Of course I’m generalizing, but when cynics ask me the difference between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party — implying that there isn’t much of one — I like to point out that us Democrats actually believe in government, whereas Republicans… really don’t. Democrats believe that government of the people, by the people, for the people is a positive and necessary tool for improving the lives of all our citizens in a complex, modern society. Republicans believe that the government that governs least, governs best.
Again, this is a generalization; both parties have their contradictions and both represent a spectrum of ideology, but this hands on vs hands off philosophy is a convenient and useful metaphor. And I think Ron Sims’ announcement yesterday that he is proposing $20 million in next year’s county budget to buy land for greenbelts, open space and trail corridors is a great illustration of these two competing ideologies.
I’m not suggesting that many Republicans are going to come out against preserving open space, though I’m guessing some will object to the cost of the proposal. However, such proposals are really antithetical to the conservative ideology that professes a “free market” solution to nearly every problem. Take for example the proposal to buy the last remaining chunk of private land in the heart of Discovery Park:
The largest chunk of the county’s proposed funding — $2.7 million — would go toward helping the city of Seattle buy 24 acres of military housing in Discovery Park, which the Navy sold to a private developer last year.
Under a proposed $9 million deal, the city will buy the Capehart property that park advocates feared could have been turned into luxury homes or condos and permanently protect it as open space.
It is hard to argue that using taxpayer money to protect valuable land from private development is consistent with the Republicans’ “free market” ideology, yet our region would not boast the quality of life it does, if our forefathers had not shown the foresight to do exactly that. Public parks, greenbelts and trail corridors benefit all of us, but without an activist government to protect us from the tragedy of the commons, they simply would not exist.
It is convenient for Republicans statewide, and especially in King County, to complain that it is corrupt elections departments that prevent them from winning at the polls, for their real obstacles are much more daunting. Both the county and the state continue to trend Democratic, because more citizens agree with our ideology than with theirs. Voters want parks and greenbelts and trail corridors. Voters want better schools and libraries, and safer, more efficient roads and public transit. Voters want effective police, fire and EMS. Voters want the essential public services that only government can provide.
Democrats win because we share voters’ values.