The Cause, the Dream, and the Democratic Party
This week many of us are recalling and quoting Teddy Kennedy’s words “. . . the work goes on. The cause endures. The hope still lives. And the Dream shall never die.” But, in all the focus on these words, I think Teddy’s cause is getting lost. From earlier in his speech, here are his words about the cause.
”The serious issue before us tonight is the cause for which the Democratic Party has stood in its finest hours, the cause that keeps our Party young and makes it, in the second century of its age, the largest political Party in this republic and the longest lasting political Party on this planet.
”Our cause has been, since the days of Thomas Jefferson, the cause of the common man and the common woman.
”Our commitment has been, since the days of Andrew Jackson, to all those he called "the humble members of society — the farmers, mechanics, and laborers." On this foundation we have defined our values, refined our policies, and refreshed our faith.
”Now I take the unusual step of carrying the cause and the commitment of my campaign personally to our national convention. I speak out of a deep sense of urgency about the anguish and anxiety I have seen across America.
”I speak out of a deep belief in the ideals of the Democratic Party, and in the potential of that Party and of a President to make a difference. And I speak out of a deep trust in our capacity to proceed with boldness and a common vision that will feel and heal the suffering of our time and the divisions of our Party.
”The economic plank of this platform on its face concerns only material things, but it is also a moral issue that I raise tonight. It has taken many forms over many years. In this campaign and in this country that we seek to lead, the challenge in 1980 is to give our voice and our vote for these fundamental democratic principles.
”Let us pledge that we will never misuse unemployment, high interest rates, and human misery as false weapons against inflation.
”Let us pledge that employment will be the first priority of our economic policy.
”Let us pledge that there will be security for all those who are now at work, and let us pledge that there will be jobs for all who are out of work; and we will not compromise on the issues of jobs.
”These are not simplistic pledges. Simply put, they are the heart of our tradition, and they have been the soul of our Party across the generations. It is the glory and the greatness of our tradition to speak for those who have no voice, to remember those who are forgotten, to respond to the frustrations and fulfill the aspirations of all Americans seeking a better life in a better land.
”We dare not forsake that tradition.
”We cannot let the great purposes of the Democratic Party become the bygone passages of history.”
I think the Democratic Party has forgotten about “the cause” and about its historic mission. This mission is not reflected in the way that this Administration is trying to fix the financial system. It is not reflected in the inadequate stimulus package of the Administration. It is not reflected in the inadequate Credit card Reform bill this Congress passed. It is not reflected in current bills on health insurance reform that don’t free “regular” people from the thrall of the insurance companies. It is largely not reflected in Bill Clinton’s Presidency, though at least those years did lower unemployment, even if they didn’t produce major economic gains for working people, and it is not reflected in Jimmy Carter’s presidency which was very much focused on trying to balance the budget at the expense of employment concerns.
The truth is that the cause coupled with the dream that Teddy so eloquently talked about seems to have been forgotten, or at least placed on the permanent back burner by the Democratic Party, in favor of efforts at collaborating with the big banks, Wall Street, the coal companies, the insurance companies, and military contractors. The Democratic Party needs to recapture that cause, and to make that dream live again immediately, because if it doesn’t, it will be time to say of it:
“You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
In other words, if the Party continues to put banks, Wall Street, health insurance companies, military contractors, and other corporate interests, before its duty to its historic constituency, it will be time for a new political Party; a Real Democratic Party, to take the American stage, simply because, without its cause, and without its dream, the Democratic Party isn’t needed, and doesn’t deserve to exist.
(Also posted at the Alllifeisproblemsolving blog where there may be more comments)