A Democratic Credo

oldamericancentury.org

The following was authored by our past chair, Bruce Taylor, and originally appeared in the Pike Dispatch on November 2nd.

As a Democrat, I believe that a cooperative spirit, including trust, faith, caring, and fairness, is a core value of our party. Our founders, in their Declaration, recognized individual rights needed the cooperative spirit embodied in a government:  “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” And in their wisdom, they rejected the Articles of Confederation and opted for the more cooperative Constitution recognizing that the separate states needed a common currency with no barriers to commerce crossing state lines and that we needed a fairer union which protected the interests of smaller states. Ben Franklin’s famous warning that we should all hang together applied to the continuing need for a common defense.  Thomas Jefferson advised that individual rights are nested in a society, which needs governmental institutions to resolve conflicts, to legitimize authority, and to keep the trust level so necessary to preserve our unity as a people.  After all, rights have no practical meaning outside the society that grants them. Fairness is at the core of our laws which freed us from the European system of privilege and is embodied in our concepts of equality before the law and in the right to private property in the Fifth Amendment.  The caring principle is not prominent in our founding documents other than in the famous “insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare.” It was assumed that private individuals and local institutions would reach out to those in need.  But our early settlers established caring for others as a civic duty: As John Winthrop led a group of English Puritans to Massachusetts Bay in 1630, he invoked a "model of Christian charity" that would define their colony. "We must bear one another's burdens," he told his fellow settlers. "We must not look only on our own things but also on the things of our brethren.”  Later, Franklin started public libraries and in the planning for new states, townships were to require public education. Our founders had faith in a clear, nourishing stream of wisdom flowing through our religions and into our constitutional principles.  We may disagree on interpretations, but the stream remains there for all of us.  We have seen the caring and fairness principles in that stream move us in our gradual acceptance of former slaves, immigrants, women, and LGBT people as equals within the larger society. That stream of wisdom has guided us through wars, recessions, contested elections, assassinations, epidemics, and rapid technological changes and with only one unifying constitution!

I believe that we remain a cooperative society of interdependent people and are not just a collection of competing individuals vying for personal profit in a zero-sum game. This cooperation is actually vital to the competitive spirit so necessary to our economic prosperity.  Consider our trust in, and acceptance of, sanctity of contracts, courts,  “weights and measures,” money, insurance, and, yes, even regulations that make doing the right thing the best choice.  Without trust, commerce grinds to a halt. Without governmental authority, trust evaporates in the fires of anarchy.  In a cooperative society we all contribute to each other’s success: capital needs labor, businesses need customers, skilled workers depend on public and private education, and commerce needs infrastructure.   When  President Obama was ridiculed for saying “you didn’t build that,” he was referring to all the societal inputs needed to succeed in business despite the CEO’s individual imagination, courage and hard work.

It follows, then, for Democrats to support cooperative policies which contribute to the common good of all our people:  provide health care for all of us, give everyone the needed skills to compete and to serve, fund research from which innovation springs, ensure working opportunities so that all families can receive a living wage, invest in our physical infrastructure, provide for the well being of seniors, keep competition fair by limiting monopolistic mergers and acquisitions, reform a tax code that embodies fairness principles, halt the growth of gas emissions that endanger world populations, make voting easier, draw fair electoral districts, and promote international cooperation to reduce the areas of armed conflict.