Voting is about values

Bill Bumgarner is a retired health care executive from northwest Iowa who worked in rural hospital management for 41 years, predominately in the State of Iowa.

The other day, just for fun, I took pencil to paper to assess the “hit rate” over the years for when my first-choice Democratic presidential candidate went on to win the party nomination.

Ugh. In ten election cycles—not counting years when there was an incumbent Democratic president—my success rate was an unimpressive 44 percent. Prior to 2016, it was an even more dismal 28 percent. Are you old enough to remember Mo Udall? 

However, my first-choice futility contributed to a better understanding over time—as I view it anyway—of what my vote represents.  

Whenever my first-choice candidate didn’t prevail, I always moved beyond any angst about minor policy differences or candidate personality quirks and voted for the Democratic nominee in November.

I came to learn, in most instances, I really wasn’t voting for a particular candidate as much as I was supporting a political philosophy, or a set of values.

In the American political system, it takes consistent support for one of the two major parties to effectively advance—and sustain over time—either progressive or conservative policy initiatives. And don’t be persuaded by ideological purists: the philosophical differences between the two parties are clear-cut. 

I’m a Democrat because I believe government oversight and action is necessary to represent the interests of all Americans. Government programs can help make people’s lives a little better, offering dignity to the marginalized, the elderly and those requiring a temporary hand-up. Republicans believe the natural order of the free market and limited government will do well to meet everyone’s needs. 

It’s Democrats who protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, always. My neighbors in northwest Iowa, who overwhelmingly vote for Republicans, never quite get it. Most value these critical programs, but only shrug when their elected representatives return to Washington (with the election behind them) and propose ways to trim, cut, or even privatize these safety net benefits.

Democrats are more responsible economic stewards. In recent decades this has meant cleaning up GOP budget deficits that always follow its over-played tax cut trickle-down fantasy. Look it up. The historical trends for job creation, tax fairness, market growth and deficit reduction back up Harry Truman’s tongue-in-cheek line, “If you want to live like a Republican, you’ve got to vote for a Democrat.” 

While both parties can struggle with the complexities of foreign policy, Democrats have been more responsible managing international affairs. Today, it’s Democratic leadership that’s making NATO stronger, supporting freedom for Ukraine, and seeking a new way forward in the Middle East. While some Republicans share those views, today their party’s MAGA extremists stand in the way of defending long-held geopolitical norms, preferring to link critical support for American allies to its culture wars.    

In marked contrast to Republicans, Democrats stand alone to seek a woman’s legal right to make her own health care decisions and to confront the ravages of climate change. Their policy positions also advance the basic rights of all citizens regardless of gender, race, religion, national origin and sexual orientation. Everyone matters.

Democrats are staunch defenders of First Amendment rights and offer a pragmatic, 21st century interpretation of the Second Amendment. Give President Joe Biden a Democratic-controlled Senate and House and they’ll pass sensible gun laws. Those new protections would stand in stark contrast to the empty hopes and prayers Republicans cynically offer after yet another mass shooting. 

And most vitally in 2024, Democrats forthrightly defend democracy and the rule of law. Meanwhile, most Republican elected officials avert their eyes from the horrific transformation of their once responsible party, either out of narrow self-interest or a flat-out lack of courage. 

It takes more than a flag pin on your lapel, or proposing a law requiring Iowa children to sing the nation anthem each school day, to truly respect the United States Constitution. It means standing behind that time-honored document even when your candidate doesn’t win, you disagree with a law or regulation, or when someone faces criminal charges after engaging in illegal conduct based on election lies.

It’s critical for anyone who values democracy to come together to support Biden and Democrats up and down the ballot in 2024. The stakes are too high to quibble over nuances of policy or personality. Conservative David Frum articulated it well in a recent commentary in The Atlantic:

“So maybe the issue on the ballot in 2024 is not a choice at all, but a much more open-ended question. We know who Biden is. We know who Trump is. Who are we?”

Top image is by Callahan, available via Shutterstock.

About the Author(s)

Bill Bumgarner

  • Climate change is huge, but it is only part of a larger set of serious environmental challenges...

    …and the Republican Party is largely not even talking about them.

    In his column titled “Why Republicans Turned Against the Environment,” Paul Krugman, musing about “scorched-earth G.O.P. opposition” to environmental-protection policies, asserted that “environmental policy has been caught up in the culture war…”

    He went on to conclude, “Even Republicans who have to know better won’t break with the party’s anti-science position… Environmental protection is now part of the culture war, and neither policy details nor rational argument matters.”

  • Democrats are weak and so are Republicans

    Mr Bumgarner likes to bid, just for fun. He also celebrates US foreign policies with the same sense of humor, as the USD is rapidly losing its status of world reserve currency. Let me bid that the Democrats will nominate a younger candidate. After a prosecutor found Biden too senile to stand criminal trial, it is beyond time for new blood.

    I disagree that Republicans are so different from Democrats. Most increase debt in an unreasonable manner. They promote useless foreign wars that we keep losing. Remember also that Trump was a candidate of the Democrats decade ago.

    The real problem with US politics is that Republicans and Democrats have stopped talking with each other. A meat lobbyist I met on a flight to Washington was telling me that. He said they used to go out together, argue and elaborate complex rational thoughts that turned into good policies. Now they live in their simplistic talking point boxes, and lobbies run the country.

  • old school

    Yes, I’m old enough to remember statesman like Mo Udall, Gary Hart, Frank Church, and other Democrats who stood tall. Old Joe is a paper tiger, an empty suit who has filled the Biden family coffers for 50 years. I’m old school enough to realize that Biden isn’t calling the shots and this Democrat won’t be voting for him again.

  • values?

    I remember when then Sen. Biden had to end his 1988 presidential campaign when he got caught plagiarizing. He was telling “whoppers” forty years ago and he continues to struggle with the truth. This Democrat has had enough of Biden’s “values” and falsehoods.

  • This Democrat...

    …believes that Donald Trump poses an existential threat to U.S. democracy itself, not to mention critical environmental policies, and will vote accordingly.

  • I remember

    I watched the 1988 YouTube video where Biden mocks the IQ of an Iowan, and brags about fabricated credentials. I saw Biden at a campaign event in Iowa in 2020, he walked like he just got up from a grave, stared blankly, but spoke in a more intelligible way than today (of course with prompters).

    That said, Biden is one of the Senators who sponsored and passed the most bills during his Federal career. Hillary was also good at passing bills. So, you can be an effective legislator while a poor candidate and a poor president. Iowa Democrats have a knack for sorting the good candidates from the poor ones. Biden did not fare as well as Obama in his Iowa campaigns, we saw his giant ego, low class, and diminishing faculties up close and in full display. Biden is a good friend of Donna Brazil and the DNC, and it is no wonder that the current DNC has humiliated the Iowa Democratic Party and ejected them from the primary races.