Saturday, October 18, 2008

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You

Note, comments are not enabled on this post. I have no intention of debating what I say in this entry. It’s just a statement of belief and fact as I see them, and I’ll let them stand exactly as is.

While having a discussion with a friend of mine, we talked a little bit about politics. I’m typically one who doesn’t get involved in in-dept political conversation because my views tend to be a little out of "the norm". When you say that you are a Latter-day Saint, people automatically assume things about you, such as that you are a Republican. Which I’m not.

On the flip side, when I say I’m a Democrat, then a lot of people get a totally different view of me, and I typically have to stop them and say “no, that’s not accurate, either”. By the time I explain where I’m really at, and what I really represent, most people tend to just shrug and go on their way. However, this time, I was given a comment to chew on, and it’s one that’s given me a lot to think about. I’ll protect the innocent and not drag them in by name, but here, paraphrased, is the comment that grabbed my attention:

The Democrat party has moved to the extreme left, and is NO LONGER the party of JFK.

BANG!!! In one sentence, I’ve finally had crystallized for me what I’ve tried to explain to others for many years! In addition, I’ve been given exactly the way to phrase why I stay with it, even when I feel that my party has drifted so far away from many of the ideals I personally hold so dear.

I can sum up most of my political views in a few basic sentences. They may seem quaint to some Democrats, but these are the principles of the Democratic Party that I hold dearly to, as well as some areas where I differ from mainstream Democrats today:

I believe there are areas where the government does have a solid need to be involved, where taxes and tax breaks need to be applied, and yes, I believe in a social contract with everyday Americans. I believe in social justice. I believe in giving help to those who are less fortunate or who have otherwise been harmed in the past. That is all classic Democrat party platform material. However, my view of that social contract and who deserves to receive the greatest benefits from it is decidedly out of vogue in today's Democrat circles. I believe strongly in the power and value of religious faith, in industry, in people willing to work hard, play by the rules, be frugal, become prosperous because of their own efforts, and support and give service to the foundational institutions that are the most stabilizing in society, such as traditional marriage and families, schools, churches, communities and the like. To echo the words of John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your Country can do for you, as what you can do for your Country”.

In my perfect world view, where would I like to see the lion's share of government monies collected in taxes go? Those not earmarked for establishing justice and ensuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense and securing the blessings of liberty (yes, I’m talking about the “promote the general welfare” section of the Constitution) should go to those who participate in the greatest manner as the greatest net producers and contributors in society, those that contribute the most to our nation. That goes for people, families, businesses, what have you. That goes for rich and for poor, let all have a chance to reap the benefits of the opportunity that this great country provides. THIS is where taxes and government funds should, in my view, focus the greatest amount of attention.

Now watch out, I’m going to get “politically incorrect” here and I may well be committing “Democrat blasphemy” with what I’m about to say… if one was a net drain on the lives and welfare of people (i.e. "the societal sinners", however you wish to personally define that; I have my own thoughts on what that represents and I’ll not be debating them here), those are the ones that I would look at applying more of a focus on collecting taxes from. You want to smoke, drink, do drugs, be a libertine, cause damage and live dangerously? Hey, it's your life, and you're free to live how you wish, but you're going to pay extra for it. Do you want to live a balanced, focused, productive, upstanding life, as defined by the greater good of society as a whole? Awesome, you deserve the tax breaks for providing the biggest net gain to society. Everyone deserves a chance, but nobody should be entitled to an unlimited free ride. I am 100% AGAINST wealth redistribution, and I am 100% AGAINST corporate welfare!

Thus I am what is often referred to as being fiscally liberal, but I believe the liberal policy should be applied in a socially conservative manner. That describes the Democratic Party that my father was raised in. It was that same philosophy and ideals that he helped pass down to me. The ideals of the party of FDR, JFK and RFK, and it’s the one whose ideals I still believe in. Work hard, live modestly, avoid debt, pay whatever down you can as fast as humanly possible, and then invest so that you can live comfortably and give to others. Willingly. To serve your fellow man and help those to have the same opportunities that you do. Ask not what your Country can do for you, as what you can do for your Country!

My world view, I've discovered, is becoming increasingly rare. Sadly, the men and women I used to be able to identify with seem to be dead or dying. It also feels as though the mantra today is “Ask not what you can do for your country, instead demand what your country will do for you!”… and frankly, that both saddens and terrifies me.

I feel somewhat out of sorts today, as though I’ve been marginalized because I’m not rabidly liberal, super left leaning, or one who wants to embrace the United States and its headlong march towards Socialism. I feel like a lone voice in the wilderness at times, trying to say to people that it is possible to believe in social justice and religious faith at the same time. It is possible to have fiscally liberal leanings, but not want to see it applied to an ‘anything goes’ mentality and morality. It is possible to desire greater opportunity for my fellow man without trying to game the system to somehow guarantee that outcome (usually with disastrous results). It is possible to be a Democrat who stands for things like God, allegiance to country, devotion to moral and religious principles, and even stand for not so favorable positions such as support for the troops that fight our battles in distant countries, the desire to not see the government leap head first into bailing out every single institution who made a bad financial decision, or to tear apart absolutely critical to society cultural mores like traditional marriage and religious freedom.

Some may suggest that I am really a closet Republican, but I’m not… I’m an FDR and JFK Democrat, and I’m proud as all getout to be one. While the hard leaning lefties get all the press, there are still those of us who believe in what the Democrat Party once stood for, and will continue to stand for it. I may be a lone voice in the wilderness, shouting things I know some don’t want to hear, but I will not abandon it. I’ll also not be afraid to say that there is much about the Republican Party that is done right, and there is much about the Democratic Party that is done wrong. Neither side has the corner on the market of virtue or vice. Thus, while I often feel like I don’t belong in the tent any more, I’m going to stay, and I’m going to fight so that the moderate voice of the Democratic Party is still present and accounted for.