Auger, Stirling: Why we are Democrats | AspenTimes.com

Auger, Stirling: Why we are Democrats

Camilla Auger and Bill Stirling
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jordan Curet The Aspen Times

The current difference in values and beliefs between the two parties is more dramatic than it has been in many years.

Democrats are committed to the public interest, to family, community, the country and the community of nations. Democrats focus on improving the quality of life for all by providing educational and economic opportunity for all segments of society, including the poor and disadvantaged. They are committed to protecting and enhancing the environment, including clean water, clean air and wildlife protection for all and for future generations.

Environmental protection and economic growth are not perceived by Democrats to be in conflict, but rather environmental protection and energy conservation are anticipated to make a significant contribution to a thriving and sustainable economy. Health care is viewed as not in conflict with fiscal responsibility and economic development but rather essential for a strong and competitive economy, since health care costs have been a major financial burden on individuals, families and American industry as well as a significant detriment to the quality of life.

Democrats believe in and respect the individual and individual rights, while always being cognizant of and responsive to what is the best for the Commonweal. Seeking a balance of these two values is both an ongoing tension and a necessary path to balance. To point out one example of how this principle is applied in Aspen and in other historically important towns, owning a historic building and adhering to the preservation ordinances may make a property owner feel that such historic guidelines are too restrictive and place an undue burden on an individual’s property rights. However, preserving and designating important buildings to demonstrate the richness of a town’s history and make the town even more appealing to locals and visitors alike is viewed by the community at large as important and necessary. Carefully crafted incentives are available to the historic property owner to counter balance any perceived loss of property value. Democrats are always seeking a balance in governing.

In Aspen, as the need arose to provide affordable housing to mitigate a growing loss of community, the government appropriately stepped in. The citizens voted for a real estate transfer tax to purchase land and build economical housing. City ordinances were also passed requiring that the private sector also contribute to the production of affordable housing, so the burden for this important task was shared by all. These programs have become models for many other resort communities.

In order for the citizens of Aspen to control their own destiny and chart the future look and character of the city, innovative growth management systems to carefully manage future development and protect the mass and scale of the community were put in place. In our view these actions, which might place some limits on private property ownership, are in the best long-term interest of the community.

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While many complain about regulations on development, those protections against overdevelopment and for the environment are primarily why property in Aspen is so valuable. Though Aspen has changed, it still has a village feeling, with architectural diversity and a sense of coherence and understanding of its past and present.

Democrats believe that the government can and should play a positive role in providing military and police security, in providing a safety net through Social Security, un-employment insurance and Medicare, in providing emergency response and in regulating industry and in managing the economy. While Republicans mostly oppose regulation of industry but often favor governmental intrusion into private lives, Democrats mostly favor fair and appropriate regulation of industry and protection of the individual citizen’s religion, right to speak and protest, and private morays.

The Democratic focus is on the public interest and the betterment of the community, and this seems to be the fundamental difference between the parties. While the members of both parties represent a range of views on many issues, rightist Republicans today seem primarily to represent the interests of large corporations and the wealthiest Americans, and express an Ayn Rand view of “every person for herself” in a Darwinian society of survival of the fittest where money is the main indicator of success.

In arguing for the interests of the middle and working classes, the disadvantaged and the poor, Democrats often speak of “fairness.” However, this focus is not simply a matter of fairness, but rather the goal of achieving a sustainable quality of life for all segments of society. The privileged members of the society are not benefited by a gulf between the rich and poor, higher crime rates and the potential for revolution. Democrats believe that we are our brother and sister’s keeper and that social justice and economic opportunity benefit all citizens. A society built on educational and economic opportunity creates the best chance for the leaders of the society in both politics and business to be a sustainable meritocracy with a knowledgeable voter population essential for sustaining a thriving democracy. The social mobility which America offers to a highly diverse population, and the peaceful change-over of administrations, with each party willing, in the past, to work together for the public interest, is admired around the world.