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Bryher Herak

In a letter to the editor a few weeks ago, Denise Fellers demonstrated a mistaken understanding of the Democratic Party’s position on several key issues. Reading Ms. Feller’s letter reminds me that some Republicans think finding a Democrat in Jefferson County is as likely as finding an armadillo on Boulder Pass. But Democrats are about 43% of this county and I’d like to set the record straight about who we are — including being your friends and neighbors.

Unfortunately, some media deliberately and continually boil complex issues down to alarmist sound bites: “Democrats are socialists! who want to take away our guns! kill babies! allow open borders!” These irresponsible and inaccurate charges are distortions of the truth and fail to provide context for actual Democratic positions. I will briefly provide some of that context here, in response to the issues Ms. Fellers mentioned:

  1. Socialism: Democrats are not at all interested in authoritarian socialism. Nor are we interested in unfettered capitalism, where the rich keep getting richer and the rest of us keep getting poorer. We want regulated capitalism, as have most Republicans over the years, as can be seen by broad public support for taxpayer-funded roads, highways, and bridges; public libraries and schools; police departments, fire departments and the postal service; garbage collection; public landfills and sewers; public parks; Medicare and Social Security; lunch programs for low-income children; health care for children; military defense and much more.

    Democrats seek a balance between the well-being of the individual and the well-being of the community, so we believe that markets must be regulated and taxation must be fair. Without this, the vast majority of people struggle from paycheck to paycheck or worse, while the wealthy just get wealthier, greedier and more powerful.

    Over the last 50 years our bipartisan call for well-regulated capitalism has given way on the Republican side to privatization and unregulated capitalism. The result is that the top 10% of households now own as much wealth as the entire rest of the country combined, and 99% of all new income is now going to the top one percent. In Montana, in Butte and in Libby, among other locations, we have seen what unregulated corporate greed has done to our communities. This is a problem that can be addressed in ways that help us all—including corporate oversight and a fair tax system where everyone, including corporations, pay their fair share of taxes.

  2. Gun control: The majority of Democrats and Republicans support common-sense gun control laws. The charge that “the Democrats want to take away our guns” is untrue. Several measures are widely supported by both Republicans and Democrats: expanded background checks for gun purchases, “red flag” laws to identify dangerous persons and deny them guns; a mandatory waiting period for firearm purchases, an assault weapons ban, and a voluntary buyback program.
  3. Border control: The Democratic Party supports effective border control and law enforcement, which is NOT the same as supporting open borders and illegal immigration. Many Democrats believe that a costly and ineffective border wall is a waste of taxpayers’ money. We instead look to a combination of physical barriers, technology, increases in border personnel, and other methods of border control that do not include separating families, except when needed for child protection. We also support compassion for refugees fleeing from danger and we welcome immigrants who come here legally.
  4. Abortion: Global studies show that laws do not reduce the rate of abortions and they also endanger women, because when abortions are illegal, women will continue to try to end unwanted pregnancies in dangerous back-alley places. This mostly impacts middle- and low-income women, because wealthy women will always find ways to have safe abortions.

    Democrats believe that reproductive decisions are complicated, personal and private. Because of this the Democratic Party supports Roe v. Wade, which allows safe, legal abortions in the first trimester of pregnancy, and after that with limitations. We believe that a true pro-life position must also include such concerns as affordable daycare and healthcare; programs that reduce poverty; programs that reduce relationship violence; an end to family separations; aid to refugees; attention to changing climate, gun violence, and the rise of hate groups; the needs of born children, their families, and the elderly; and more. We reject single-issue politics: we need to take all of these life concerns into account as we make decisions about women’s healthcare.

    Here is the question we all need to answer: Are we mainly interested in controlling and punishing women, or do we seriously want to reduce the number of abortions? If the latter, let’s fund the proven most effective ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies: (1) make safe, effective, and inexpensive birth control methods widely available; and (2) provide effective age-appropriate sex education for both women and men.

In relation to Ms. Feller’s reference to Sen. Jon Tester, most Democratic senators did vote against the Senate’s Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act because, as they pointed out at the time, infanticide is already illegal, and the bill as written could criminalize doctors and patients.

I think there is one issue where Democrats and Republicans are in pretty much full agreement: the fact that the next election is almost a year away, and yet, millions, if not billions of dollars have already been spent by candidates and political parties. This means that we will be inundated by campaign ads, telecalls, mailings, social media postings for the next year. I’m already sick of it, and it is getting harder and harder to know what is truth and what is fiction. I think we all agree that campaign finance reform is long overdue. Let’s figure out how to make our election cycle shorter, less expensive, and more honest.

I appreciate this opportunity to talk about these and other issues that affect our lives and communities. My hope is that we continue to think together, learn from each other, and find common-sense solutions.

Bryher Herak lives in Basin. She is a mediator, facilitator and attorney and serves as a Trustee for Jefferson High School.

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