Since I have been asked by the executive committee of the Calloway County Democratic Committee to represent the Democratic Party as a columnist, it is fitting that I offer explain why I have been a registered member of this political party for over 50 years.
I begin by thanking my friend and Democratic colleague Marshall Ward, who ably, factually, and faithfully represented Democratic Party positions for the past three years.
Although Marshall has left his post as a columnist to become a non-partisan lobbyist for the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association, I appreciate the research and knowledge of American history found in his columns. As a European historian by training, I envy his mastery of such things as the Federalist Papers and the legacy of post-Civil War racism and segregation.
I also want to thank the Ledger & Times for presenting diverse opinions in columns and letters in recent years. As a Ledger subscriber since 1969 and a person involved in various public issues since then, I can assure readers this has not always been the case.
Now to today’s topic: Why am I a Democrat?
First, the Democratic Party is more inclusive in its membership and policy positions. While Democrats during the Clinton years did succumb to the lure of a neo-conservative centrism that lost them the support of many working-class Americans, especially union members, Democrats still offer a broader tent than Republicans, one which welcomes people of all classes and colors.
Second, Democrats see rational disagreements among party members as a virtue rather than as a sign of political disloyalty, as is the case with today’s Trumpist Republicans. This can be a political weakness. Early 20th century humorist Will Rogers once said: “I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat!”
Third, today’s Trump Republicans are so different from Republicans I grew up with — men like Everett Dirksen, Dwight Eisenhower, or the moderate Kentuckian John Sherman Cooper. In those days, Republicans promoted different policies than Democrats but were open to debate and compromise and did not call their opponents enemies.
Today, the Trumpists leaders of the Republican Party prefer power over policies, even when that preference requires them to lie about election results and pass state laws restricting the voting opportunities of lower class and minority voters. To some governors in this Trumpist party, promoting public health with vaccinations and facemasks is far less important than their political future.
Fourth, Democrats are less willing than Trumpist Republicans to distort the truth for political gain. A current example of this is the recent attacks on Critical Race Theory by Republicans. By focusing – in almost hysterical terms at times – on this academic theory they distract their supporters from the very real issue of systemic racism in our social, political and financial institutions.
Fifth, Democrats speak up louder for human survival during climate changes than do Republicans, who seem happy to continue polluting the planet with carbon emissions until it brings the death of all or most human and other life on earth.
Finally, I am a Democrat because American democracy is at stake, and the elections in 2022 and 2024 could be the most crucial since the election of 1860. I know that us older folks are often humored for saying that things are worse than “when we were young,” but this time it actually seems to be true, as we see voting rights and Congress itself under attack.
And since Murray is a largely conservative, evangelical religious community, I will say that it is time for Democrats to repent of the grievous sin they committed during the past generation by ignoring the importance of local politics in favor of just trying to elect a Democratic president of the United States. Republicans now control the grass roots, filling school boards and local magistrate positions, as well as many state legislatures. This doesn’t have to continue.
It is time for Democrats in Calloway County to stand up publicly for democracy, fairness, truth, public health, and the earth itself. We need to work together to end systemic racism and reduce poverty in our community.
I hope to play a small part in helping this happen.
Ken Wolf is a Democrat and a retired Murray State University history professor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of the Murray Ledger & Times.