Most black Americans are Democrats. My mom, dad, and siblings are all staunch Democrats. Yet this black person is not and has never been a registered Democrat, nor voted Democratic in any election ever.
I would like to lay out the reasons I chose to break rank, and why time only strengthens my convictions.
Capitalism Creates Economic Opportunity
Economic growth that lifts people out of poverty is personal for me, because it’s the story of our family over generations. But let’s step back and review some basics first to see how it works.
Human beings like money. So they make things and sell them to get money. People compete against each other to make better and better things for lower and lower prices in order to get more and more money. This results in the world getting higher-quality products at lower prices over time.
People who couldn’t afford refrigerators now have them, because firms have competed against each other to get more market share by offering better models for cheaper. People who couldn’t afford shoes, like my parents as kids, now have them, for the same reason. This process is known as capitalism, and it’s a powerful force that lifts humanity out of poverty.
I’ve seen what it’s done in my own family, who’ve gone from Southern sharecroppers who couldn’t read and write two generations ago to myself and my sisters, who not only wear shoes but have much greater opportunities and greater quality of life in every way than those before us. This is largely due to economic opportunity capitalism creates.
I believe strongly in supporting and continuing this process. This means unleashing human beings to fulfill their potential to build up our economy. Yet my sense is the current Democratic Party largely doesn’t agree. They seem to be instinctively uncomfortable with the workings of capitalism because it operates largely without government direction, which they believe is necessary for the world to improve. Whether it’s Obamacare, massive regulation, or shuttering entire industries by government fiat, Democrats seem to prefer government management as opposed to market solutions to our problems.
As a service provider myself, however, I’ve seen how the government has distinct disadvantages compared to human ingenuity expressed through capitalism. For one, government is shielded from competition, which means people can’t give their business to others who provide better services at lower prices, because there are no others. Second, no matter how poor their performance, government will never go out of business because lawmakers guarantee their existence and revenue streams rather than securing the same by providing quality services at good prices.
Thirdly, since there’s no competition and no threat of going out of business, there is no incentive to improve efficiency or quality. It thus seems to me that while some level of government involvement is necessary, ultimately fewer things, not more things, should be under government control. I am uncomfortable with the degree to which the Democratic Party wants to place things under government management and outside of the healthy, efficiency-generating domain of capitalism.
All that said, I will add two caveats. First, neither of the two parties has a great track record here. Indeed, George W. Bush dramatically increased the size and scope of government during his presidency. But between the two, the Democratic Party is worse, and getting worse over time. Secondly, capitalism all by itself can go awry when its participants are not generally guided by a moral compass. That’s why it must be coupled with a moral system, like Christianity, to function most effectively.
I’m not a Democrat because I’d rather unleash the potential in people, not the largess of government, to create economic growth.
It’s Best for People to Help People
Having worked for a Christian nonprofit organization, I’ve seen firsthand the positive effect on society when people driven by compassion, who have a personal relationship with those they are serving, work to make the world a better place.
On the other hand, I was deeply affected by a trip I took to the South recently, where I saw firsthand the abuse and fraud of those who live by unemployment checks, disability checks, and other government programs. Yes, these programs were designed to help the poor. But more often than not, rather than help, the recipients are robbed of the chance to develop their talents and character and use them to better the world by contributing to our economy through work. More often than not, far from being a temporary leg up on the way to self-sufficiency, these programs become a multi-generational way of life for many Americans.
So I’m skeptical of the Democratic Party’s claim they are the ones who stand for helping the poor, because creating government programs that give people money is not the same as truly helping them. Quite often, it actually hurts them. Neither are the party’s motivations noble; the purpose of these programs is to secure and maintain a loyal voting bloc by making them permanent aid recipients, rather than actually helping them. I can’t belong to a party that hurts the poor for the sake of political gain.
Victimization Doesn’t Create Racial Healing or Unity
Like other areas, this is personal to me. We’ve been making great progress on race over the past 100 years, but for the first time, I feel that’s in jeopardy.
One major reason we risk going backwards is the strategy of the Democratic Party. It seems to me their game plan is as follows: 1) Divide Americans into groups and argue that each is a victim of discrimination or bigotry. Then 2) portray itself as the party that fights for each group against the bigots and oppressors. Those used as victims in this strategy are black people, Hispanics, gays, Muslims, women, immigrants, unskilled laborers, and others, and the message to each is always the same: “Vote for us, because the Republicans are bigots.”
Those identified as oppressors in this strategy are almost always whites, Christians, and men, and the message to them is, “You are responsible for the suffering of others. Admit it or you are a bigot.”
I find this approach problematic for two reasons: 1) The groups often portrayed as oppressed and in need of rescuing by the Democratic Party are often not actually suffering oppression, and 2) The alleged oppressors who are attacked and demonized for bigotry are often not guilty of oppression in the first place. This is not only dishonest, as it creates division for sake of acquiring and maintaining a political constituency, but also deeply negative and divisive.
Further, defining someone as a victim when they are not cripples them. It does not serve them, uplift them, or unleash their potential. This is especially true in poor black communities, where 5,500 black folks kill each other every year, far surpassing the number of black people killed by police officers or whites. In fact, for every one black person killed by a white police officer, 71 are killed by another black person. I’m uncomfortable with Democratic rhetoric that gets angry about black deaths at the hands of police, but ignores the 15 to 20 black men who kill each other every single day, a far more common occurrence.
So the tough but true message black people need to hear is not “Racism is the cause of your problems.” Rather it’s “We must fix broken families, destroy the culture of underachievement, and demolish the thug culture that keeps black folks at the bottom of the barrel in almost every category.” However, the Democratic Party lacks the courage to confront these ills in the black community with honesty, so instead falls back on the easy message of blaming racism. It’s always easier to blame someone else than look in the mirror. I cannot in good conscience belong to a party that embraces this strategy.
What’s more, I am uncomfortable with how fast Democrats label someone as a bigot for disagreeing with them. Those who want to talk about the very real problem of crime in the black community are immediately branded as racist. I personally have been called “coon,” “house n***ger,” and “Uncle Tom.” Those who believe marriage is between one man and one woman are branded as bigots and hateful. Those who believe life begins at conception and oppose abortion are labeled as hating women, against women’s health, and against women’s rights.
While most Americans trace their ancestry to immigration and are not against reasonable levels of legal immigration, those who voice concerns with the negative aspects of illegal immigration, or even suggest there are negative aspects to illegal immigration, are quickly branded as anti-immigrant bigots. Worse, these judgments are often made without even knowing anything else about the person, and based solely on their position on one single issue. That’s unfair.
My point is not to take a position on these issues; that’s for another time. It’s just to say that we have to be able to disagree without calling the other person names. I don’t believe the Democratic Party gets that. I don’t like the name-calling and quick judgmental attitude towards those who hold different beliefs. It’s another reason I can’t be a Democrat.
I Like America
When I hear President Obama and many Democrats talk about America, I hear a deeply negative vision. I hear of a place full of racists who committed genocide against Native Americans, who enslaved blacks and denied them rights, who denied rights to women and gays rights, who hate immigrants, and where white police officers casually kill hundreds, maybe thousands, of innocent black people every day.
Yet aside from the questionable veracity of some of these claims, that is not the America I see. As a black American who has actually spent years living overseas and travelled to many countries, one quickly realizes black folks are treated much better in America than almost anywhere. The tribalism that defines most of the world—the Japanese hating the Chinese, the Koreans hating the Japanese, and the Chinese hating the Japanese (and that’s just East Asia!)—tends to be subdued in our American melting pot. In America I see a place where people of different races get along better than almost anywhere.
I see a place where the grandchild of Southern sharecroppers can achieve success. I see a place of hope and opportunity for those willing to do what it takes to succeed. I see police officers putting their lives on the line in dangerous neighborhoods to serve and protect residents terrorized by crime.
Yes, it’s true that we’ve haven’t always been where we should be, including slavery and segregation. Yet through it all we have moved forward together and gotten better together. I am proud to be American and proud of our unique culture, system of government, and phenomenal land. I don’t believe I am oppressed by white Americans or anyone else. I believe that white Americans are my brothers, just like black folks and all other Americans are my brothers. We are united as a people by common language, culture, history, and values, far more than we are divided because of color.
But I don’t believe the Democratic Party shares this vision. According to them, I am supposed to define myself first and foremost as a victim of racism and discrimination. I am supposed to see whites as my oppressors. According to Democrats, I’m supposed to vote Democrat because Republicans are racist. I’m supposed to see America as a greedy, evil, racist place that can only be saved if they’re in charge.
Respectfully: that is not my America, and that is not my vision. I can’t belong to a party that thinks it is.