While I was on my trip I bought Homegrown Democrat, by Garrison Keillor. He is the rambling personality behind A Prairie Home Companion, a weekly radio variety show detailing the times of the fictional town of Lake Woebegone, along with music, and NPR humor. His writing feels like he dictated the entire book after staying up all night downing capuccinos and arguing over politics. The sentances are long and can be cumbersome, but full of passion.
The wonder of the book, even though it rambles in and out anecdotes about growing up, attending the University of Wisconsin and the death of JFK, is that it mirrors many of the reasons why I also am a Democrat. I am a Mormon from Idaho who works with a popcorn seed company in rural Indiana, which means that my peers at church and work, my family, and most of my friends are dyed in the wool Republicans.
To most of which, my choice to abandon the Republican party is approaching apostacy, because the Democratic party is percieved to consist of socialists, abortionists, supporters of gay marriage, and unreasonable vegetarian environmentalists. The Republicans see themselves as supporters of Christian values of temperance, low taxes, traditional marriage, moral values, the American Dream, and the City on a Hill.
When I look at the Republican party I see whited sepulchres that advertise Christian values, the American Dream, the City on a Hill in bright letters on the outside, but behind the boardroom doors are happy to make deals with tobacco companies, the logging industry, the military industrial complex, the oil industry or who ever else holds the purse strings. I see the war in Iraq. I see Iran-contra. I see Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo bay, illegal detentions and nightime raids on Muslim American homes. I see oil wells in the Alaskan wildlife refuge, the loss of wilderness and public lands, high national debts, tax breaks for the rich, Jack Abramoff, and empty words to pacify the religous conservatists about flag burning, school prayer, and constitutional marriage amendments.
Garrison Keillor argues that the Democratic party, the ideal one he believes in, supports a social contract. This social contract argues that the government exists for our good and should do good. The government should support public works, public transportation, public schools, public welfare, public lands. The constitution and the bill of rights are the framework for this contract. Civil rights spring out of this contract, as well as responsibility to support public schools and services.
Unfortunately, these may not be the pillars of the actual Democratic party, but they should be. That is a moral standard I can grab on to and defend. It expands the morals of the party beyond gay marriage and abortion, as it should because the government does so many things besides marriages and abortions.