Democrats showcased a number of their political messages in the first day of the Democratic National Convention—education, gay rights, abortion rights, health care, middle class, support for military families—but it can all be distilled down to one overriding theme: a successful society looks out for its members, supports them, and helps those who are struggling.
While individualism is a value held sacred by most Americans, Democrats hope this party tenet, which relies on government support for society’s institutions like schools and hospitals, will distinguish their candidate Barack Obama from Republican challenger Mitt Romney and the go-it-your-own, on-your-own, ‘I built it’ mentality championed during the Republican National Convention last week.
Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran and congressional candidate, may have best illustrated this theme with her speech Tuesday before the convention. Duckworth explained it in terms of how her fellow soldiers refused to leave her behind when a grenade hit her helicopter north of Baghdad. This election is about “whether we will do for our fellow Americans what my crew did for me; whether we’ll look out for the hardest hit and the disabled; whether we’ll pull together in a time of need; whether we’ll refuse to give up until the job is done,” she said.
Full text of Duckworth’s prepared quote below.
On November 12th, 2004, I was co-piloting my Blackhawk north of Baghdad when we started taking enemy fire. A rocket-propelled grenade hit our helicopter, exploding in my lap, ripping off one leg, crushing the other and tearing my right arm apart. But I kept trying to fly until I passed out. In that moment, my survival and the survival of my entire crew depended on all of us pulling together. And even though they were wounded themselves and insurgents were nearby, they refused to leave a fallen comrade behind. Their heroism is why I’m alive today.
Ultimately, that’s what this election is about. Yes, it’s about the issues that matter to us: building an economy that will create jobs here at home and out-compete countries around the world. But it’s also about something else. It’s about whether we will do for our fellow Americans what my crew did for me; whether we’ll look out for the hardest hit and the disabled; whether we’ll pull together in a time of need; whether we’ll refuse to give up until the job is done.
Here are a few other key phrases from Tuesday night where this theme emerged:
First lady Michelle Obama: And [President Obama] believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity…you do not slam it shut behind you…you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro: Now, in Texas, we believe in the rugged individual. Texas may be the one place where people actually still have bootstraps, and we expect folks to pull themselves up by them. But we also recognize there are some things we can’t do alone. We have to come together and invest in opportunity today for prosperity tomorrow.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick: We believe that government has a role to play, not in solving every problem in everybody’s life but in helping people help themselves to the American dream. That’s what Democrats believe.