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article imageOp-Ed: Why I'm a Democrat — The champions of civil rights

By Yukio Strachan     Sep 15, 2012 in Politics
As a rape survivor and member of the black community, watching the GOP push voter ID laws to suppress the minority vote and forcing a woman to carry a rapist's baby to term, the question "Why am I a Democrat?" seems like a punch-line to a very bad joke.
I've been a Democrat since the womb.
Both my parents are Democrats. My mom grew up in the south where the humiliation of segregation and discrimination was a daily reality. Eventually, it was the Democratic Party that stepped up to the plate and crushed the laws that deprived black Americans from equality.
Laws that bring tears to my eyes when my mom tells me stories about being a little girl having to bypass the front entrance to the doctor's office because the color of her skin made her unworthy to enter there. Laws that pointed to the rear of the building, the back door — the dingy one marked for "Colored" people only — if she was sick and needed to see a doctor.
Those laws, called Jim Crow laws, ended under Democratic President Lyndon Baines Johnson when he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. This groundbreaking piece of legislation not only benefited blacks in terms of banning segregation and discrimination in public facilities, in employment, and in education, the act also benefited women and other victims of discrimination, too.
Democratic Party: cares about the issues women face
Despite the civil rights gains of the 1960s, however, discrimination and inequality are still alive and well in many parts of our society. In 2012, the Democratic party continues to fight on their behalf.
In 1994, for example, Vice President Joe Biden, then a Senator, authored the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)on the premise that "every woman deserves to be safe from violence," a crime that kills three women each day.
Thinkprogress via Twitter screenshot
VAWA is an act near and dear to my heart, an act, that helped to save my life eight years ago next month. I thank you, Vice President Biden, for authoring this law. And I thank our leaders for continuing to fight for its complete re-authorization.
"We pull each other up"
What causes those in positions of power to fight on behalf of those who had no voice? It was the power of compassion or empathy. That's why voters see empathy as an important quality for our leaders to have, especially our presidents. The president needs the capacity for empathy toward all the people he or she governs, not just the privileged few.
President Harry Truman, for example, in 1947 was outraged that black veterans of World War II were being murdered because of the color of their skin. As a result, he decided to take action, shocking the nation by deciding to make civil rights a national issue.
What makes this story so powerful is that Truman at one time harbored racial biases. But the murder of those black veterans seemed to penetrate him and touch him in such a way that urged him forward to act on their behalf. He also had some help at the time from a little known mayor from Minneapolis named Hubert H. Humphrey.
On July 14, 1948, Humphrey, who would later become the Vice President to Lyndon Johnson, delivered a powerful speech before the Democratic National Convention at Philadelphia that convinced the party to support adding civil rights to the party platform. Despite opposition, complacency, and racial tension he persisted until the act was signed into law in 1964.
Humphrey's civil rights platform was often called radical socialism by his GOP rivals.
"Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism," he said in response.
The President signing health care reform into law
The President signing health care reform into law
White House Photo by Pete Souza
In 2012, President Obama carries on this tradition with the passage of the health care reform law. It aims to provide affordable, quality health care to 34 million uninsured Americans. On Wednesday, new figures from the US Census Bureau from 2011 show that the new health care reform law works. Over 4 million more people had health care coverage in 2011 than in 2010.
It's just the beginning. There's more to be done.
"We pull each other up," President Obama said during his DNC speech in Charlotte. "When you walk through the door of opportunity," said first lady Michelle Obama in her DNC speech. "You don't slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give folks the same chances that helped you!" I couldn't agree more.
That's why I'm a proud Democrat.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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