The California Democratic Party is poised to lead the way in our nation’s recovery, both in our economy and our moral compass, but it is on the subject of our moral compass that I write to you today.
As a nation, we are gradually coming to a point in our history where more people value the rights of others than the number of people fighting to erode those rights. Gay marriage stands as the beacon of this social change and the victories we’ve witnessed in this long-fought battle are an indicator of the cultural shifts that are taking hold. All of this is good.
Changes in the Republican Party are actually the tipping point in these victories. As moderate and Tea Party Republicans split on issues like marriage equality, the norms in conservative areas open towards acceptance. The split should be viewed as an opportunity for Democrats, just as it has been an opportunity to provide justice in the rights to marry.
Here in California, we have adopted the top two primary, a potentially invaluable tool that could help us capitalize on these divisions within the Republicans. Though the “jungle primary” practice of awarding the top two vote getters, not just the top vote getter from each respective party, is maligned by many of my fellow Dems as a handicap for our efforts to broadly move forward on our progressive ideals, it is actually a wonderful tool for exacerbating the split within the Republican Party.
The Los Angeles County Democratic Party is beginning to debate our best path forward within this new reality of top two primaries and the debate is a good one to have. As our county chairman recently pointed out, the fastest growing party in California is not the Democratic or the Republican Party, but the “No Party Preference” Party. That’s because moderate Republicans and hardline Republicans are dividing their party on a host of issues – voting rights, civil rights, and immigration being their most contentious points of conflict.
The Democratic Party was built upon the concept of inclusion. We are the party that celebrates diversity and embraces the strength of diverse voices. Historically, we have grown because we have demonstrated over time that we authentically believe that when our government or culture attempts to diminish the civil rights of another human being, that we are morally obligated to fight for that person or culture because we are a nation built upon the philosophy of equality; equality in opportunity, equality in our ability to abide by our personal faiths, equality in the right to express our opinions, and the general need for fairness and respect for all.
And so, we stand at a point in time where the Republican Party here in California is at its knees and our own party can either stand idly by and watch as the “No Party Preference” voters grow and eventually form their own party to run against us, or we could open our arms and proselitize. Personally, I believe that we, as the party of diversity and inclusion, would be wise to act on this opportunity and engage in a broad campaign to convert as many of these heathens as possible.
But in that effort, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to fighting for civil rights because our own history as a nation is rife with times and actions that profoundly deprived the civil rights of others. We should be eager to grow our party, yet equally eager to promote the ideals that make us Democrats.
From Jim Crow to workers’ rights to the suffragette movement and throughout the whole pantheon of America’s failure to live up to those lines from the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal”, Democrats have been the ones to set aside our own interests and fight for justice.
And so I write this to you today. In the light of our tremendous opportunity to grow as a party, in light of the collapse of the Republican Party here in California, in light of our historical diversity as a party, in light of the opportunity to kick-start a national movement towards progressive ideals as we move to convert the growing masses of “No Party Preference” voters, we must not forget one thing.
We are the party that – first and foremost – has fought for the protection of every human being’s civil rights. And yet, there are currently Democrats running for office both here in California and in red states across the country who have advocated against marriage equality. There are former Republicans who still harbor the idea that marriage is the sole right of a man and woman. This is decidedly not good.
We are a diverse party. There is room within our party for debates on the best fiscal policy, the best education policy, the best defense policy, and the best policy for almost anything.
There is no room, however, for us to compromise on the purity of our purpose. In the face of our tremendous potential to grow, we must root out Democrats who have gone against us on the issue of civil rights, particularly marriage equality, and elect candidates who embrace the very basic idea that denying anyone’s civil rights is the redline in the Democratic Party.
Because acting against someone else’s civil rights comes from a place deep inside a person that is unchangeable. We must not elect them, lest they corrupt our principles with their spite.
This isn’t just a matter of protecting our philosophies. There is a practical reason for shedding ourselves of civil rights violators and using candidate records on gay marriage as a litmus test.
Hardline Republicans are currently pursuing efforts to inhibit the voting rights of others – another precious civil right we must protect at all costs – in the form of overly restrictive voter ID laws.
To achieve victory in this future battle, we must elect and promote Democrats who were able to stand alongside the civil rights of others in the past – especially when it is inconvenient.