Principles of the Democratic Party
by Congressman Glenn Poshard
This is an important election year because our party, our state and our country are being challenged with an extreme political agenda that threatens to undermine the basic principles in which we believe as Democrats. We can only meet this challenge by a vigorous effort to get out the vote, but unless we are motivated by a clear understanding of who we are and what we believe as democrats, our efforts will be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of funds being poured into opposition campaigns by multi-millionaire and multi-billionaire PAC’s.
So, what do we believe as democrats? Despite republican rhetoric to the contrary, we believe in a balanced budget for our country that includes a system of fair taxation for all economic classes and an economy that “lifts all boats” as President Kennedy once articulated. Our late Senator Paul Simon was the sponsor of the Balanced Budget Amendment which required our nation to balance its checkbook just like we have to do in our homes. When I was in congress, in the last four years of the Clinton administration, we were no longer in deficit spending and we were paying down our national debt. Eight years and two wars later under President Bush, both our economy and our indebtedness were completely unmanageable. When President Obama took over, our country was nearly in a depression. Unemployment was at nearly 10% and millions of people had stopped looking for work, the stock market had fallen from 14,000 to 6,000 with millions of Americans losing their retirement investments, hundreds of thousands were losing their homes and declaring bankruptcy, the banks were failing, the automobile industry was on its back, closing dealerships all over the country. The opposition party acts as though this never happened and instead want to paint a picture of a failing America under President Obama. Despite a republican- led congress opposing the President on nearly every issue, today unemployment is less than 5%, banks are thriving, the housing industry has substantially recovered, the stock market is around 18,000, people have recovered their lost retirement investments, and the auto industry is thriving. By almost any measure, America’s economy has done much better under President’s Clinton and Obama than the Bush presidencies. Were it not for the two devastating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan draining the American treasury, we could be well on our way toward a balanced budget in America. We cannot go back to the failed policies of previous administrations which put America’s economic security in jeopardy.
The second principle in which we believe is equal educational opportunity for all of our children. Nothing holds America back more than a divided system of education in which some children receive three times the financial support for their education as do children from poor communities. Basing the quality of a child’s education on the value of the property where a child happens to be born or raised ensures educational inequality and leaves millions of children unprepared for college and the job market. Senator Andy Manar has led an effort in Illinois to ensure that children in rural downstate and inner city communities get an equal opportunity for the same quality of education that kids enjoy in the wealthiest areas of our state. He should be highly commended for his leadership in this area.
The third principle on which we stand is our support for union workers. Were it not for the courage of my father’s generation to organize and demand a fair wage and benefits, there would be no middle class in America. During the years of America’s greatest prosperity, over 40% of our labor force was union. Businesses made a good profit and the middle class rose in its quality of life. Today, despite the fact that unions comprise less than 15% of our labor force, wrongful policies seek to break them completely and further erode the middle class. Democrats, it is no sin to stand up for our union brothers and sisters!
The fourth principle in which we believe is to protect the most vulnerable among us. This principle speaks to the heart of our party and our nation. President Kennedy said, “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot hope to save the few who are rich.” Vice President Humphrey put it another way. He said, “The true test of a free democratic society is how we treat those in the dawn of their lives, our children; those in the dusk of their lives, our elderly; and those in the shadows of life, our disabled and disenfranchised.” We will not be worthy of the name democrat if we choose to leave behind “the least among us.”
The fifth great principle on which we stand is equal justice under the law. No matter a person’s economic or social station in life; no matter their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or any other measure which defines their personhood, the democrat party must never relinquish our demand for equal justice in America. Too many times we have failed our citizens in demanding this principle be upheld. That is why the election of a democrat President is so vital because the appointment of a Supreme Court justice who will uphold this sacred principle hangs in the balance. It is just as important that we go all the way down the ballot to elect judges of professional competence and integrity to defend this principle at every level of government.
Robert Kennedy said this. “We have won not because we have deserted and diluted our principles for the sake of political expediency, but because we stood fast for our principles, our ideals. If we place the claims of power ahead of the claims of justice, if we shrink in the face of the passing winds of controversy or reaction, then we will have lost the great purpose which has made us strong as democrats and Americans.”
In this campaign, if we are energized by the great principles on which we stand as democrats we will win. Nothing less will do.