With the fierce culture war that dominates our political discourse and separates us along partisan ideological lines, the stakes of each election escalate to new, unprecedented heights. Political violence is on the rise. Politics has never felt more personal or bitter. And there has never been a better time for unity in our divided United States.
Within the Democratic Party, differences of opinion are welcomed and encouraged. Even amidst the disorder, Democrats find a way to turn disagreement into strength. It is within this big blue tent that we at the Democratic Freedom Caucus have found a home. Committed to our principles of civil liberties, economic opportunity, and constitutional democracy, we are eager to contribute to the party where diversity is our strength. In our eyes, diversity is too often framed as a goal that we strive for but have always failed to achieve. But we don’t have to be something we’re not to achieve diversity. Diversity is the natural outcome of a society that allows millions of different individuals to live freely and genuinely, not bound by anyone’s notion of what should be, nor by anyone’s notion of what can be. People’s distinct characteristics emerge from the beautiful mosaic that creates our national image, as we show the whole world what is possible when we live and let live. And we will continue to break through glass ceilings and tear down the walls that block us from achieving equal representation, united as we strive to become a freer and better society.
Things are not the same on the other side of the aisle. In the Republican Party, voters face huge social pressures to hold their nose and pull the lever for power-hungry, corrupt individuals that sell brutally unpopular policies alongside hollow culture war grievances. Conformity is not just expected, but demanded – enforced by a party culture that rewards “true conservatives” and disgustedly shuns “RINOs.” Long gone is the party of limited government and individual freedoms. Nowadays, the Republican Party seeks to use the government to enforce a strict moral code that dictates who you can marry, what you can learn in school, when you can start a family, and who gets to win an election, regardless of votes.
But true unity is not enforced from above; it is accomplished when individuals decide to set aside their differences and work together under a common cause. We believe in freedom, because freedom is optimism – the faith that given the choice, individuals will tend to make the best decisions for themselves, their family, and their communities. This is the founding principle of our constitutional democracy: given the choice, people will vote for a government of, by, and for the people, not the corporations, that serves the public interest, not special interests. With the power of the vote, the sacred freedom of choice, we encourage and engage with dissent, not stifle it, so as to draw out the best within us, not cater to our darkest impulses. Through the constitutional democratic process, we will prove not only that we can strive to be a more perfect union, but that we can do so through our own free will.
While Republicans present a vision of an authoritarian republic that demands and enforces conformity in the face of chaos, Democrats present a vision of a free democracy that inspires and achieves unity in spite of disagreement from diversity. The great American story is one of freedom over oppression – of revolutionaries over monarchy, of abolitionists over slavery, of suffragists over patriarchy, of civil rights activists over white supremacy. And as we stand in unanimous opposition to the dark, authoritarian forces that have consumed the Republican Party, it has become clear that the future of freedom is in the Democratic Party.
The discussion around liberty in politics has long been tainted and mischaracterized by right-wing hypocrites who believe that freedom means a license to impose their lifestyle on others, and by selfish, myopic ideologues who would rather oppose socialism by being brutally anti-social than by addressing or even acknowledging how corporate favoritism from the government encourages corporate exploitation. Corporations spew pollutants into the air and water and lay off hard-working employees to boost profits, and news and social media companies peddle outrageous lies to boost ad revenue, as the American Dream slips further out of reach for many. At the Democratic Freedom Caucus, we believe that the best way to promote freedom is not to rail against some abstract notion of an authoritarian state, but to inspire and empower individuals to rise above oppression, no matter the source.
A classic example of oppression is how the government locks people away for possessing or smoking marijuana. But another example is how corporations exploit their workers by creating conditions so poor that the workers feel compelled to go on strike. Yet another example is how the moral panic around trans and non-binary people creates a cultural cudgel that attempts to ban books in classrooms, shame people into submission, physically threaten them in public spaces, and restrict them from marrying or adopting. We stand with the LGBTQ individuals who fight for the right to live genuinely, free from bigotry. We stand with the union workers who fight for the right to work with dignity. We stand with the folks who fight for the right to smoke marijuana without fear of losing their rights. Because we believe that there’s more to freedom than simply cutting through bureaucratic red tape. Real freedom is about allowing individuals to take control of their lives and live the American Dream. We must empower individuals to stand up for themselves, and encourage others to do the same, so that everyone can live freely without fear of persecution or harm.
With the rampant outrage and violence that terrorizes our political landscape, it can be easy to be uneasy about our future, but we must always remember, even in the bleakest moments, that we can rise above oppression. Just as the Founders declared independence from the British crown, the abolitionists defeated slavery, the suffragists secured voting rights for women, and the civil rights activists ended segregation, we, too, will meet the moment to defeat authoritarianism in this country and do our part to continue the great American tradition of expanding freedom in the face of adversity. The Democratic Freedom Caucus will fight to restore the right to privacy and bodily autonomy, to restore civility and sanity in our political discourse, and to restore faith in the very institutions that got us here. Guided by our steadfast belief in civil rights, an economy rife with opportunity for everyone, and our constitutional democracy as an expression of self-governance, we will be a leading voice for liberty within the Democratic Party, as we unite to defeat the authoritarianism that has consumed the Republican Party, and as we work to uphold America’s reputation as the land of the free.