What if we said yes to Democrats?Published 10:13am Friday, September 14, 2012
Column: Notes from Home
Let’s say that the Democrats win the upcoming election. Where are we likely to end up if Democrats take power in Washington?
Given the trends of the past couple years, this seems an improbable outcome, but not impossible. Nov. 6 is still far off, and nothing is actually certain until the polls close that Tuesday.
Saying yes to Democrats, by the way, is not the same thing as saying yes to Barack Obama as president. At least it isn’t for me, because the legislative branch should be the true seat of power in Washington — although that won’t happen until legislators recognize that the real threat to America doesn’t come from the party on the other side of the aisle, but from whoever is sitting in the oval office.
Anyway, moving on to what saying yes to the Democrats might look like.
For one, Democrats see government as a positive force. If Democrats ruled Albert Lea, for example, after the latest big storm blew down trees and branches, city officials would have organized a curbside pickup of storm debris. This would be seen as a legitimate service that government provides to citizens.
So, under the Democrats, the federal government would continue to serve citizens in ways it has for several generations. Government agencies would continue to act as a protective buffer between consumers and producers. Government lawyers would continue to protect the health and life of workers in their workplaces and penalize employers that discriminate against or exploit women and minorities.
In energy policy, Democrats would continue to diversify energy production and promote conservation. They would end the tax cuts and subsidies provided to oil, gas and coal companies. Subsidies would be extended or maybe even expanded for hydro-electric, solar, wind and geothermal energy production.
With Democrats in charge, the safety net would remain strong, with access to affordable health care for all Americans added to the already existing Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Poor Americans would still be treated as “cases” instead of as “people” by government officials; they would have to navigate a labyrinth of regulations and paperwork to get assistance, sacrificing both pride and privacy. But pregnant women and poor children would get better nutrition, and fewer poor families would be living in their cars.
On social issues, minority rights would continue to be supported, including civil rights for homosexuals and religious freedom for Muslims. Anti-immigrant laws and attempts to restrict voting rights under the cover of voter ID rules would probably come under fire.
On the other hand, taxes would probably go up. At first it would apply primarily to the rich, but eventually taxes would go up for everybody. This would not be because of an expansion of federal spending, but because progressive politicians finally seem to be paying attention to the tax burden on their grandchildren. Taxes will go up and subsidies of all kinds will be reduced because a balanced budget is a priority for them, too.
To the dismay of many moderates and independents, trade unions — including teachers and public employee unions — would retain political influence if the Democrats win, despite the lack of economic power wielded by unions in contemporary America. I suppose the lack of a true Labor Party in the U.S. means unions will try to exercise power through surrogates, but it’s not something that excites me about a victory for the Democrats.
In short, Democrats are the real conservatives in this election, trying to maintain the status quo in government responsibilities. If you believe in the priorities and powers of the federal government as they are now, you are likely to enjoy the things the Democrats would be able to achieve. If you don’t believe that the government is even close to doing things the right way now, then you will not. Instead, you will be interested in next week’s topic: Saying YES to the Republicans.
David Rask Behling teaches at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, and lives with his wife and children in Albert Lea.