I’ve been a Democrat since I registered to vote in 2001. Among my core reasons for picking the Democratic Party were growing up in a union household, being angry about the 2000 Election, thinking Bill Clinton was a pretty good President, and believing the Gingrich Republicans leading Congress were incompetent, cruel people. Within a year or two I would become a more active Democrat in large part due to my opposition to the Iraq War. I went to intern for an anti-war Congressional candidate, then for a young, progressive, exciting Mayoral candidate in Bethlehem. When 2004 came around, I wanted Al Gore to run again, as I found him to be right about the two most important issues in the world, the Iraq War and climate change. When he took a pass on another run, I backed Wesley Clark, because he had the right mix of electability, and being right on the big issues, like Iraq. When he didn’t win though, I backed John Kerry. The stakes were too high in my mind.
I’ve been a loyal Democrat ever since. I’ve worked for candidates that are members of the Progressive Caucus, and open Blue Dog candidates. I’ve worked for candidates who were Muslims, Jewish, women, Latinos, African-Americans, and anything else you can imagine. In 2008, when my first choice candidate (Chris Dodd), and my second choice candidate (Hillary Clinton) were out, I enthusiastically voted for Barack Obama. In 2016 Hillary was my candidate, and for the second time I went to work for her, but if she had lost to Bernie in the primaries, I would have voted for him, despite my misgivings. I think overall values generally matter more than the individual candidates. Within reason.
One of the things that attracted me to the Democratic Party was it’s reasonable style and competency. Democrats were not absolutists in the way the GOP was. Democrats were not trying to ignite culture wars, use wars to prop them up politically, or embracing bigots in the manner of Jerry Falwell. They felt like the right party to me.
People should not over marry themselves to a party though, not unless they can trust that said party will not lead them away from the values that brought them there. You should have red lines you won’t cross. You should have standards you uphold. If you’re an honest broker, you should probably have some members of your party you refuse to embrace, because they violate values of your’s. You should have limits to how far you compromise yourself.
One of these folks for me is Tulsi Gabbard. While I agree with her overall philosophy that we should stop fighting wars of aggression and spending our blood and treasure over seas, I cannot stand with an Assad apologist. What Assad has done to the Syrian people may or may not be worth fighting a war, but it certainly doesn’t warrant support. I could not back her after she met with Assad and cast doubts on his crimes.
The second person I’m pretty absolute about isn’t a Presidential candidate, this time. I could not bring myself to vote for AOC for anything though. I’ve laid out my reasons for not liking her, from attacking her Democratic colleagues, to her lack of legislation, to her support of Bernie, to her sloppy messaging. The truth of the matter is, she’s our version of the Tea Party. That’s not the kind of government I support. I don’t give a damn if she angers Republicans- she doesn’t get work done on her job. Everything is posturing and advocacy.
There are plenty of other members of the Democratic Party I’m not big fans of. Bernie isn’t actually a Democrat, but I would really struggle to support a “socialist.” I do not agree with Rep. Omar and Tlaib’s more extreme positions on Israel. I can’t support a Congressman representing Chicago and being anti-choice and LGBT rights like Rep. Lipinski. The Democratic Party has some folks I can’t be too positive about. I try to give Senator Manchin a pass when possible, but his position on coal isn’t something I support.
To blanketly support every member of your party makes you a partisan hack. You may find the other party unacceptable and refuse to vote for it, handing your votes to imperfect Democrats by default, that’s a values judgment you make when you need to. Just don’t argue that you really believe in everyone on your side. That’s an inhuman political position. That’s just being a hack. I generally try to not discuss people I don’t like on our side. Lately that’s been hard.