When Thomas Jefferson ran against John Adams in 1800 it was the first free election of the president of a modern nation contested between two political parties. And it was a ruthless struggle to determine the fate of the new nation. For just one example, New England preachers told their congregations Jefferson was an atheist who would confiscate all Bibles, if he were elected. Yet, in TJ’s Inaugural Address, in an attempt to unify the nation, he said the equivalent of we are all Democrats, we are all Republicans. By the time he finished his eight years as president, the country was so politically united that essentially there was only one national political party. So in a sense he had turned his statement into reality.
Today, we live in such a polarized political world that it seems necessary for me to state some of my political views before I address the issues of today. Unfortunately, many of us don’t evaluate the ideas we hear, but rather we judge them based on their source. Liberals and conservatives don't listen to each other, and when they do it's not with openness to new ideas, but to support their belief that the other is wrong. I generally listen to both liberals and conservatives, and I look for what I can agree with in both.
I was raised in a liberal Democratic family where my first political hero was Adlai Stevenson, followed closely by John F. Kennedy. I've considered myself a Kennedy Democrat ever since, and that means I oppose tyranny and injustice around the world. I was inspired by Kennedy's Inaugural Address, which years later I discovered was modeled on TJ’s first Inaugural. President Kennedy clearly stated his opposition to any political system that was oppressing the people. There was never any doubt that he strongly opposed communism and was an advocate of democracy. Of course, some would say that his attitudes led us into Vietnam. Perhaps it was that point of view that later led so many Democrats to retreat from strong opposition to communism and to cede that position to conservative Republicans. It was that retreat that led, at least in part, to the election of Ronald Reagan. So, even though I've never voted for a Republican president, I've been dismayed by the recent lack of a more forceful Democratic opposition to tyranny around the world. Of course, now some would object that opposition to tyranny is partly what led us into Iraq to overthrow Saddam. But that’s a topic for another time
I don't think I've changed much politically over the years since JFK, as I have remained a Kennedy Democrat and a Jeffersonian. I just believe the Democratic and Republican Parties have changed in some unfortunate ways, and in other ways have stubbornly refused to change. For example, large Democratic sponsored federal government programs, such as Social Security, welfare, Medicare, and Medicaid, have played an important part in protecting the American people, and now they need to be protected. But as we saw with welfare reform sometimes the best way to protect a program is to be willing to revise it. Perhaps the time has come when the country does not need more such large federal programs, but instead needs creative, nonpartisan thinking to save the programs we have before going on to institute new programs regarding health-care. It’s time for Democrats to rethink their image of always preferring the federal government over state’s rights. After all, it’s the states, such as California, that are taking the lead on protecting the environment, as well as other social reforms.
Regarding Republicans, conservatives insist on their patriotic faith in America, but they stubbornly resist having the wealthy pay what they can easily pay to support this great nation they admire so much. They don't object when the federal government uses taxes and fiscal policy to help corporate America, but balk at using that same government to protect our environment and assist those in need. Is it really possible to love America and despise the national government designed by the Founding Fathers and elected by the American people? Of course, these are all necessarily generalizations and oversimplifications, but they make me wonder about liberals and conservatives, and whether either possesses the best roadmap for America.
So, over the years I have become an independent who finds value in both Democratic and Republican thinking. My views, however, are not merely compromises always leaving me in the political middle. Rather sometimes I think like a liberal and sometimes like a conservative , though admittedly most often I think like neither, thus becoming a moderate. Therefore, if a category is required, I guess the bottom line is that I'm a ‘ moderate independent’, or might I be an’ independent moderate’. Whichever, the result has been that I have always voted Democratic for Illinois Senator and U.S. President, and on occasion voted Republican for U.S. Representative or local and state officers.
Both political parties justifiably claim TJ as their founding inspiration. TJ’s Republican Party became the Democratic Party and Lincoln claimed him as the inspiration of the new Republican Party. Our Jefferson, the TJ that speaks to this generation, would not fit easily into any political party. He once said that if the only way to get to heaven was as a member of a party, he'd just as soon not go. Well, I'm guessing you can get to heaven without being a member of a political party, so I'm going to give it a shot.
I have never thought that a difference in political, any more than in religious opinions should disturb the friendly intercourse of society. There are so many other topics on which friends may converse and be happy, that it is wonderful they should select of preference the only one on which they cannot agree. 1810