Why I am a Democrat

One of the best eulogies for Sen. Ted Kennedy was actually one given a year before he died, by Sarah Vowell in the New York Times:

ON Monday night at the Democratic National Convention, Caroline Kennedy introduced a tribute to her uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, by pointing out, “If your child is getting an early boost in life through Head Start or attending a better school or can go to college because a Pell Grant has made it more affordable, Teddy is your senator, too.”

To my surprise, I started to cry. Started to cry like I was watching the last 10 minutes of “Brokeback Mountain” instead of C-SPAN. This was whimpering brought on by simple, spontaneous gratitude.

I paid my way through Montana State University with student loans, a minimum-wage job making sandwiches at a joint called the Pickle Barrel, and — here come the waterworks — Pell Grants. Thanks to Pell Grants, I had to work only 30 hours a week up to my elbows in ham instead of 40.

Ten extra hours a week might sound negligible, but do you know what a determined, junior-Hillary type of hick with a full course load and onion-scented hands can do with the gift of 10 whole hours per week? Not flunk geology, that’s what. Take German every day at 8 a.m. — for fun! Wander into the office of the school paper on a whim and find a calling. I’m convinced that those 10 extra hours a week are the reason I graduated magna cum laude, which I think is Latin for “worst girlfriend in town.”

Twenty years after my first financial aid package came through, I have paid off my college and graduate school loans and I have paid back the federal government in income taxes what it doled out to me in Pell Grants so many, many, many, many times over it’s a wonder I’m not a Republican.

[…] I am a registered Democrat. That first night’s convention speech by Senator Kennedy about his life’s work reminded me what being a Democrat means. I have spent the last eight years so disgusted with the incompetent yahoos of the executive branch that I had forgotten that I believe in one of the core principles of the Democratic Party — that government can be a useful, meaningful and worthwhile force for good in this republic instead of just an embarrassing, torturing, Book of Revelation starter kit.

The emphasis is mine, and it pretty much sums up what I believe to be the major ideological difference between the two parties today: Democrats fundamentally believe in government, while Republicans don’t. And based on the historical evidence, that’s why I’m a Democrat.

It’s a great piece.  Read the whole thing.


  1. 2

    X'ad spews:

    Mark, what a trooper! Always ducking rationality in the line of wingnuttery! What a hermaphrodite! Wow!

  2. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Kennedy’s platform: Health care, education, and opportunity for all.

    GOP platform: I’ve got mine and fuck you.

  3. 5

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The Seattle Times reports that Seattle’s police and firefighter unions will endorse mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan on Tuesday:

    “Seattle Fire Fighters Union Local 27 president Kenny Stuart said his union’s leaders interviewed both Mallahan and his opponent Mike McGinn and found Mallahan ‘was far and away the best candidate for labor and public safety.’ He said Mallahan quickly grasped the issues important to firefighters and promised to ensure they have the resources needed to do their jobs.”

  4. 6

    correctnotright spews:

    @4: GOP platform:

    Irrational criticism of what the rest of the civilized world does: National health care

    Irrational support for unnecessary foreign wars that waste over 1 trillion dollars: Iraq

    Irrational support for torture, while proclaiming to support American values: Dick Cheney, GWB (while lying that the US doesn’t torture)and other republican pundits (Jonah Goldberg, Rush Limbaugh and others)

    Irrational belief in the simplistic philosophy that was discredited by Teddy Roosevelt over 100 years ago “Less government regulation is better”: Less regulation of the banks as pushed and passed by Phil Gramm (credit-default swap) sure worked well.

  5. 7


    Mary Jo Kopechne is a national hero. By giving her life, she assured that that fat, bloviating, blubbering bluster boy would never be President of the United States.

  6. 9

    chicagoexpat spews:

    yeah, “government can be a useful,” especially when it means the uber-environmentalists can try over & over & over again to force measures down our throats that all the kewl kids are for!

    Y’all just gotta pass these things w/o a referendum, cause the idjit voters might dare to oppose your silly proposals

    goldy & the wingnuts have far more in common than a superficial view of gov’t would indicate, and a sneering salute only to a “democracy” that guarantees the outcome they want is just one thing they like to do together

  7. 11

    Aaron spews:

    Chicagoexpat you are such a whiner. That’s the problem with all you anti-government types, focused on small anecdotes with complete myopia for the notion of maintaining a community.

    Don’t like the regs? Then work to change them with rationality, rather than attacking the entire notion of regs. Bunch of fucking babies, solution to not wanting to wear diapers – poop all over the place.

  8. 13


    Republicans even outsourced the CIA Death Squads.

    What is the point of training government killers if we are just going to offload the actual killing?


    btw, the Dick named Cheney approves of EIT used by the CIA, and he might not cooperate with their questioning. . . Dick might want to swap pajamas for a swimsuit. That’s not torture, Dick, you said so yourself, we just want to make sure you are telling the truth.

  9. 14

    Another TJ spews:

    Everyone should read Vowell’s Partly Cloudy Patriot and Assassination Vacation. She’s someone who truly loves her country and has a gift for demonstrating how its history is relevant to its present. And she’s funny as hell.

  10. 15

    worf spews:

    Oh those wacky goopers – They’re going to have a little pow wow in St Louis next month, called the “How To Take Back America Conference”. Some of the exciting, fear-filled workshops one may attend at this vapid fearfest include, but are in no means limited to:

    -How to defend America vs. missile attack
    (The Russians are coming – Wolverines!!)
    -How to defeat Con Con, National Popular Vote, and ERA
    (What does this even mean? Con Con? Defeat the popular vote? And the ERA? How, um, 1980 of you)
    -How to counter the homosexual movement
    (The fags are coming – and they might be Russian! Wolverines!!)
    -How to activate your church
    (What, like a bomb?)
    -How to recognize living under Nazis & Communists
    (Because there are very SUBTLE differences, and you don’t want to, you know, confuse or conflate the two – oh, wait, too late.)
    -How to deal with supremacist judges
    ( I can’t begin to fathom WTF that is about)
    -How to stop feminist and gay attacks on the military
    (Feminazis, dykes and Code Pink – Oh My!)
    -How to bring youth into the conservative movement
    (Hey, wait a minute… I thought recruiting youth was a gay thing, because, you know, they can’t reproduce. I’m TOTALLY confused now)

    here is the link to all the fearmongering fun.

  11. 16

    Now you see it spews:

    @12 Are the GOP (more) crazy than normal? What the f**k is wrong with Republicans? They had the White House for 8 years straight, plus the Congress for 6 years, but 7 months out of power they’re freaking out and want to “take back” the country? From what? Obama hasn’t done anything yet? We’re talking about health care (won’t go anyway). DOMA is still the law. Don’t Ask Don’t tell is still the law. We still have our military Empire with hundreds of foreign bases and a $600 billion a year budget. Guns are still legal. What exactly has changed from Jan 2009 to Auguest 2009 that’s freaking these people out so much?

    We just had a ‘convention’ and decided how to take the country back…it was called a Presidential election. The Republicans lost. You don’t get to call ‘redo’ and claim the vast majority of the public wants YOU in power now. If they did…they would have voted for you a few months ago.

  12. 17

    worf spews:

    What exactly has changed from Jan 2009 to Auguest 2009 that’s freaking these people out so much?

    One word – melanin.
    Apparently, there is now too much of it in Washington D.C.

  13. 18


    Hey, Chicagoexpat – we now know that you spend a lot of time dwelling on the possibility of things being forced down your throat. Thanks for that. You can leave now, m’kay?

  14. 19

    Gordon spews:

    Amen on the Pell Grants. As a recipient of Pell grants I relate very much. But let’s not forget the real Claiborne de Borda Pell who sponsored the legislation. A truly great man who all college students who have received assistance and financial aid should remember.

    Senator Pell, died January 1, 2009. But I don’t recall no great eulogies or celebrations.

    And Ted Kennedy was a great senator, but failure to even mention Claiborne Pell in this blog post or in the NYT article speaks volumes about the the cult of personality in Democratic politics.

    And lest we forget, ““Anybody But Carter”, what a catch phrase to base a campaign on.



    So Kennedy was not a god. But he was a respectable Senator. But forgive me if I can come along with the apotheosis of Ted Kennedy.

  15. 20

    lostinaseaofblue spews:

    For the second time in 4 months I agree with an HA blog posting. Not with the tone, or the conclusions reached, but with the central position anyhow.

    You’re absolutely right. Republicans believe government to be a necessary evil we endure for the benefits we gain from it. Democrats appear to believe citizens are a necessary evil government endures to gain taxpayer money to create…well, more government.

    For my money Republicans are more in line with the folks who actually wrote the constitution, but that’s just my humble opinion.

  16. 21

    lostinaseaofblue spews:

    And the rabid rodent has as usual got it wrong. Republicans believe I’ve got mine through hard work and good habits and you need to do the same, rather than stealing it.

  17. 22

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @18 I’ve never seen a Republican work, but I’ve watched lots of Republicans tell other people to work.

  18. 23

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @17 “Democrats appear to believe citizens are a necessary evil government endures to gain taxpayer money to create…well, more government.”

    Funny. I thought you guys considered citizens to be cannon fodder for your evil administrations.

  19. 24

    proud leftist spews:

    lost @ 17
    In a perfect world, there would be no government. In a perfect world, there would be no disagreement, just group hugs. In a perfect world, you and I would not to correspond this way. The only barrier between us would be how to get to where we could meet for a coffee or a beer. Alas, the world is not perfect. Not even close. We need government to mediate the differences that arise between all of us. Even those of us living in the good old US of A. Or, of course, we could return to dueling. Is that what you’d like?

  20. 25

    SeattleJew's Sockpuppet spews:

    SJ’s Troll Summary Service

    Troll did not like Teddy Kennedy and is ahppy Kennedy never got to be Prezident.

    Jus’ saving everybody time.

  21. 26

    proud leftist spews:

    I am a Democrat because I believe that facts count more than feelings. I am a Democrat because I believe that reality counts more than ideology. I am a Democrat because I believe that we are all in this trash heap together, and perhaps, just perhaps, we could stop having to hear the horseshit of those who claim they have done it all themselves. We are, as a matter of fact, a community.

  22. 27


    Hi Goldy. Not to quibble…

    I believe in people. People do the work. People dream up the new ideas. People make the rules. People get things done. Get enough people to working together and you have a government. In these times, I guess that makes me a Democrat and a liberal, though I’d always thought of myself as a humanist.

    It seems to me the other side believes in money. Who ever has the most money should be in charge. That means corporations and rich people.

  23. 29

    The Ballad of Mary Jo spews:

    Tell Sarah Vowell to get back in the kitchen of the Bozeman Pickle Barrel, where she belongs, and to make me a GBLT on white, no mayo.

    And even if she makes me a GBLT on white, no mayo, she can’t make me come out of the closet.

  24. 30

    John425 spews:

    Ted Kennedy- the “Lion of the Senate”, and like a lion-

    He mated whenever he could and killed without compunction-

  25. 31

    proud leftist spews:

    Teddy voted against the Iraq War that Bush/Cheney launched. Who do you think is responsible for more deaths?

  26. 32

    lostinaseaofblue spews:

    Re 24 and 26,

    You’re right of course, Proud Leftist. We do need government for some basic functions wisely enumerated in our Federal Constitution.

    That need doesn’t make it fundamentally good, just fundamentally necessary.

    As for 26 most of us believe this of ourselves. I am unaware of anyone, right left or center, who doesn’t let ideology get in the way of facts pretty often though. Some do it better and some worse but we all filter reality through our preconceptions. The trick is to have a vigorous but respectful ongoing national dialogue to make the country somewhere the left and the right can be proud to live. This wasn’t true during the Bush years and nothing makes me believe it will be true during Obamas’ presidency.