Defining Dems III

Column by David Cox

The nation is in one of its periodic political shifts. As FDR inaugurated the party of the New Deal, which evaporated under the pressures of the Vietnam War and social turmoil, and as Ronald Reagan brought “a new day in America” that now darkens amidst the Iraq war and administrative cynicism, so now something new is afoot.

Who shall set the vision, and what individual shall lead it, remains to be seen. But the leadership, I believe, now comes from the Democratic Party. It can be the party of the future.

I wrote earlier that it is the party of ideals, and of opportunity. Its third mark is that it is the party of hope. Hope, together with freshened ideals and a sense of opportunity, is bringing increased numbers into the political process.

For a generation, we’ve heard that government is bad. It is the problem, not the solution. It is the enemy. It should be shrunk so small it can be flushed down the toilet.

Paradoxically, and tellingly, the main purveyors of that line are those most eager to get to Washington. They threw out the old, tired Democratic bums only to become bums themselves, abandoning pledges to serve limited terms, extracting far more pork for their districts than Democrats in order to stay in power, and finding their colleagues going to jail for graft.

And, in the end, it is government that safeguards the people, fights wars (well-advised or not), paves streets, builds schools, and (thanks to FDR) protects the weakest among us.

Like it or not, government is an essential institution in society. It can be a positive one or a negative one. In a democracy, we choose. In the end, the government is ours: It is us.

Hope for good government as a positive force now inspires more, and more varied people, to become involved.

Both parties find record numbers running for president. But note: In the GOP, they’re all white males. Among the Democrats, one is a woman, one a Hispanic, one a mill-worker’s son, one an African-American.

On a state level, of the 17 Democratic-held Senate seats, five are being contested, while of 23 Republican seats, 13 are up for grabs. Locally, four of Rockbridge County’s five supervisors face hot races, some against multiple opponents: while not necessarily partisan, the election is another indication of increased commitment to government.

Democrats, moreover, have reason to hope. Even conservative Virginia elected two Democratic governors, back to back, and a U.S. senator in an upset. More importantly, there is a growing sense that these Democrats are getting the job done, especially within the state. Virginia has lately been ranked first as the best-governed, as the best place for educating children, and as the best state to do business (for the second year in a row). Gov. Kaine wants to make pre-K education available for any family that wants it for its children.

What’s the big accomplishment of the Republican-controlled legislature? To pass a transportation bill that now turns out to be so bad (whopping traffic fees that apply only to Virginians is just the start of it) that even its proponents are disowning it.

The Democrats, then, could be the party of the future. They have ideals, opportunity, and hope all on their side. But nothing is guaranteed. They can let their chance slip away. They can crow about winning Congress and then produce little (the new Congress has little enough to show).

Like cream, they can rise to the top and then sour, for power corrupts regardless of party. Still, hope is with the Democrats. So the near future is theirs – if they prove themselves worthy of it.

David Cox is the Democratic Party nominee in the 24th Senate District.

The views expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect those of management of The Augusta Free Press.


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