Poore Richard's Really Poore Almanack

The last two years worth of “hometown newspaper” columns from Dahlonega, Georgia
that led to Richard Van Ingram being banned from the only news and opinion organ in the county.

Why I Vote For Democrats
April 2006

People sometimes use a word and have no idea what the term means. Take the word "liberal," for example. In North Georgia, to be a liberal is to be stupid, wasteful, a Hell-bound worshipper of His Infernal Majesty, and, oh yes, weak. That’s a good shortlist. The point is, according to the usual local definition, no one in their right mind would become a liberal, much less admit to that sin in public.

Since I am notoriously not "in my right mind," and as I see no sin in it, I will tell you – I am a liberal. Yes, Virginia, we exist outside Hollywood and Taxachusetts, elitist scumbags that we are. But why, why oh why would anyone fritter their lives away in the service of a belief so completely wrong as "liberalism" – or at least, as wrong as we’ve heard it portrayed for lo these 26 years since the Reagan Revolution began?
Why indeed.

I’ll answer this question from my own point of view by telling you a few reasons I vote for Democrats. My reasons involve my own definition of what I think being a liberal means. Since the Democratic Party and I agree once in awhile, maybe you’ll be able to see why I – like every right wing talk radio goofball – think of them as the liberal party. But maybe you’ll also see why I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

Due to space constraints and mercy for my audience’s attention span, I will be making more assertions than giving arguments. Arguments to support these views you may find in columns written over the past five years. So, in no particular order, here is why I vote for Democrats.

1. They aren’t Republicans. The Republican Party has become the party of selfishness, irresponsibility, bigotry, an un-Constitutional interpretation of the power of the President, the support of torture and the violation of the Geneva Conventions.

A. Why selfishness and irresponsibility? The basic creed of the party is "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps," meaning they don’t believe we have any responsibility to assist one another or prepare for the future. The party doesn’t believe we have a responsibility to create safety nets to minimize the effects of disasters and misfortunes, whether on a large scale or small. The implication is that those who suffer misfortune or ignorance deserve their fate. If someone chooses to assist them, fine, but individuals ought not be required to do it by such things as taxation or law.

This is why we have witnessed the Republicans slowly destroy every government agency that has anything to do with social services and this is why we witness them prepare the way to dismantle the public schools.

B. So, why bigotry? The party’s adoption of a right wing Christian fundamentalist definition of "family values" has, in practice, been used as a cudgel to attack and vilify anyone the party disagrees with. That and fundamentalist conspiracy theorists use it to claim that "the family is under attack" in order to solidify control over their congregations – and over legislators -- by throwing them into a terror.

Never mind that the definition of "family values" being used is one taught by only a fragment of the Christian faith -- what business do purely religious interpretations of anything have influencing secular lawmaking anyway? We are not a theocracy, a "Christian nation," or however one wishes to say it. America is a country of secular laws and government where people of a variety of faiths, or no faith, have to get along. Any "law" that separates us and attempts to enshrine in law one religious sect's views has no more claim to being called a real law than the arbitrary jabberings of a monarch. And America isn't a monarchy, either.

C. So, what’s this un-Constitutional idea of Presidential power? Go look up the "unitary executive powers" theory and compare it to fascist ideas of "following the Leader" from back in the 30s. There is little difference and neither of these visions of Executive Power looks American. The last President who tried to extend the Executive Branch’s powers as far as the second Bush White House has was Nixon. And we all, hopefully, know why Nixon got ran out of office.

This White House is paying far too much attention to the ideas of a lawyer and professor at Berkeley called John Yoo – this man is the mind behind the torture document, the unitary executive powers theory, the PATRIOT Act, and so on. From the on line encyclopedia, Wikipedia, one may learn that at a recent debate at Notre Dame with another legal theorist, Professor Yoo candidly stated that there is no law to prevent the President from "crushing the testicles" of a detainee’s child if that’s what it took to get the job done. (You can find a video of the debate there, too, just in case you think that's my "liberal bias" talking.)

And this last thing ought to answer any question as to why I say the Republican Party has become the party of torture – men like Yoo are whom they are looking to for intellectual and moral leadership.Call me quaint, old fashioned, even simplistic, but I have a test for theories, laws, and uses of governmental powers: from them, if anything can, will, or conceivably might create a situation that looks anything like the Nazi Concentration Camps from WWII, I refuse to support it. Anything like that is evil and wrong by definition, I don’t care what the "reasoning" might be to justify it.

Moreover, if the Concentration Camps have already been built and people are being tortured and murdered after we redefine them as not being completely human, no, I am not going to sign on with that, either. The Republican Party made a deal with the Devil in the name of "safety" and has created problems as bad as terrorism. Many Republicans, like Sen. John McCain, don’t agree with their own party on these issues – but outside Sen. McCain, where has the movement been to reign in the President and torture?

2. I believe the rich and powerful are responsible for bearing more burdens than people who are not rich or powerful. They control more resources, it is their responsibility to use at least a portion of them on behalf of the common good whether they volunteer for this duty or not. Therefore, I believe in heavy taxation for those who control that sizable amount of wealth.

I do not believe in big government, nor in small government. I believe in good, effective government used to collectively attack problems we cannot overcome otherwise. Such government has to be funded. Taxes are the means by which we do this.

"But," comes the whine," if we tax the rich, it’ll hurt the economy! They won’t be able to invest as much, etc." Conservative economists are always fond of pointing out that just because the wealthy have more, it doesn’t mean those with less are being deprived of anything. There isn’t a fixed amount of money in the world, they say; if poorer people want more money, they just need to work harder and make more of it. And that is pretty much my return answer to the rich: if, after you are taxed on your hundreds of thousands, millions, or billions and you’re dissatisfied with the remaining amount, all you need to do is work harder or invest more wisely and make some more money. Just like the rest of us, except heavy taxes won’t leave you destitute – nowhere near it. So get over it.

My second response is, if the middle and lower classes had more of their income freed up after the tax money from the wealthy was used to, say, lower healthcare costs and college tuition, they could take their money and go invest it just as well as a wealthy person. Collectively, this would keep the economy going and give more people an interest in seeing things advance. All anyone would need to do is go to an investment firm and hire a pro to help make decisions. After all, that is exactly what most wealthy people do – or did you think they sit around on a phone all day yelling "buy" and "sell" and paying attention to the markets?

3. I believe access to a basic level of healthcare, physical and mental, is a basic human right; I believe universal education to the graduate school level and beyond for those who can go that far is a basic human right. I believe a minimum of housing, clothing, and food in emergency situations (short term or chronic) are basic human rights. Why? Because the country was founded on at least three principles – the inalienable (i.e. can’t take them away) rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those who do not like the ramifications of these principles can take it up with Tom Jefferson & Co.

4. I don’t believe minorities and poor people are plotting to destroy things or take over the country. No, I do not believe there is a conspiracy amongst Hispanic people to invade America. I believe they are the poor from economically depressed areas and places that are politically harsh. They are coming here because we have jobs and political freedom (until we lose our paranoid minds, round them up, and shove them into a Concentration Camp claiming that they may be "terrorists" or some such nonsense).

Nor do I believe people who are gay or lesbian are sitting around dreaming up ways to destroy the family and undermine Western Civilization. Mainly, it seems to me they wish to be left, like everyone else, to live in peace and privacy to enjoy the same rights as anyone else without being made to feel as if they are Walking Abominations in the eyes of the law. These people are not alien life forms – they are people, like you and me, with the same motives, desires, and dreams.

5. I believe we have a lot of work to do before things are just and fair between the races, especially between black people and whites. Many black people begin life with disadvantages and "40 acres and a mule" never happened. We owe a debt that needs to be set right, at the very least through keeping programs like Affirmative Action alive.

Also, the debt our nation owes to Native Americans is simply mind-boggling. How many people would like to be reminded that Dahlonega and the surrounding counties legally belong to the Cherokee Nation, illegally put on the Trail of Tears and mercilessly marched out to Oklahoma? We can’t repair the damages of history, but we can at least make attempts to "level the playing field" so people do not continue to be punished by the past.

And yes, I believe in equal rights for women, equal pay, equal treatment -- the works. Why? They're humans.

6. Drug addicts need intensive treatment, not (or not only) prison, and the treatment needs to be medical and scientifically sound. Laws, jails, and punishments alone do not cure drug addiction. Drug abuse, including alcoholism, is a societal problem, not an individual’s moral failing.

7. I believe in unfettered freedom of the press. I believe in the separation of church and state – their mixture destroys religion and turns a government tyrannical. I believe in Habeas Corpus. I believe in trial by jury and the right to representation whether you can afford it or not. I believe in the right of privacy, that a person is sovereign in their person, homes, and property. I believe the law limits government, even the Executive Branch (and, at this point, perhaps most especially the Executive Branch). I believe that if the government wants to search my property, tap my phone, get my phone or e-mail records, or open my mail, they MUST have judicial oversight. "National security" does not excuse just any action. I believe that the right wing has abandoned each of these principles and that their capriciousness concerning each of these threaten our country. Their party's shortsightedness and fear mongering threaten you and me.

So, for these and many other reasons I vote for Democrats. The Democrats aren’t perfect – neither am I – and their platform doesn’t always live up to my hopes. And they are in a bad habit of nominating bland people or people without a chance in Hell of taking major offices. And, yes, their last President had an affair and lied about it. But if I had to take my choice between a philanderer in the White House and a White House full of smooth-talking loose cannons using the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as a doormat, excusing all manner of un-American activity saying they’re keeping us "safe," I’ll take the adulterer, every time.

But I guess that just sounds like something a crazy liberal would say.





Richard Van Ingram
Copyright © 2007, All Rights Reserved