Dear Democratic Party, am I still welcome?
As a newly Re-elected Councilman in a growing city neighboring Charlotte, North Carolina, I have been increasingly concerned that the Democratic Party I have been a member of for over a decade, has left me and millions like me behind.
I am not talking about my race, religion, sexuality, economic status or any other identifier. I am talking about my proclamation as a centrist or moderate. In the last decade, and specifically the last few years, moderate Democrats have had to go into hiding. In fact some are in the witness protection program in order to keep them safe from those who view them (us) as nothing more than Democrats in name only. I jest, but I must add that there are millions of us in this nation and we too deserve a place under the big tent of this changing party. Will you make room, or will we be squeezed out because our voices are not being recognized or heard as much as others currently on the national stage?
It use to be that moderates were welcome everywhere the Democratic Party was growing and expanding. They filled a needed service of pragmatism, critical thinking, collaboration and long-term planning and implementation. Now, many have been shamed into the closet or simply made to feel that if you are not ultra-left of center, you are not a “true Democrat”. They also served in traditionally more conservative districts and were recruited and appreciated by a party that saw the big picture instead of caving to extreme litmus test methodology.
Our proud history is filled with good Democrats and great work undertaken by leaders who have gone down in history as statesmen/women and reformers. Is it now such a bad thing to desire to work with the other side in the best interest of the entire electorate? Is it now a heinous act to find common ground and work toward solutions that put people before politics? I hope not, because this moderate Democrat holds dear those values we claim as Democrats, while understanding that sustainable progress can only be birthed with mutual input and sacrifice culminating in an end result that is a melting pot of views and ideals. This didn’t use to be a bad thing, it was how things got done. Now all we have is gridlock and partisan talking points, while our institutions crumble and the people’s faith in our Democracy erodes.
In today’s partisan political climate where the far left and far right have taken the stage with a loud megaphone, there must be a platform and voice for those of us who wish to acknowledge the need for cooperation and progress instead of always having the last word at the expense of the American people. This all or nothing political game of self-serving demagoguery, must end before the entire system goes off the rails. It is not moderates or pragmatists or collaborative public servants that are to blame for a system that is broken. It is the me first politicians and those on their payroll who have bankrupted our system and derailed the governing process.
If Democrats are to succeed in places that they have struggled with in the past and recently lost, they must realize there is no cookie-cutter candidate and there are no litmus tests needed to determine “trueness”. Each candidate and elected official must truly be free to serve the people they represent and sometimes that means being more centrist. The loud and growing calls to throw us all out if we fail to take some self imposed loyalty test to a purist far left ideology is short-sighted and misguided. It fails to understand the basics of public service and governance. It is simply at its core a hypocritical stance coming from those who claim the loudest that we must be tolerant and accepting of all. That should also include moderate Democrats.
As a former County Party Chair I understand how important it is to build the party and seize the momentum of the day. We need the energy and enthusiasm of the Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders wing of the party, but if we are to truly be reflective of all and not exclusive, we must also make room for and accept those who are more moderate or centrist in their ideology. It does not have to be one or the other and the current war between the far left and left of center must cease, with a pact to work together instead of a duel to the death war of political ideals. If this party, wishes to emerge as a melting pot of ideas and reflective of all who consider themselves Democrats, it must respect and allow us all a place under the tent and at the table.
So today, I am coming out of the moderate closet to simply say...Hello, my name is Robert Kellogg and I am a centrist Democrat. The question the party must answer is, Is there still room for Democrats like me under the Party’s self proclaimed “big tent”?