You would think that after what we’ve been through over the past few years and especially after the 2016 election, people would finally get past the false narrative that there’s no difference between the two major political parties.
I have a unique perspective on this. I served a Republican Congresswoman in the House of Representatives even though I am lifelong Democrat.
Sue Myrick was by many accounts a fair and reasonable Mayor of Charlotte. She was the first female mayor of Charlotte, elected in 1987, the year after my family moved here. In the early 90s, I was able to participate in Charlotte politics through my membership in the Youth Involvement Council. We frequently attended City Council and Mecklenburg County Commission meetings commenting and advising on matters related to youth in the community. I even spoke before each body a handful of times.
I didn’t know Mayor Myrick on a first name basis, but later, as she began her first year in office as a Freshman Representative, I was able to turn my previous interactions with her into an internship. I started with her in mid-May and worked until the first weeks of August. I was one of a few who stayed the full summer. I was only able to do the unpaid internship due to having an aunt who lived nearby in Maryland. I commuted in every day via train and walked from Union Station in the heat to her office in the Cannon House Office building.
I served the constituents of the 9th district, which at the time included a sizable portion of Gaston County. I answered phones, opened and sorted mail, gave tours of the Capitol and attended committee meetings. She served on the Budget, Science, and Small Business committees, so I attended meetings on Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, the growth of the internet and the International Space Station construction. I would collect materials, take notes, and report back. It was an incredible learning experience.
But while I was there, I began to see what has only gotten worse since then: the villainization of the other side. This was mostly from other Republican interns and staffers, but the talk about Democrats was filled with poison. So I kept quiet about being a Democrat, and just blended in. In the end, it turned me off from pursuing a career in politics for a long time.
In the past decades, Republican politicians have moved from being a conservative, loyal opposition to becoming intransigent, completely unwilling to either compromise or negotiate. I miss reasonable Republicans and it seems many Republicans miss being them too. In the past few weeks, several prominent Republicans stood up against partisan gerrymandering because it’s hurting their party as well. Now there is no doubt that Democrats have used gerrymandering in states they’ve controlled. But never to the degree and with the precision used by Republicans to degree that they are being challenged with being unconstitutional.
The Republican assaults on voting rights have clearly helped them. Gerrymandering dilutes Democratic votes. Voter ID laws force people, the poor and elderly especially, to get IDs which cost time and money, hindrances to voting on par with a poll tax. Voter roll purges have bumped millions of legitimate voters from the active voter rolls and several Republican-controlled state legislatures have even reduced the number of poll locations in targeted areas as well as reducing early voting hours. We must put a stop to these attacks on the core of our democracy- the ability of legal voters to access the polls. Fortunately, Democrats are fighting every day for our right to vote.
Last year’s election exposed some weaknesses and brought up some frustrations within the party for sure. But Democrats have been behind some of the most important actions in our government in the past 100 years. From FDR’s New Deal to LBJ’s Great Society. From Carter’s Camp David Accords to Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Democrats have lead the way on Civil Rights and LGBTQIA Rights. Democrats have led the fight for universal healthcare since 1945. Democrats have championed workers’ unions and consumer protections. Nothing has happened overnight, and some things took longer than they should have. But again and again, Democrats side with the American people over corporate interests. Democrats actually fight for the working class and don’t just pay lip service then turn their backs. We deserve a government that delivers on the services that our taxes pay for and consistently, it’s the Democratic party that pushes for justice and equality. I am proud to call myself a Democrat and to stand with fellow Democrats.