What Democrats Stand For: Prosperity through Values

What Democrats Stand For: Prosperity through Values

by Gilbert Schramm


In the midst of all the disruption, deception and chaos created by the GOP and Trump, the notions that democrats don’t know “what they stand for,” or that they are “merely against Trump” have been widely promoted. Both notions are misleading.

Democrats may not be as good at crafting simplistic messages as the Republicans, but that does not mean they don’t have values. Democrats recognize that we live in an increasingly complex world. Understandably, their proposals and polices reflect that undeniable fact.

 Republicans, on the other hand, continually offer up “simple solutions” that obscure the growing complexity of the world. Because it refers to facts, the democratic message is, by its very nature, more complex. Still, a close analysis reveals the stark difference between today’s GOP and the progressive resistance.

The first thing to recognize is that Trump is not an aberration: Trump is the logical outcome of decades of GOP propaganda, from the “trickle down” economics of Reagan to the scorched earth tactics of Newt Gingrich to the roaring lies of Rush Limbaugh. As such, Trump is the very antithesis of what the Democratic party stands for.

A close look at where Trump stands provides a powerful basis for understanding what democrats do stand for. For Trump “prosperity” simply means a pile of cash. This cash is to be obtained (as his business career shows) by hook or by crook. It is made by borrowing, cheating workmen and underpaying workers, by avoiding taxes and by cutting every ethical and legal corner in sight. American values of hard work, trust, and good work for fair pay go overboard. In ‘Trump world’ values are an afterthought you toy with after your millions are made.

The Democratic vision is quite different. For Democrats Justice comes first. Basic concepts like the rule of law, constitutionality, civil rights and voting rights are paramount. Security comes next; security involves a rational foreign policy, effective and just law enforcement, and effective regulatory protections of our food, air, and water. It also includes attention to what really threatens real Americans. That means government engagement in creating an affordable healthcare system—not because healthcare is a “right” but simply because public health is vital to our strength as a nation.

Justice and security mean little without Sustainability. Creating a sustainable balance between our military priorities, tax policy, healthcare and the environment is essential if we mean to create a nation that can last into the next century. Climate change is a reality that every other major nation acknowledges. We cannot be sustainable if we don’t rebuild our economy around clean, renewable energy. The Trump agenda of removing any mention of climate change from government websites is the epitome of a policy of burying our heads in the sand. Imitating the ostrich will not make us “great again.”

When the values of justice, security and sustainability are honored, prosperity comes by itself through those values. When it comes, it is not merely a pile of cash. It brings with it a sense of respect for your country. You know that your civil rights and a basic level of well-being are protected. Ideally, you know that the government will help you in times of healthcare emergencies and disasters. That’s real prosperity.

So, when you hear that democrats ‘don’t really stand for anything’ you are hearing pure nonsense. Yes, Democrats need to articulate their values more clearly. On the other hand, Trump’s first year shows that all the GOP has to offer is the path of throwing all our cherished American values aside in the profoundly misguided belief that money equals “prosperity.”

Progressives can take any issue from gun violence, to immigration, to military spending, to wealth inequality through an analysis in terms of justice, security and sustainability. The result will be a concise argument for rejecting “Trumpism” and a shared agenda for real change.

Sadly, many dedicated progressives have given up on the Democratic party. It’s time to come back. This year we have seen the truly lethal national consequences of such disengagement. It is time for all progressives to unite behind a program to work for real electoral change.