. Republicans want government to “get out of the way” and allow these abusive practices.
I am patriotic and support veterans. The best way to support the troops is to not send them off to get killed. Democrats are better at staying out of wars, and ending existing wars, than Republicans. Under Obama VA funding has greatly increased. Most Republicans opposed those increases.
I believe in creating jobs. Obama rescued the auto industry, saving hundreds of thousands of jobs; Romney said that it should go bankrupt. Job creation has been twice as high under Democratic presidents than under Republicans, dating back to Harry Truman. Republican policies of tax cuts for the “job creators” just gives them incentives to move jobs overseas and put their unneeded windfall into the Wall Street casino. Democrats want to put money into the hands of the middle class. Creating customers for businesses creates far more jobs than handouts to businesses. The job creators will still get their money–in the form of increased sales—and everyone benefits, not just the top 1%.
I believe in rewarding hard work. Mitt Romney said that 47 percent of Americans won’t take charge of their own lives. House Speaker Paul Ryan said that 30 percent of the people are “takers” who ask for assistance and contribute nothing. These numbers are absurdly high; Americans have a much better work ethic than that. The real takers are those who make millions betting on stock values, don’t produce any goods or services, and use their wealth to buy tax breaks for themselves. Millions made in the stock market are taxed at a lower rate than wages. Republicans think that tax break is fair or even too small. I think capital gains should be taxed as other income, and there should be a micro sales tax on stock trades.
I believe America should be respected around the world. Donald Trump seems intent on undermining our national image. Trump advocated committing war crimes by using torture. He insulted Mexico on numerous occasions, starting with his nonsensical demand that Mexico fund his boondoggle border wall. He called NATO “obsolete”. He said we should have taken Iraq’s oil after our invasion, a clear violation of international law, then nominated Exxon’s CEO to be Secretary of State. All these will reduce the respect of our allies and increase recruitment of terrorists.
I believe that government shouldn’t intrude where it doesn’t belong. Republicans want to require women to have an ultrasound probe inserted into their vagina if they want to have an abortion. They want to prohibit health insurance from covering contraception. They want to legislate who you can love and marry. Democrats think these things are none of the government’s business.
I believe in equality of opportunity. Opportunity is not just absence of restrictions. It also means having the resources to make choices. You are not free to go to college if you have to work full time and are also the sole child care provider for 3 children or younger siblings. You are not free to run a business if your customers have no money to buy what you’re selling. In our high tech world opportunity requires education. Republican budgets cut tens of millions from education funding. Terry Branstad recently vetoed a bipartisan education funding bill, and Iowa colleges and universities face a new round of spending cuts. Democrats want to retain support for education and make college more affordable. Democrats want college admissions to take into account hardships students have had to overcome. Republicans support college admissions that take into account that their daddy went there and gave big bucks to the school. Democrats believe that women should get equal pay for equal work; most Republicans voted against it.
Republicans acting against our shared values is sometimes pure hypocrisy, but is often a matter of misplaced priorities. They overvalue money and undervalue the welfare of the public. They overvalue law and undervalue justice. They overvalue traditions and undervalue change. They overvalue people who look and worship like they do and undervalue, and even fear, diversity. They overvalue corporations and undervalue people. They overvalue the rich and undervalue the poor. Banning abortion is free, but providing health care to a child costs money. Violating the Constitution is ok, but only if it gives the “right answer”. Intruding on people’s intimate lives is ok if the “right” isn’t something that conservatives like. Tax breaks for alternative energy are bad, but tax breaks for oil and coal are good, since those forms of energy are proven (ignoring the fact that they’re proven to be deadly). Conservatives are pro-business and will trample workers’ rights in the process. They want to gut welfare, pointing to people who abuse welfare for hundreds of dollars. But they want to increase the Pentagon budget, and shrug when a defense contractor wastes tens of millions.
In many cases conservatives drive me crazy, but in others I concede that reasonable people can disagree. This is especially true when vital values give opposite guides on an issue. Abortion destroys a fetus that can have no independent life (yet), but prohibiting it infringes greatly on the freedom and rights of the mother. Do you prefer life or freedom? Automobiles kill tens of thousands a year. Do we save lives by imposing a 25 mph speed limit on highways or is freedom more important here? What’s more important, the freedom to conduct business without oversight, or the peace of mind knowing regulations guarantee the safety of the products we buy? We kill thousands of asthmatics with air pollution to get cheap electricity and can save many lives if we triple the cost. Life or money? Do we save 3000 young lives from death by terrorism or instead save 100,000 seniors from death by disease?
Both political parties need to recognize that we mostly share the same values, and that values we hold very dear must be given up sometimes. Defending life at all costs is not possible or prudent. Defending freedom at all costs is impossible. Sometimes “saving” money costs much more in the long run. It isn’t always clear what the Constitution means for modern society. Compromise is needed and is not a deal with the devil. If political discourse would recognize this, we’d see a lot more getting done.