–I found this draft in my folder from August on 2016. Twenty nine months later, it feels even more tragic than it did then. During the campaign, I remember thinking that policial *rhetoric* had died. Now, it seems the great art of statesmanship itself has been discarded in favor of strongman autocracy. I do not know where we go from here, and I genuinely hate that it seems our constitutional government requires what will be very aggressive accountability. Can a system so corrupt be restored? what sacrifices will that require? Where do we start? —
I remember reading the articles in 2004. John Kerry was not a popular presidential candidate and upon his nomination and subsequent loss, the pundits called the Democratic party unfocused, a shamble, and generally were ready to write the whole thing off. The progressive movement had stalled and it seemed as if we were entering a time of renewed “family values” a re-normalizing of racism, sexism and militarism as the foundations of our country.
However, Kerry was simply uninspiring. He didn’t motivate the “fringe left” and was considered too centrist for many. Apathy was the biggest threat. A lack of passion and turn out. That year, George Lakoff wrote a book “Don’t Think of an Elephant” and challenged progressives to “reframe” the conversation. This wasn’t new, and Lakoff wasn’t the first. But his simple book equipped community organizers, pastors, thinkers, and a great rising president all to begin to ask what could unify the diverse coalitions that compose the American left.
So in 2016, we watched two conventions, and the second was not reactionary. In fact, it was Trump’s reaction to the DNC convention that probably created the most enduring story of either convention. One eloquent Muslim American, Harvard-trained lawyer, father spoke of his son, a solider who died while serving in the U.S. Army. He looked at screen and offered Trump a pocket copy of the Constitution.
(Draft ended, conclusion from 2018)
Later we learned that Khizr Khan often carries these in his pocket. Khan so loves the established rule of law that he carries a copy of our by-laws in his pocket. Khan, whose trust is not in ONE person but the many: our collective agreement to live together and create a common good which is overall greater than what any one could achieve alone.
In 2016, the contrast was too easily obscured. The strong man candidate claimed to care about factory jobs in the rust belt. The Republican campaign claimed to be obsessed with holding someone accountable for what turns out to have been an inconsequential violation of federal email security policy. Appealing to claims of order and security, blatant racism and sexism were dismissed a personal foibles which would not become policy.
But one of the first acts of this administration was to attempt to ban immigration from six middle eastern and Mediterranean countries with predominantly Muslim populations. There was nothing trivial, inconsequential, or personal about the racism enthroned in 2016.
And in hindsight, we realize that using the tactic of creating stronger bonds by establishing a common enemy is not only fundamentally lazy but also fundamentally evil. Progressives cannot both be progressive and choose a common enemy – if the enemy is a group of people.
So, let’s start here: by reaffirming what we stand for.
BUT we can define things we are for, and against, clearly. We are against racism. Progressives are against corruption: in it’s many forms, including the status quo of the current federal budgeting system. We oppose the military industrial complex and the resulting government funded corporations – and that is what it has become, a lot of supposedly private, profit making corporations whose profits are tax dollar spending on expensive weapons of war. I support a budget which prioritizes bridges and roads over bombers and submarines.
We oppose hunger, ignorance, homelessness, and failing infrastructure. I support farm bills and international trade policy which ensures sufficient food for every human.
We oppose ignorance, racism, and homelessness; therefore, progressives support well funded, expensive, radically staffed schools. Schools with free lunches for all, buses, social workers, sports, music, libraries, and tutoring after school at no cost.
Finally, progressives stand for democracy. I mean at it’s fundamental level, progressives believe that together, we make better decisions than an individual or small group ever could. Therefore, we stand for fair elections, transparent government processes, simple representative districts, and access to elections for all. We support campaign finance regulations, because limiting the power of money makes running for election more accessible to people with fewer dollars. (Because we do NOT believe that our current economy is fair; therefore, having lots of dollars is not necessarily a reflection of someone’s capacity to solve problems).