Fifty Shades of Blue

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Color can mean so much.

A few years back, Albertsons Market in Corona del Mar painted its exterior stucco a particularly rich shade of ocher, resulting in an outcry from color-sensitive residents.

Color informs much of what we like and dislike, and how we view the world. After all, humanity encompasses everyone from black-and-white thinkers to nuanced thinkers who relish the various hues of reality.

Political pundits like to identify us as red (Republicans) and blue (Democrats) — so convenient for those televised maps of our country that show voters’ sensibilities during election campaigns. But we are far more complex than that.

Consider the several states that are turning purple as voters of various persuasions swing toward the Democrats. Consider the Green Party, known for its advocacy for the environment, social and economic justice, peace and non-violence, and grass-roots democracy. A nation as diverse as ours must span the rainbow if it is to remain a healthy democracy.

Which is essentially why I became a Democrat. What I see in the party is a heartening array of points of view.

Last week I drove up to Anaheim for the Democratic Party of Orange County’s annual fundraiser, the Harry S. Truman Awards Dinner. The keynote speaker, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, spoke of the party’s advocacy for “an infrastructure of opportunity for people to build their dreams.”

The freshman legislator from Texas’s 20th congressional district understands this well: His grandmother arrived in this country as a young orphan; he graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Law School.

At the Truman Dinner, Muslims, Protestants, Roman Catholics, Jews, and atheists, Latinos, Anglos, Asians, and African-Americans mingled sociably. The Democrats are clearly the party of a colorful big tent, home to labor, dreamers, women’s organizations, teachers, environmentalists, businessmen and women, and activists.

It’s lavender, too; gays have long been welcome here.

Fresh from his recent experience amid the Tea Party’s “pack of wolves,” as he described it, during the government shutdown in Washington, D.C., Castro pointed out that the Democrats stayed unified and strong and fought back against the chaos of a continued government shutdown. That, he said, is what distinguishes the two parties: “We don’t always agree, but we believe in working together.”

On another evening, I visited Santa Ana for a gathering of the Progressive Democrats of America, a grass roots PAC that fosters the ideals of peace and justice.

One of the speakers was Tom Hayden – yes, that Tom Hayden, who spoke in favor of “heartfelt activism.” With the 50th anniversary of the Free-Speech Movement approaching, Hayden looked to have mellowed, his hair gray conservatively short.

Before sex, drugs, and, possibly, rock ‘n’ roll sent the activism of the 1960s into ill repute, Hayden reminded us of the ideals of what mattered then and still does: social and economic justice for ordinary Americans and an end to costly, unproductive confrontations, whether the failed domestic war against drugs or the “sending of U.S. troops abroad into wars impossible to win.” (Hayden lobbied fiercely against attacking Syria.)

The stated goal of the DPOC is “turning Orange County blue one voter at a time.” Orange County has more registered Democrats than San Francisco, and the number is rising. The party ain’t perfect but it beats the heck out of the GOP’s politics of fear and loathing. I argue that the country’s interests are best reflected by and served via the Democratic Party’s 50 shades of blue.

Jean Ardell can be reached at [email protected].

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