What Happened To the Democratic Party?

An Essay By Brian Kelly

Would the hard working parents of the baby boomers not be surprised?

Something happened to the Democratic Party since I first joined. I was just twenty-three years old. I spent my first two years as a voter registered as an Independent and then my father helped me understand that in PA, being Independent meant that I could not vote in the primaries. So, I changed from Independent to Democrat, like my dad. We were very close and talked a lot about how things were in America and in the neighborhoods for years and years.

Before my dad passed away, he and I spent a lot of time talking about the way things had changed in the Democratic Party. We both noticed the big change.  The change was not good. It moved the party into being more and more progressive / socialist and the party no longer stood for individual liberty and freedom. In many ways, the Democratic Party moved so far left that it left even the liberals far behind in the rear view mirror. What had been liberals compared to these new progressive / socialist Democrats were actual conservatives. Under today's norms, JFK would be classified as a conservative. Like most Americans growing up in the 1960s, JFK remains as one of my heroes. 

My father, though never a rich man, loved the American dream.  As part of those who believe in the dream, my dad believed deeply that we should all work hard, get the best wage that we can, and we should be able to keep what we earn.  As a brewery worker, my dad thought much like other hard laborers in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and that included the miners.

 A number of my uncles earned their living from 5 AM to 5 PM in the mines, often never seeing the light of day during the winter season. The miners, the brewery workers, the coal men, and other factory workers in Northeastern PA were rugged individualists. They all loved freedom and liberty; they worked hard to enjoy the small breaks in the action. Their love of freedom and family helped them get up every day to put in that long day's work. And, yes, often the tavern awaited them for a quick fifteen minutes on the way home in the dark. 

Work Is Good for the Heart

My career was not as tough when compared to what these men, the greatest generation, had to deal  with. Unions were what helped them all even the score with management so that their wages were higher than mere subsistence. I did benefit from my dad's notion of work. As a very young boy, he picked coal along the railroad tracks to assure there was something to heat the family home. I had a similar youth experience.

When I was five years old, I am not joking when I say that my first job was as an entrepreneur. I used either an old pint sized Radio Flyer Wagon, an old wheel barrow, or a well used twin-sized baby carriage to collect papers and rags from my "customers" every Saturday.  I worked within a five to seven block radius and I would knock on doors or ring the doorbells of my "customers." to pick up their old newspapers.  When they had rags, it was a big bonus as the price per pound of rags v paper was four times as much. I would take the stash to a junkyard that was less than two blocks from my house. I made about a quarter to thirty-five cents a week. It gave me an understanding of what it takes to work and it put something in my pocket. It was a great life lesson. Of course I did not do this for the lesson; I did it because I got to make a buck.

I later moved on to shoveling sidewalks, cutting grass, working in a 5 & 10 (Huntzinger's), and then I spent time spotting pins in a bowling alley -- the Wilkes-Barre Republics Club. When I was twelve years old, I inherited my older brother's paper route, which I turned over to my younger brother when I graduated from Meyers High School. I finished my high school manual labor career working on a soda truck (Eagle Bottling Works -- Zep-Up). That was how things were for the families of working men and women. If you didn't find some ways to make a few bucks, with tight financing in the families, you would have nothing to spend. Moreover, we did not get to keep all our income as we grew up as the family needs came first.  Its just the way it was, and quite frankly, they were great days, and they taught us all lessons on how to survive and prosper.

Things have really changed and today, I do not think my father would call the new Democratic Party the party of the working man. Democratic leaders across the country seem to believe the purpose of the Democratic Party is to make people dependent on government. My dad always told me to vote for the man or woman, not the party. That means even more today as this upside down world continues in the wrong direction. 

One of the big differentiations between the Democratic Party leaders and myself is that I believe that if you work hard, you should keep what you earn. You should not be obligated to pay the freight of someone whose only problem in life is that they do not want to work. In our democracy, in our freedom, in our American dream, those who are able to amass a huge bounty and those who are able to earn even a meager living do have obligations to the poor and the sick and those struggling with life. I accept that. However, that should be done through trustworthy sources such as Churches and charities. Income re-distribution by government is not the way to create a set of rugged individuals like our parents and grandparents that will help keep America strong.

I am nowhere close to being rich but today's America permits me to get there and that we call the American Dream. Those who really make it and become rich do so honestly and should not be denied their day in the sun. They work for it. The notion that I have a claim on anything anybody has ever earned is foreign to me. I have a claim only on what I work for. I am very happy that there are more and more rich people every day. It is called the American Dream and we see that people can achieve it even in these tough times. Every now and then somebody breaks through. I do not want the government taking what they have earned and giving it to somebody else so that some politician someplace can get reelected. Your money and your resources are yours and mine are mine. 

Who has ever gotten a job from a poor person? Let the rich do their thing so they can continue to hire people and solve the jobs problem in America without government on their backs. Let's you and I concentrate on being successful ourselves, and together we will all achieve, without class warfare, and without petty jealousies.  

Yes, I am for helpless people but I am not for making people helpless.