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Rediscovering the Democratic ‘Big Tent’ Party

October 1, 2017


In the gracious spirit of the Jewish holidays, I have been in a place of private reflection about my life in public service. I have found myself pondering the state of democracy and civic engagement in our state. I have been thinking a great deal about our dialogue, relationships and political discourse. At a time of unprecedented anger and relentless partisan attacks in our country, it is time to step back and reconsider the core of our political approach here at home in Washington.

As the daily torrent of mean-spirited assaults from President Trump continues, and so many GOP leaders in Congress remain silent, I am moved to seriously reflect upon the historical framework of our state’s bipartisan tradition and how it has at times differed from the national Republican approach. With notable exceptions who cling to a stridently partisan approach, such as Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, I know that many of my Republican colleagues in Olympia cringe at the partisan assaults of the national Republican narrative. Recent statements from Ohio Governor John Kasich to Washington’s Chris Vance suggest this discussion is occurring in GOP living rooms across our country.

It is time for Democrats in Washington to embrace the unprecedented national opportunity of this dialogue–and our political affiliations–as well. It is time for the Democratic Party to rediscover our dignified history as a big tent party.

That is not a euphemism for moving to the right.  It is not an argument to abandon core progressive principles. It is a challenge to recognize the importance of welcoming those who do not ascribe to each and every paragraph of our party platform. That requires less judgement and an acknowledgment of the predisposition for many to slide into self-righteousness. The lack of electoral success in rural areas is a failure of the Democratic Party to listen deeply to our own history of those in rural communities.

The Democratic Party as an institution is reacting to the assault of income inequality, racial discord and the relentless power of corporate campaign financing with a sharp move to the left of activism and policy. Indeed, it is simply time to elevate our nation’s dialogue about health care, education funding, environmental responsibility and much more.  That discussion is healthy and alive with energy. And it’s important to discuss issues and ideas with new vigor. And to act.

This reexamination means that we should say publicly that the loudest voices of the left, such as fervently hard line Socialists at the local level, speak for only for themselves.

Many from the left criticize even those of us who consider ourselves as Obama Democrats as part of the ‘corporatist party’ as being pro-corporate power at all costs. That fails to see the desire for more balanced policies that do not favor the extremes of corporate influence among Democrats and many Republicans. Just as Republicans risk becoming the party of big business to the exclusion of all else, we should acknowledge that the Democratic Party risks becoming the party of government and losing our passion for constructive reform. We once owned the issue of government reform and respect for hard-earned tax dollars and public spending efficiency. We need to reclaim that title. It is not anti-government or a Republican notion to insist that government spend the public’s money wisely.

In Washington, I believe it is time to welcome the moderate wing of the Republican Party to join us in the Democratic Party. This unprecedented (in modern times) structural political shift would be just as difficult and important for Democrats as for Republicans.

It is time for the Democratic Party to embrace those who embrace the idea that government need not be large to be effective. It is time for us to reconnect with our party’s history of constructive reform of both government and the private sector.  We can welcome those who believe in the notion of fiscal constraint and social libertarianism, an idea that the GOP national party has effectively rejected. We can embrace small business with new vigor.  We can choose to engage in that dialogue with grace and an open heart of political discourse.

At a time when many believe both political parties have moved to the left and right respectfully, it is the best of times to reinvent and rejuvenate our political affiliations.

I do not pretend that partisanship is artificially manufactured and can be easily deconstructed.  Many policy issues are central to our party identification and our deep philosophy of progressive values. But the boundaries need not be so immovable that we cannot hear the voices of our moderate Republican friends. The noise of our president does not reflect the values of this nation nor of many individuals in our state who are today affiliated with the Republican Party. But the leadership of the national party has virtually abandoned any meaningful resistance to his narrative.

It is time for Republicans to choose whether they ascribe to the politics and policies of their leadership or whether they will make a meaningful change of affiliation. History will not judge this Administration kindly nor those who stand silent. The door to the Democratic Party should be open wide.

We should recognize that this once in a generation opportunity is as much at the doorstep of Democrats as it is of Republicans.

We are so much more than what we’ve become.

Your partner in service,



One Comment leave one →
  1. tpchairbarbara permalink
    October 2, 2017 6:27 am

    Oh dear.

    The sentiment of this post is why I respect you . But I can’t see what you are imagining. And, my hunch is that it carries the odor/fragrance of so called neo liberalism. We have to be very careful with semantics. The Clintons took corporate money, bad mouthed welfare queens and won centralized votes. Our present circumstances reflect these moves.

    This is not a good time to promote “Being careful with government income from taxes.”

    I’m not going to bother with the IMO since *it all* is just our varying opinions.

    Personally I have no investment in “saving” the Democratic Party. The Party behaves like a for-profit corporation. If you want to begin to redeem The Party, start by ending the practice of super delegates, then trust primaries and quit using caucuses that hide statistics. Add ranked choice voting. If The Party can’t survive with democratic practices, it doesn’t deserve to survive. Write about the Supreme Court and gerrymandering. Disavow gerrymandering. Think of ways to achieve the goal of the electoral college with the current realities. Consider changing the Constitution if necessary.

    You will not win votes by disavowing Socialism. Senator Sanders has won the semantic battle with people who care about people and the planet more than profit. Marx’s view of Capitalism, roughly speaking, has won.

    A lot of people with a lot of money have invaded NW Washington State. Brown people with less money are beginning to outnumber rich whites — outside of Seattle.

    Write and talk about American-made guns arming oppressive governments. Talk about wasteful military spending. Support Medicare for All — for its cost -saving impact. (Pay for it by taxing * computerized speculative * Wall Street transactions. Investments should be investments in something , not playing Monopoly with make believe money.)


    On Sun, Oct 1, 2017 at 8:20 PM, Official Reuven Carlyle Blog wrote:

    > Reuven Carlyle posted: ” In the gracious spirit of the Jewish holidays, I > have been in a place of private reflection about my life in public service. > I have found myself pondering the state of democracy and civic engagement > in our state. I have been thinking a great deal about ” >

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