I Knew Sen. Dick Durbin when he was not a liberal: How the Democratic Party has changed over the years

Sen. Dick Durbin

By: Dan Cravens  

It may be surprising for some of you to find out I grew up a Democrat. I became a Republican in College during the early 1990’s. My view of the world and politics evolved, but the so did that of the Democratic Party I knew as a child.

My mother during the 1980’s was an active volunteer in the Democratic Party. She served as a precinct committee person, president of the local democratic club, and managed the campaigns of several Democrats running for office locally.

My mother was a Democrat because this was the party our family joined when they left Ireland. The Democrats were seen as the party that helped the underdog and little guy in America. The party was also as a champion of individual rights, and yes, even at times family values.

As a child I would come with my mother to the Truman Social Club and frequently hear many state and local candidates and elected officials talk about bread and butter issues such as the economy and wages.

In conservative Quincy, Illinois where I grew up the, Democratic Party’s candidates also supported traditional values.

One of the frequent speakers was then Congressman Dick Durbin. Durbin was elected Congressman from Illinois then 20 th District in 1982. Durbin, who now the Assistant Minority Leader in the U.S. Senate and one of the most liberal members of the that body today, during the early to mid-1980’s was Pro-Life and supported Second Amendment rights.

Durbin, like his party made some big shifts in policy. Durbin and many Democrats in rural America and the South moved from being moderate or conservative on social and cultural issues, to being very liberal.

Durbin’s shift is not unique. The Democrats have changed quite a bit over the last few decades. An example of what the mainstream of the Democratic Party represented in the 1960’s can be found in President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy supported cutting taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations in order help grow the economy. This idea was later borrowed by President Reagan.

Kennedy in an interview before becoming President said this in response to being asked if he considered himself to be a liberal. “I’d be very happy to tell them I’m not a liberal at all…I’m not comfortable with those people.” Kennedy shared these thoughts regarding the size and role of the federal government, “The ever expanding power of the federal government, the absorption of many of the functions that states and cities once considered to be responsibilities of their own, must now be a source of concern to all those who believe as did the great patriot, Henry Grattan that: “Control over local affairs is the essence of liberty.””

Regarding the role of faith in promoting liberty Kennedy shared some thoughts you are not likely to hear from a modern day Democratic politician. He said, “Conceived in Grecian thought, strengthened by Christian morality, and stamped indelibly into American political philosophy, the right of the individual against the State is the keystone of our Constitution. Each man is free.”

The effect of the Democratic Party’s shift to the left has taken a toll on that party. Since the 1980’s the Democratic Party has become mainly a party whose domination of political life is limited mainly to the coasts, and heavily urban areas. The places in between, sometimes referred to fly over country, has been in large part surrendered to the Republican Party.

The Democratic Party has changed over the past decades. These changes have moved the party more and more to the left, and caused many in the center of the nation and the political spectrum to leave the Democrats.

About Dan Cravens

Dan  is the chairman of the Bingham County Republican Central Committee. He lives in Blackfoot with his wife Jill and family. He holds a Master of Arts in government from Regent University, a Juris Doctorate from Gonzaga University School of Law, and a Doctor of Business Administration degree from Argosy University – Salt Lake City.

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