Democratic Ideals and Principles

In her thread, A New Direction, Sort Of . . . Georgia10 says,

<blockquote>Democrats propose a new direction. Towards what? Toward a bland and technical world of percentage increases in the minimum wage, or a 20% reduction in foreign oil consumption, or the repealing of giveaway taxes to corporations. Toward a world of policies, devoid of true ideas.

Boil down the policy concepts. What did the Democrats really present this week? Fairness. Justice. The Common Good. Did you get a sense of those core principles when Senator Reid presented the agenda? I didn’t. It may be that we just need to tweak our rhetoric to articulate these core principles, rather than thinking that these grand and passionate ideas are implied in the minutia of our domestic policy proposals.[/quote]

It seems she wonders when the Democrats are going to start talking about "ideas." I’ve been wondering same thing — and writing about winning the war of ideas for four years now. Meanwhile, on the matter of the core ideas that define the Democratic Party — or ought to, at any rate — I’ve got ‘em baby. Wrote ‘em a year ago — with some help from my crew. In fact, we wrote a whole platform . . . and never did much with it. Here are the "ideas and principles."


There is no greater evidence that the leadership of the Democratic Party has forgotten its proud history and tradition of speaking for working Americans, than in its failure to articulate the core values of the Democratic Party. This has left a vacuum, quickly filled by Republican propagandists, who have frequently distorted core American values to serve their right-wing ideology. Some Democratic leaders have focused on policy specifics, forgetting that working Americans are far less interested in the details of policy than they are on how those policies affect their day to day lives. A minority of Democratic leaders have attempted to play the game of "me too" — accepting the Republican distortion of American values, and pandering to the same myths and prejudices developed and exploited by the right-wing message machine.

Both of these approaches have left Democrats open to the accusation of "having no values." While that may be true of those Democrats who pander, it is patently untrue of the many more honest and serious Democratic leaders who offer positive policies that benefit the American people. They have simply forgotten the ordinary working Americans understand basic values, much better than they understand the frequently arcane details of policy. They have forgotten the primary function of leadership, which is to connect useful policies to the core values held by most people.

In fact, the core values of the Democratic Party are the core values of working Americans, and the core values of American Democracy. Those core values are part of the central definition of what "America" is all about. We are a nation of working people, who came to America to escape the suffocating class system of first Europe, and later every other part of the old world. Our experiment in democracy and self-government has been magnificently successful. We proved to history and to the world, that working people need no masters. They can manage their own business, they can establish a government that serves their interests, and they can build a society based on equality, democracy, and the freedom to prosper from their own efforts. It is the Republican vision — hierarchy, social darwinism, and corporate neo-feudalism — that run counter to the original promise of America.

We the members and supporters of Working Democrats call upon the leaders of the Democratic Party to reacquaint themselves with the core values that have historically been the very heart of the Democratic Party. To assist them in that effort, we offer the following short list of some, but by no means all, of those core Democratic Values.

EQUALITY The first democratic value, announced in the Declaration of Independence, is that everyone is created equal. This does not mean that everyone’s accomplishments will be identical, since every individual has his own unique interests, talents, methods of "pursuing happiness," and even the very definition of what "happiness" is to that individual. So equality does not mean "sameness." Conformity is for Republicans. Equality simply means "equality of interest." It means that your "pursuit of happiness" is exactly as important as anybody else’s. It means that the janitor at General Motors has exactly the same fundamental right to pursue his own interests as the majority stockholder. It means that no one has any obligation to sacrifice his happiness and his interests for the benefit of anyone else. Specifically, this means that no would-be corporate master has any superior right to profit from the sweat and blood of working Americans, than those working Americans have to profit from their own efforts. It is on this, the most fundamental of Democratic and American values, that the entire American experiment in democracy and self-government is based.

FREEDOM. No core American value has been more badly abused by the Republicans than the idea of freedom. In their corporate banality, they have reduced freedom to nothing more than the freedom to pursue riches, and the prerogatives of the privileged. We Democrats understand that freedom is much more than that. Because we Democrats understand that the "pursuit of happiness," includes much more than the "pursuit of riches" — and indeed the "pursuit of riches" is frequently destructive of people’s happiness. The equal right of everyone to pursue their own happiness, includes the freedom to define for themselves their own interests, and to pursue those interests by whatever social, political, intellectual, artistic, technological and yes, economic means are available to them, so long as their "pursuit of happiness" does not interfere with the equally important interests of others.

DEMOCRACY AND SELF-GOVERNMENT. In the old world of Europe we came here to escape, government exists to serve the interests of the wealthy few. We showed the world that government can serve the interests of everybody. In America — especially under the Democrats — government has frequently been a positive force, promoting the freedom, prosperity and happiness of working Americans. Examples of democratic self-government empowering working Americans are numerous. Interstate highways, public schools, public colleges and universities, rural electrification, the minimum wage, the National Labor Relations Act, the eight hour work day, the GI Bill of Rights, FHA mortgages, assistance to higher education, Medicare, job corps, occupational safety and health, weather satellites, communications satellites, the internet, and even business corporations, are all examples of government created institutions and infrastructure that have made American freedom, equality, prosperity and happiness a reality, instead of a mere theoretical possibility. That’s what democratic self-government is for. It exists to promote the freedom of working Americans to not only pursue happiness — endlessly on some Republican created corporate treadmill — but to actually find it.

SELF-DETERMINATION. Americans came here to take charge of their own destiny. That includes deciding for themselves who they are, what is important to them, and how they choose to live their lives. This is the true "American dream," and it is the birthright of every American — equally shared by every American, rich and poor alike. Our laws, public institutions, public infrastructure, and the many and varied private associations we make with one another, all exist to further each individual’s pursuit of his own destiny. We, the Working Democrats, recognize that tyranny over individuals takes many forms, public and private, and that one of the fundamental functions of functions of government is to free individuals from all forms of tyranny, public and private.

DIVERSITY. Freedom and self-determination necessarily means a wide range of lifestyles, modes of work, styles of dress, artistic tastes, religious and spiritual beliefs, and matters of personal morality that do not affect public safety or the legitimate rights of others. Many of these are the product of the diverse cultures present in American society. Many others are "homegrown" and unique to single individuals. We, the Working Democrats, do NOT call for "tolerance," but rather for something even more profound. "Tolerance" suggests that there is a "preferred" American culture. Instead we call for a simple recognition that freedom, self-determination and equality of interests mean that individuals are absolutely free to make their own decisions regarding the cultural heritage they choose to accept, adopt or change to suit their individual interests.

COOPERATION AND INTERDEPENDENCE. No person is an island. While we recognize the basic equality of every person, and their fundamental freedom to create their own individual destiny, we also recognize that no one does this entirely alone. From our families, to our communities, to our democratic institutions, to our vast public infrastructure, everyone has benefited from the efforts of others — including people they have never seen or heard of. In the case of the fortunes of our economic elites, those were built in large part, with the sweat of working Americans. In fact, working Americans well understand that individuals pursuing their own happiness can come together, and work together to accomplish great achievements. They also understand that such cooperative enterprises — including specifically private economic enterprises — frequently result in an unequal distribution of the benefits of such enterprises. We, the Working Democrats, recognize that a democratic government has a legitimate interest in insuring just compensation for every individual when she lends her efforts to some profitable cooperative enterprise.

RATIONALITY. Democratic self-government is based on the fundamental intelligence and rational self-interest of our citizens. Furthermore, freedom and self-determination include the belief that individuals are fully capable of using their rational minds in the search for truth and knowledge. On the other hand, myth, superstition, bigotry and ignorance are the tools of tyrants and oppressive elites. We, the Working Democrats, believe that a functioning democracy, requires a well educated citizenry. Furthermore, we categorically reject every effort of corporate America to manipulate and deceive working Americans with appeals based on prejudice, fear, false patriotism, empty symbolism, and every other form of ignorance and irrationality.

PRACTICALITY. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, "governments are instituted among men." Likewise, every other institution and organization, whether public or private, is the creation of human beings for the purpose of advancing their interests. Republicans forever talk about "principle versus expedience." But one principle, announced by Jefferson himself, is whether existing laws, institutions and organizations actually WORK to advance the interests of those subject to them. We, the Working Democrats, recognize that democratic self-government includes the inherent right of the people to create, modify, or abolish public insititutions and infrastructure, based on the simple criteria of whether such institutions and infrastructure serve the practical interests of individuals who live under them.

EMPOWERMENT. Very few, if any, human achievements were accomplished by individuals acting alone. If you are reading this, somebody taught you to read. Somebody invented the microchip and developed the technology of computer networks. Somebody launched the satellite that is very likely relaying this message from our computer to yours. Somebody perfected the "rocket science" that launched that satellite, and somebody taught them to read. The benefits enjoyed by individuals as the result of the efforts of others — including others long dead — are too numerous and too complex to ever be fully described. Indeed, it is a miracle that so much individual effort and achievement is both the result of empowerment received, and results in empowerment which is passed on. We, the Working Democrats, believe that empowering individuals to make the most of their individual efforts is not only a legitimate function of government, it is the primary function of democratic self-government.

OPPORTUNITY. Empowerment creates opportunities. When people take advantage of opportunities, they create still more opportunities — for themselves and other people. Any circumstance, whether it be the result of tyranny, oppression, or simple neglect, that reduces opportunities for anybody, reduces opportunities available to everybody. If American history proves anything, it is that the stronger we are as individuals, and the more opportunities are available to us, the greater will be our achievements, not only as individuals, but as a nation.

PROSPERITY. When we recognize people’s inherent freedom and self-determination, when we empower them with beneficial infrastructure and institutions, when we appreciate and honor our diverse cultural heritage, when we cooperate in both public and private enterprises, and when we recognize the fundamental equality of every individual, what we get is prosperity. Whenever a would-be elite places itself on the backs of working people, the inevitable result is stagnation, poverty, oppression and ignorance. We came to America to escape those things, and we built the most prosperous society that ever existed. Today, a ruthless corporate elite, and their political handmaidens in the Republican Party, would exchange a democratic, free and prosperous America, for an America mired in debt, cheap labor, bigotry and ignorance — just like the feudal Europe we left behind. We, the Working Democrats, reject this corporate neo-feudalism, and the polices that are even now impoverishing and oppressing the working Americans who built this prosperous democracy. We call on the Democratic Party to once again be the voice for those working Americans, and to once again become the champions of the equality, freedom, democracy and resulting prosperity that have made America unique among the nations of the earth.

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