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Editorial: Both Parties would do well to ‘open their tent flaps’

By Jeff Roorda

For a long time, when someone would describe the Republican Party as a “big tent party,” I would laugh and say, “sure, but they’ve got really small tent flaps.”

Increasingly though, over the last decade or two, the Democratic Party is getting just as bad.

This has been highlighted recently by the lingering controversy over Missouri Democratic Party chairman Stephen Webber’s declaration that the Democratic Party should be more welcoming of pro-life candidates. This did not sit well with the party’s far left and the backlash continues to be a topic of news reports in this publication and others.

That’s a headscratcher for me. When I first got elected in 2004, there were seventy-two Democrats in the Missouri House. Thirty-six of us were pro-life, and the other thirty-six were pro-choice. House Democrats were evenly divided on the issue and it didn’t seem to bother anyone in the caucus.

Today, there are still roughly thirty-six pro-choice Democrats in the House, but there are a lot fewer pro-lifers as Dem numbers have dwindled greatly in the suburbs and in rural Missouri.

How does that benefit the party or the people who vote for Democrats who hold dear other issues like union rights, public education, healthcare, tuition costs, or retirement dignity?

The ideological purity demanded by those on the far left – and the far right – tends to zip-up those tent flaps. Where does that leave voters in the middle? Or, for that matter, voters like Matthew’s proverbial camel who are disqualified from passage through the eye-of-the-needle-sized flap on the tents of both parties?

I suppose I’m more like a camel than I am a donkey or an elephant because I’ve got a couple of great big humps: I’m a pro-life, pro-Second amendment Democrat. More and more, my pro-police bona fides are making it harder to get through the left tent flap because of the decidedly anti-police posture embraced by some on the fringe of the Democratic Party.

I’m not alone in feeling squeezed when it comes to pigeon-holing – or, perhaps, camel-holing – myself into the pantheon of the Democratic Party. Lots of voters feel that way about the Dems … and the Republicans too for that matter.

Yet, election after election, it is the party that opens their tentfly the widest that wins the election. Why can’t either party seem to figure out that inclusion is a winner? The numbers just don’t lie.

For me, I’m going to continue to wedge my way through the flap of the Democratic tent, not because of the size of the opening but because of what I see when I get inside: a party that cares about the working class, the needy, the old and the infirm. It’s what I’ve always found inside the big-top once I’ve gotten past the gatekeepers obsessed with monolithic ideology.

But, here’s my advice to both parties: throw open your tent flaps. Your divisiveness in staking-out polar opposite positions on every issue is ripping this country apart. Beware though, both tents will collapse on themselves long before this country ever will. America is made up of something far more sturdy than a thin layer of canvas.



Jeff Roorda is a former four-term democratic State Representative and the current business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association. Roorda, a retired cop, is a nationally renowned police spokesperson. He has appeared frequently on CNN, Fox News Network and other nationally broadcast news programs weighing in on an array of law enforcement issues. He is a widely recognized writer having authored the critically acclaimed book “The War On Police” and having written extensively as an editorial contributor in a number of publications. In addition to penning a monthly column for the police newspaper “The Gendarme,” Roorda is a frequent visiting columnist for the popular national news service, World Net Daily.

Roorda chose Shield Of Hope to receive a contribution from the Missouri Times on behalf of his writing as part of this publication’s editorial series. To learn more about Shield of Hope, click here.