In this day and age, we seem to be trying to establish labels as much as we are trying to deconstruct them. In this case, I am talking about the infamous “Democrat or Republican” label. Yes, there are other political affiliations aside from these two, but they are the most well known as well as the ones most fought for. Recently, I read an article on npr that was talking about Bernie Sanders and how he is campaigning for Omaha, Neb., mayoral candidate Heath Mello who is anti-abortion. The reason this is a shocking––if it’s not clear right off the bat––is because Democrats aren’t usually pro-life but pro-choice so it is controversial that Bernie is campaigning for someones who ideologies do not completely align with the general population of the Democratic Party. However, this raises the question of what is a Democrat? Does being a Democrat imply that you’re completely aligned with their ideologies? Or, can you be mostly aligned and still consider yourself a Democrat?
To begin my investigation, I literally googled “What is a Democrat?” and of course Wikipedia was the first to answer my question.
“The party’s philosophy of modern liberalism advocates social and economic equality, along with the welfare state. It seeks to provide government intervention and regulation in the economy. These interventions, such as the introduction of social programs, support for labor unions, affordable college tuitions, moves toward universal health care and equal opportunity, consumer protection and environmental protection form the core of the party’s economic policy.”
Evidently, I did not find a clear cut answer even from Wikipedia or any of the other google links I clicked on, but rather a description of what they stand for. This leads me to think that it is what the party stands for that defines who they are as a party––which makes sense. If this is the case, then the party should be able to outline exactly what they stand for. So, I then went to the source: democrats.org. Under their “platform” section, they explicitly talk about their position on an array of topics and one of them is “women an girls” which is the umbrella section that contains women right to abortion and contraceptives. If their website and other sources such as wikipedia express their solid stance on anti-abortion laws, how is it that a candidate can identify with the Democratic Party and not align with this ideology?
Going back to the article, Bernie Sanders argues:
“If we are going to protect a woman’s right to choose, at the end of the day we’re going to need Democratic control over the House and the Senate, and state governments all over this nation,” he said. “And we have got to appreciate where people come from, and do our best to fight for the pro-choice agenda. But I think you just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue.”
For one, this statement seems problematic. How are we going to protect a women right to choose if we elect people who do not agree with this belief? Yes, the House and Senate would be under “Democratic control” but to what end? Yes, pro-choice is only “one issue” and Bernie stated above, but it appears as though it is one of the main issues which is also something the article argues for. Looking at this from a decision-making lens, how is Bernie’s decision going to affect us societally?
Because there is no solid evidence of the future, I can only speculate. If Mello does get elected, I don’t think it would impact the entire society but I think it may impact the Democratic Party going forward in the sense that it makes their ideals less solid. Before, they were clear not where they stood as well as the people were clear on where they stood, but now, the people would begin to question if they are able to overlook such a vital disagreement what will they overlook next? This may come off like an over-extrapolation, but it only takes one decision to impact everything like the invention of CDO’s which caused the 2008 recession.
Ultimately, reverting back to my initial question, what is a democrat? I think I’ve found my answer. A democrat is someone who stands with the Democratic Party on all of their core issues, so I would deem Heath Mellow not a democrat but maybe something else?