Why I am a Democrat
By Joseph Sweet
Collier County Democratic Executive Committee
Thanks to unions, public education, the GI Bill, social security, college grants and a myriad of other successful government programs and ventures, I am a middle class American enjoying the fruits of our collective labor and the greatness of our country. My parents had hope and faith that their children’s’ lives would be easier, safer and fuller than their own. They succeeded. Sadly, the younger generation of Americans cannot look forward to such success for their children.
When I was young, we seemed to believe in the public good; what was good for all was good for America. Increasingly, that tweak of the golden rule appears to have been replaced by a lamentable, greedier me-first and I-got-mine-heck-with-you attitude.
My father had a third grade education; my mother did not receive her GED until she was in her late sixties. My father’s family was beset by drink and tragedy that rendered him an essential orphan at an early age. My mother came from a hard working immigrant family who appreciated the American freedoms and thought fairness, honesty and compassion were their contribution to our social contract. Together, my parents worked over one hundred hours per week; my father owned a thirteen-seat diner in a poor section of Providence, Rhode Island. My mother wound golf balls at U. S. Royal Company. Their hard work and dedication to family allowed them to take advantage of reasonably priced housing. We moved to a more prosperous part of town populated by working class homeowners with hopes of a better life.
America gave my parents the opportunity to realize their dream; it was that affordable admission to middle class life that made America unique and strong. My mother was a member of a union that fought for livable wages and a comprehensive health care plan that provided the best available medical care for our family. My widowed grandmother, who lived with us, was supported solely by her social security widow’s benefit. An older cousin was the first of our family to attend college, funded by the GI Bill. His experience awakened me to the possibility of higher education for myself. My father died before I graduated from college, but his social security death benefits (since removed by President Reagan for anyone beyond high school) helped me get my B. A. Another government grant aimed at increasing the education level of people in law enforcement allowed me to obtain my Master’s Degree in counseling. In my adult life, I have benefited from the united strength of my professional union to secure and maintain excellent healthcare benefits, good and fair working conditions and a livable, fixed retirement income.
I am a Democrat out of gratefulness to those who struggled for justice before me and a sense of obligation to those who will come after me. I am a Democrat because I believe all Americans, not just the privileged, should have access to a quality education, excellent and comprehensive healthcare, affordable housing and a social network to aid us when the unthinkable occurs. I am a Democrat because I believe our country should have a strong and modern infrastructure and I am a Democrat because I believe we should be leading the world in protecting the environment, developing alternate sources of energy and spending our money wisely in projects that have made us great like NASA, the Hoover Dam and the Interstate Highway system. Projects like these, funded by all Americans, not only addressed their purposes well but also have allowed the entrepreneurs among us to build on our successes to become successful themselves. The endeavors of our government have melded well with private enterprise; they have engaged in a symbiotic relationship that has produced Teflon, Tang, the microchip and the Internet. The dynamic relationship between the two has created America’s greatness.
No American has done it alone; all have relied on the sacrifices and hard work of those who have gone before them. A Democrat remembers that this country was built by those “yearning to breathe free”, and believes in the idea of a “melting pot,” of Americans struggling to build a life for our families and ourselves.
A Democrat is concerned about the demise of the middle class and the erosion of benefits for middle class Americans. Our country is becoming more and more stratified with wealth accumulating at the top. Their accumulated wealth is being used politically, and to the detriment of America, to ensure that the stream of cash continues in increasing waves upward toward the wealthy and at the expense of middle class Americans.
A Democrat’s America does not seek to extract a profit from every human transaction, as our country currently seems to do. A Democrat’s America supports a free and fair market economy but we strongly believe in the just role of our government. In our increasingly complex society, we must ensure all Americans continue to enjoy affordable education, a protected environment, excellent health care, a safe and modern infrastructure and sound and sustainable energy policies. Despite the short sighted calls for tax cuts, the misuse of the word “socialism” and the memory challenged claims that government programs do not work, we need a strong government and a strong middle class to ensure that we continue to be a land of opportunity for all.
That is a Democrat’s America.