BRIDGTON – I don’t belong to any organized party — I’m a Democrat.

My sentiments echo that quip from humorist Will Rogers, who coined that famous phrase more than 70 years ago. I like my party, or what’s left of it.

Actually, the Democratic Party is based on an ethos that stands for a way of life in our society, sort of a state of mind. Basically, it’s a party all-inclusive in nature and has traditionally led the way in the 20th century for most of the social progress we enjoy today.

Out of the Great Depression of the 1930s came Social Security, which prevented the elderly from starvation; fair wage standards; laws doing away with child labor exploitation; FDIC banking protections; the right to organize unions; Medicare for the elderly and the basic safety nets to protect families from destitution.

I also believe that the GI Bill, which educated several generations of veterans, is a greatly underrated piece of historic legislation that led the way to the prosperity of post-war America.

This is my party’s legacy of lifting the average citizen to a level playing field for a chance at the American Dream — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness espoused in our founding documents. This is the ideal of an egalitarian society promoted by “the big D” — the Democratic Party.

The alleged negative tag on a lot of Democratic pols is that they are “liberal.” Why this is perceived as a negative moniker has always baffled me. Wasn’t it liberal administrations that got America out of the Great Depression; led the victory to World War II; instituted the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe; and yes, enacted Social Security and Medicare? In short, liberals showed America that the average working family could realize the American Dream.

My party recently took a beating in the fall elections. The Democrats lost many seats in state legislatures and nationally lost the House of Representatives. Many U.S. Senate seats and a share of governorships were also lost.

In this Democratic state of recent years, a Republican was elected governor along with a new Republican-majority Legislature.

How was it that the voting public chose Republicans across the board? My party lost its heart. Democratic candidates failed in a lot of cases to fight for their core beliefs. They succumbed to saber-rattling just before the national elections (great timing, eh?) And they even had their patriotism questioned if they dissented from this hard-line policy.

Those able to speak up for core beliefs were few and far between (i.e., the late Ted Kennedy). Today there is much public anger and more contempt for government.

My party has rested on its laurels. It presented no strong alternative to the Republicans. There were the ongoing rants and scare tactics concerning the future of Social Security along with Wall Street corruption that has robbed working families of their retirement accounts — all issues that should have favored the Democrats in an off-year presidential election. Where were the outspoken leaders educating the public?

But you have to give the Republicans credit. They know what they stand for. Tax cuts. Guns. Large Pentagon budgets. More oil drilling. Corporate rights. Tax breaks for the wealthy. Privatization of contracted jobs. Lax environmental standards.

What messages did the Democrats stand for? Or hardly speak out for? Or largely against? Their voices were muted — wittingly or unwittingly — but largely muted. .

The Democrats have been deservedly reviled. Their efforts have been regarded as the “Seinfeld Campaign” — all about nothing. This was manifest in the election results. As the old saying goes, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll likely fall for anything.”

Independents now outnumber Democrats in many areas. This should be a wake-up call for the now weakened party. The Grand Old Party of the elephants is running roughshod over the Democratic donkeys whose message fell on deaf ears. Voters are not encouraged by much of what they didn’t hear to challenge or question the party in power. With its muted message, my party sealed its own fate.

To be sure, I’m greatly disappointed my party of stubborn donkeys blew its best opportunity on its stock and trade — “the economy” (stupid!). But the leaders were largely silent. I still believe the voting public values real leaders who stand for something.

That’s the real lesson of the recent election. But I’m still optimistic. Then again, I’m a Democrat.

– Special to the Press Herald