Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What kind of Democratic Party do you want?

The above sign - apparently from Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity last year - sums up what I want most from the Democratic Party:


OK, it's kind of funny. It's certainly clever. But I'm serious. I can't think of anything that sums up what I want from my government, what I want from my nation - and therefore what I want from my political party - better than this.

As I noted yesterday, only 6% of scientists describe themselves as Republicans. Heck, that was two years ago, so it might be even less than that now, since Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann have been campaigning for president. The Republican Party has become entirely faith-based and completely anti-science.

But this isn't just about science, and it's certainly not just about religion. Most Democrats are Christians, too. I might disagree with them about that, but so what? It's immaterial in a nation with freedom of religion and the strict separation of church and state.

The bottom line is that I want a political party which understands and accepts evidence-based thinking. Yes, that means accepting the scientific consensus when it comes to questions of science, but that's only part of it.

I want a political party which supports a transparent society, not a secretive one. I want a political party which acknowledges that simple answers to complex questions are usually wrong, and that we should never stop questioning even what we think we already know.

At the same time, though, I want a political party which understands that, although we may never know some things for sure, we can still rely on evidence to get the best answer possible at any given time - and that we normally need to act on what we've discovered, even when we admit that we don't know, and won't ever know, everything.

I want a rational political party, because the GOP has become a completely irrational one. And yes, I do think that reality has a well-known liberal bias. If I'm wrong about that, well, show me the evidence. In any case, I want a political party which accepts reality. No, in fact, I want a political party which is passionate about reality!

I want a party that's passionate about the truth. Not the Truth, not some dogma that's supposed to be accepted without question, but the actual truth, as far as we can discover it through experiment, evidence, and reason.

That party is certainly not the Republican Party. The GOP has become the exact opposite of what I want in a political party. Admittedly, the Democratic Party is flawed in many ways, but it's nowhere near that bad.

And in our system of government, third parties make no sense at all. Here in America, since we don't have a parliamentary political system, third parties just ensure the success of the party you dislike the most (as Ralph Nader voters in Florida ensured the election of George W. Bush in 2000).

No, for rational voters, it's the Democratic Party or nothing. But that doesn't mean we have to accept it the way it is. Through hard work, we can change the Democratic Party, just as the right-wing loons changed the Republican Party (always conservative, the GOP used to keep the real fringe-types on the fringe).

I want a rational political party. I want an evidence-based political party. I want a party passionate about democracy (majority rules/minority rights as two sides to the same coin), about open government, about evidence-based decision-making. I want a political party which doesn't despise expertise, but honors it.

And I want a political party with courage - the courage to fight for what's right, but also the courage to face reality, rather than retreat into a pleasant fantasy of über-patriotism, voodoo economics, and other faith-based thinking.

Not too much to ask, is it? Well, if it is or not, that's the kind of Democratic Party I want and that's the kind of Democratic Party I'm going to work to get. Personally, I think it's a worthy fight, whether it's successful or not.

But I think we'll be in big trouble if it's not successful.

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