BY KYLE MARES
I am a Democrat because I believe in the policy goals of my party. Progressives have instituted and extended many of the liberties and social programs on which Americans of every political color depend. Democrats introduced Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It was Democrats, who passed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, securing the franchise and protection from discrimination for millions. Democrats gave over twenty million Americans comprehensive health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. I am proud to be affiliated with a party that continues the fight for criminal justice reform, common sense gun control, a path to citizenship for DREAMers, the right for women to have agency over their own bodies, and the ability for all Americans, regardless of their ZIP Code or skin color, to have a chance to succeed.
This is not to say that the Democratic Party is without its faults. People of color have been ardent supporters of Democrats, but the party has not done enough to deliver these voters a return on their political investment. Communities of color continue to be hamstrung by poverty, under-performing schools and jobs that provide no opportunity for socio-economic advancement. Rural white voters feel left behind by globalization and outpaced by a rapidly changing economy and society, while their families and communities are gutted by the opioid crisis. We must do better to address the anxieties felt by these underserved groups and focus on the issues that transcend petty political gamesmanship and significantly affect Americans of all political colors.
While these issues are complicated and involve systemic, multi-faceted reforms, I am emboldened by the diversity of Democratic candidates, like Stacey Abrams of Georgia, who, if elected, would become the first black female governor in American history. Giving traditionally disadvantaged communities a seat at the table can only serve to bring attention and resources to the challenges they face.
Wonky discussions of policy aside, the Republican Party has failed to denounce the dark, twisted forces poisoning our body politic and threatening the longevity of our democracy. Their tacit endorsement of anti-Semitism, xenophobia and white nationalism have allowed outbursts of violence, from Charlottesville to the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh to become commonplace. I lament the GOP’s descent into fascism because our democracy relies on reasoned debate and compromise from those on both sides of the aisle who believe in the fundamental principles of equality and liberty that have served as our lodestar.
The GOP elite have consciously chosen a politics of prejudice and spite as their modus operandi. Fascism’s hostile takeover of the GOP has ushered in an era of inexcusable policies, from separating migrant children from their families and the Muslim ban to recent attempts to redefine gender in order to write transgender individuals out of existence. In their quest to “own the libs,” they have fought to take away healthcare from 23 million Americans, withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, and placed a man credibly accused of sexual assault on the Supreme Court. Their reckless disregard for democratic norms and kow-tow to authoritarian despots have made it clear that standing up for fundamental human rights is secondary to the financial interests of GOP elite and mega-donors.
Simply put, the modern GOP is not concerned with governing; rather, it is focused on the accumulation of power and the weaponization of our institutions to target minority groups. This approach is wholly incompatible with who we are as a nation. I am a Democrat because my party has fought against this cynical and corrupt kind of politics and will continue to resist policies that threaten civil rights and the health of our democracy.