COMMENTARY: In his column on Nov. 10, Heath Haussamen asked a fair question to the Democratic Party: “What’s going to be different this time?” It’s a question Democrats need to be prepared to answer as they ask voters to entrust them with public offices in the next year.
I am not spokesperson for the party. I am not a party officer, nor do I work for any Democratic candidates. So I can only articulate what I hope Democrats will talk about as they engage voters in the coming months. Because they need to say something. Simply casting themselves as the opponents of Trump may not suffice.
The late U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan of Texas said the people want “an America as good as its promise.” Democrats believe we need to make good on this promise. Such an America is a place where every person gets an opportunity, regardless of where they come from or how much money is in their bank account. An America where everyone enjoys President Franklin Roosevelt’s “four freedoms:” freedom from fear, from want, freedom of speech, and freedom to worship in their own way.
Democrats recognize and acknowledge that our country (great and exceptional as it is) still does not make good on this promise, and still does not protect these freedoms for all of its people. And thus, work must be done to ensure our republic is indeed an America as good as its promise.
Democrats should talk about how, for all the complaints against it, for all the political rhetoric spewed by some people in the country, the fact remains the government, our government, is the best guarantor of these rights.
Government is still a place where people can come together, where innovation can occur, and where wrongs can be righted. It was the government that birthed the internet. It was the government that toppled the Nazis in Europe. It was the government that propelled us beyond the confines of our own planet.
Government is not our enemy. The government, our government, is formed and constituted by the people and is subservient to the people.
And in New Mexico, we would do well to recognize that, for over a generation, it is the federal government that has helped sustain our economy.
I hope Democrats will talk about this. I hope they will talk about how they will use the great power of government to improve the lives of their fellow New Mexicans and blaze a new way forward. I hope they will talk about how government, coupled with Democratic ideals, will lead to a better life for all citizens, not just the privileged few. Because never has it been more apparent than it is today that modern Republicans are utterly incapable of governing.
I hope Democrats will talk about how they can improve the delivery of health care in New Mexico so a patient in Las Cruces is not misdiagnosed with a urinary tract infection when in fact the patient suffered a stroke. How we need to create an economic system that pulls more medical professionals into the state and provides the most sophisticated equipment so people get the health care they deserve. So we can create a system that does not make mistakes that lead to people dying.
I hope Democrats talk about how New Mexico’s rainy day is here and the permanent fund needs to be utilized while there is still a state left to save. How we need to fund early childhood development like our neighbors did in Oklahoma. But we should also devise a program that includes making sure parents are part of their children’s education and development. We should look at what other school districts have done so we get data we can use to craft a plan for success.
I hope Democrats will talk about the need to use the permanent fund for infrastructure as well. Democrats should talk about how we should use these funds to improve the roads and bridges of the state, along with our dams and irrigation systems for our farms. But I also hope Democrats talk about how we need to build our wireless and broadband infrastructure as well. If Chattanooga, Tenn. can create a fast, publicly owned internet service provider, we should do it here as well. Because former U.S. Rep. Harry Teague was right when he said New Mexico was short-changed when it came to the interstate highway system, and we should make sure we don’t get short changed again.
I hope Democrats will talk about their faith. About how Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” How this statement comports (or does not) with tax plans and state laws. How we should be finding ways to ensure not one single child goes hungry in a state known for its agricultural prowess.
And I hope when critics scream and cry about how all this government spending will only hurt our economy, and we need to shrink the government, Democrats will remind these critics of the myth of austerity. I hope Democrats will remind them how deficit spending actually goes down when Democrats serve as president, and we could have paid off the debt at the end of the Clinton Administration. How no country practicing austerity now has been able to see the economic recovery they were promised. How we have tried supply-side/trickle-down/voodoo economics in this country before, only to see recessions come back time and again. I hope Democrats will remind people we have seen this movie before, and this reboot has the exact same dismal ending.
I hope in 2018, Democratic candidates will talk about their ideas and how they will put those ideas into plans — because when it comes to getting things done, Democrats deliver. Whether it’s a New Deal, a Fair Deal, or a Better Deal, Democrats deliver.
When it came to making sure senior citizens had a guaranteed income, Democrats delivered with Social Security. When it came to looking after the rights of workers, Democrats delivered. When it came to making sure poor children, the disabled and the elderly could get medical care, Democrats delivered with Medicare and Medicaid.
Democrats deliver when it comes to governing. We can deliver on the promise of the American dream. Democrats need only to talk about these issues and how they can solve them, and we can keep delivering for the American people.
Art Terrazas is a former resident of Anthony, N.M. and a graduate of New Mexico State University. He lives and works in Washington D.C. for a nonprofit organization. His views are his own. Agree with his opinion? Disagree? We welcome your views. Learn about submitting your own commentary here.