E. J. Dionne of the Washington Post suggested (a while ago now) that dignity is an antidote to partisanship and economic despair, and can be the best way to defeat Trumpism, which is, appallingly, still a scourge on the American republic. Perhaps until we root out the essential causes and contributors of how it is that so many Americans are so disaffected and so susceptible to propaganda and white supremacy and violent extremism, we will not be back on track. Perhaps this will all end up being a crucible through which Americans had to pass in order to transcend the figurative adolescence in which we have clearly been stuck.
Dionne indicates that dignity is the urgent need in the United States now. His 2020 book is indeed titled: Code Red: How Moderates and Progressives Can Unite to Save Our Country.
In a book review, Nicole Hemmer of Columbia University writes: “‘Code Red’ is not yet another call for bipartisanship (thank goodness). Nor is it a plea for centrism, which in an earlier era had been a defining feature of Dionne’s work. Here he has abandoned the idea of a center poised between left and right. “The political center cannot be defined as a halfway point between Democrats and a Republican Party that has veered far to the right,” he indicates.
Dionne has been an intelligent voice in politics for decades, so I would like to explore this idea a bit in this blog.
First, I want to establish that values such as security, harmony, fulfillment, meaning, joy, peace, and social relationships are very important. Pioneering psychologist Martin Seligman’s research, among others, indicates that “[p]eople who have the most positive emotion, the most engagement, and the most meaning in life are the happiest, and they have the most life satisfaction.” Put another way, individuals value dignity almost above all else. In other words, a properly raised individual will be ashamed and unsatisfied, say, trafficking minors for the sex trade as a career. Likewise, there are many inspiring stories of, say, janitors in schools who love what they do even though they make about $30,000 a year or so. Persons who teach others or do some productive activity while incarcerated suffer much less than prisoners who simply do their time, right, lust after drugs or illicit sex, etc. Conversely, don’t tell me that Bernie Madoff or Jeffrey Epstein could be considered truly happy, since their lives had no real dignity or authentic self-respect.
If you will agree with me on the value of a dignified and rewarding mental state — that partisan rancor, social media influenced righteous indignation, and economic despair are corrosive psychologically — then let me turn to the political aspects of these high goals.
“The rise of Donald Trump and the radicalization of the right have been unifying forces for moderates and progressives. While the two factions disagree sharply on proposals like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, they share a distress and disgust with the Trump presidency and the growing right-wing extremism that preceded it,” Hemmer writes in a review of Code Red. The publisher succinctly sums up the book thusly: “Will progressives and moderates feud while America burns? Or will these natural allies take advantage of the greatest opportunity since the New Deal Era to strengthen American democracy, foster social justice, and turn back the threats of the Trump Era?” Intriguing stuff, I say.
Dionne has written about social justice many times, such as this: “To be the master of one’s own fate—a fair definition of liberty—means not simply being free from overt coercion (though that is a precondition); it also involves being given the means to overcome various external forces that impinge on freedom of choice and self-sufficiency. It means being free to set one’s course.” He further believes that dignity is an antidote to partisanship and economic despair, and can be the best way to stamp out Trumpism. He indicates that “For our time, the galvanizing idea should be dignity—in our public life and politics, but also in the lives of our citizens and in the way we treat each other.”
But the political and social unity required to oust the worst president — perhaps in all of United States history — involves cooperation among the “Bernie Sanders/A.O.C./Elizabeth Warren/more radical wing of the Left” (the progressives) and the “more moderate/centrist/incrementalist philosophy of the Left” (the moderates). Incidentally, I hope the moderate wing is less like the “Blue Dog”/”third way”/corporate compromise made initially by Bill Clinton in the 1990s (to counter the Right’s near-total capture of Wall Street dollars), and more “purple” or integrative and people-centered. At this time, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg, and Joe Biden — in that order, I think — ably characterize this more moderate approach to bringing the country back from the precipice we have faced for nearly four years (and which has been a gruesome spectacle as of late).
The estimable David Leonhardt, from the New York Times, highlights this in regard to Dionne: “The current moment, when nobody knows how the primaries will end, is a good time for both sides of the Democratic Party — left and center — to ask themselves how they’ll respond if their side loses the nomination. Reacting negatively would be a big favor to Trump. I instead ask both moderates and progressives to think about the strengths of the other side of their party.”
As a person who was not terribly happy with the Democratic “establishment” (the moderate, elite, moneyed, powerful aspect of the Democratic Party) in 2016, its kingmaker Debbie Wassarman-Schultz (whom I call an embarrassment to Jews everywhere), or its beneficiary Hillary Clinton, I do sense the division between the Bernie Sanders faction and what remains of the Democratic establishment (it has seen its power and its cohesiveness and centrality wane in the last two years)(take for example Chairman Tom Perez’ willingness to neuter or cripple the “super delegates“, a Frankenstein-like creation unique to the Democrats which was meant in 2016 to carry Clinton’s water and did indeed help her defeat Sanders).
The Democrats, whom I think have made a critical mistake by trying to imitate the Republicans and chase corporate cash in the 1990s, have been more marginal since they stood by while globalization and corporatization of America hollowed out their core: organized labor. Someone noted that “Republican-lite” will always lose to the real deal (sounds like Bill Maher, no?). With unions now comprising a mere 5-10% of private sector jobs, the Dems have had nowhere to go once the public sensed that Clinton was a tepid and fairly establishment figure (some say, corrupt). Sanders now has galvanized the Party like no one since Obama has been able to.
Interesting historical note: True to form, the Dems were not able to follow the Franklin Roosevelt homerun with his very able and loved V.P., Henry A. Wallace. Some such as I see the greatness in that man and were deeply disturbed by the debacle that the Party bosses perpetrated at the 1946 Democratic National Convention. It stank to high hell. If it were captured minute by minute in color video, it would be even grosser than it has come to be seen (as it largely faded into the black and white pages of history by now). The way the Party conspired to usher Truman into the presidency was virtually a national outrage. Here is a blog I wrote about that watershed moment in party politics as usual.
It has been said that a populace gets the leaders it deserves. But how could it be explained that probably 85% of people would not consider donating millions of dollars to SuperPACs to be “free speech” and yet it passed the House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court? How did corporations get many of the rights of persons if that is patently absurd? Why can corporations pay people $1.00 an hour in the developing world, or dump pollutants into the air, water, and soil, often without penalty? Coal is clean now! Fracking is good! Bill Maher made a comment in the early 2000s that is relevant to these conundrums: “Nobody was asking for tax cuts when [George W. Bush] ran for president. Nobody was thinking that we should invade Iraq when he proposed that. Nobody was asking that Social Security be put on the table right now. If he turned his willful mindset toward the environment, toward conservation, toward asking people to make a sacrifice, the momentum that would bring to the table would be incalculable. But obviously it’s not what he feels is important.” In a word, perhaps we don’t get the leaders we deserve, we get the leaders that the moneyed elite wishes for, and they distract and divide us to placate the populace and continue their work. Noam Chomsky and Edward Hermann call that “manufacturing consent” [consent to be governed], and there is no dignity in having the government and the media induce you to unwittingly consent to the way things are, to consumerism, to perennial distractedness. No offense, NFL fans.
Perhaps America is just missing the mark, policy-wise, and attitudinally. Economics professor Peter H. Lindert writes: “The larger welfare states have achieved lower income inequality, lower gender inequality, lower poverty rates, and longer life, again without any clear loss in GDP. Nor do they suffer any other often-imagined side effects. These states, particularly in Northern Europe, have some of the world’s cleanest and least corruption governments, with lower budget deficits than the United States, Japan, and other rich countries. And for what it is worth, their populations express greater happiness in international surveys of public opinion.”
The U.S. has always been unique, and the dignity of its citizens falls preposterously behind, say, the country of Bhutan, which focuses on “gross national happiness” instead of the typical economic indicators. One of America’s greatest sons, civil rights pioneer and peace activist Howard Zinn believed that “[w]hat is important is how closely we look today at what is done to human beings, what criteria we use for ‘progress.’ We are accustomed to measuring the state of the nation by the numbers on the stock market rather than by how many children die of malnutrition.”
Also, it is no small matter, and probably no coincidence, that economic disparities and pressures breed resentment and class conflict. “Today America’s class structure is increasingly ossified, and this affects not only minorities, who are hit disproportionately, but also many whites, who constitute more than 40 percent of the nation’s poor. Upward mobility has stalled under both Bush and Obama, not only for minorities but for vast swaths of working class and middle-class Americans. Increasingly, it’s not the color of one’s skin that determines one’s place in society, but access to education and capital, often the inherited variety,” writes Joel Kotkin (LINK).
Indeed, Harvard scholar Michèle Lamont’s book entitled The Dignity of Working Men, indicates that “[m]orality is at the center of these workers’ worlds. They find their identity and self-worth in their ability to discipline themselves and conduct responsible but caring lives. These moral standards function as an alternative to economic definitions of success, offering them a way to maintain dignity in an out-of-reach American dreamland. But these standards also enable them to draw class boundaries toward the poor and, to a lesser extent, the upper half. Workers also draw rigid racial boundaries, with white workers placing emphasis on the ‘disciplined self’ and Blacks on the ‘caring self.’ Whites thereby often construe Blacks as morally inferior because they are lazy, while Blacks depict whites as domineering, uncaring, and overly disciplined.” Gulp.
Circling back, what was Dionne’s point about the power of dignity to usher a Democrat into office and send Trump back to the bowels of hell from whence he sprang? Again, his book isn’t a plea to unite the Left and the Right; as one can see from the lunacy and vitriol coming from Trump’s mouth, almost all of his supporters, nowadays, are extremists (to say the least). Any Republican who still calls themselves a Republican is ceding all power in the Party to Trump, which is essentially the death of the GOP of old (the Reagan/Bush/Dole/Romney/McCain version, and certainly the Lincoln/Roosevelt/Eisenhower one).
Dignity means that the Left should unite and try to recapture the ideas that are akin to civility, respect, tolerance, courtesy, trust, fraternity, and moderation. Instead of America as a Twitterified, Facebook-exacerbated version of the Jerry Springer Show, we should try to reinvigorate age-old values such as hope, love, and decency, and usher in new era marked by progress, truth, and social justice.
“Dignity includes the capacity to live a purposeful life, both with family and at work, free of economic domination. (This definition comes from Gene Sperling, the former adviser to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton)…”, Leonhardt writes.
In one of his newsletters, Leonhardt expounds thusly: “Sperling explains the history of economic dignity in the American context, from colonial days to Martin Luther King Jr. to today’s progressive activists. He also offers a three-part definition: being able to care for one’s family; having the opportunity to reach one’s potential; and being free from domination and humiliation.”
This has Bernie Sanders written all over it. I would note that though there is a fair question, economically speaking, about how the government can encourage directly and indirectly improvement in the lives of lower- and middle-class Americans, and it is true that the poor here have it better than 3/4ths of the world, dignity also means that Americans feel positive not about the unemployment rate, or the sky-high Dow Jones Industrial Average. No, those mask more pernicious facts about the U.S. economy. For example, how much did wages rise in recent decades compared to inflation? Only recently has there been any kind of notable uptick in wages, and that amounts to far less than 5% in total. Remember, inflation eats away at small raises to the tune of 2-3% per year. Thus, when one gets no raise in a given year, that is essentially a 2-3% pay cut. The U.S. minimum wage is still $7 an hour. Not only does that not work in Manhattan, it also doesn’t work most other places, either. Gone are the years when a hard-working and ambitious breadwinner can support a family. So, economically, there is not much there to be happy about.
Annie Lowrey, in The Atlantic, writes: “…the most representative story [of the last decade may be] that of the former graduate student who ended up as a warehouse janitor. Or of the thousands of people who have gone online to beg for money to help them stay afloat through a life-threatening illness. These kinds of stories felt most real and urgent and indelible to me this past decade, a decade without a single month of recession, when the United States grew to its wealthiest point ever—and when the middle class shrank, longevity fell, and it became clear that a whole generation was falling behind.”
She continues, adding that, “The central economic dynamic of the 2010s was that no matter how well the market was doing, no matter how long the expansion lasted, no matter how much the economy grew, families still struggled. It was a decade that strained America’s idea of what economic growth could do, and should do, because it did so little for so many.” (LINK). She gets good back-up from the likes of Joseph Stiglitz, Paul Krugman, Jared Bernstein, Naomi Klein, and Robert Reich.
Written in the pre-Trump age of reactionary politics, I should note, Reich believes that “[i]f history is any guide, reform is likely to begin in America and inspire reform elsewhere. That’s because Americans have always tended to choose pragmatism over ideology. When we have recognized a problem and understood the reason for it, our habit has been to get on with the messy job of solving it. Whenever capitalism has before reached points of crisis, we have not opted for communism or fascism or any other grand scheme. Again and again, we have saved capitalism from its own excesses by making necessary corrections.”
Economic reform means more dignity for working-class individuals, always the backbone of the strange and striated version of capitalism that has grown on this side of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, while we are grappling with Trump’s effect on national security, the economic foundations of the society, and polarization of views (divided pretty cleanly into parties, as Ezra Klein notes), China is creating new land in the ocean (true), hacking into companies like Equifax (true), and getting the better of Trump in his unforced error: the latest version of the “trade war.”
“Despite improvements in working conditions and advancements in employment legislation, workers de facto remain tools in a production process to which their own happiness and economic welfare are incidental,” modern philosopher Alain de Botton writes. Entrepreneur Jerry Cohen believes that “[t]he issue of economic justice, the issue of poverty, is the basis of most of the rest of the problems we have.” There is little dignity in living paycheck to paycheck, or going bankrupt due to illness, or having $100,000 in student debt that is subject to interest accrual, or not being able to find health insurance due to a preexisting condition. Yet, the House tried to repeal various aspects of the Affordable Care Act over 40 times. The opportunity for a working-class-centric Democratic Party to make gains in November 2020 during a time such as this is obvious.
Here is where hard-working Americans want to be, not in the situation where, for example, a worker at Walmart has to utilize food stamps because of the low pay, or because their hours are capped at 35 per week (to avoid paying benefits): “I have spent a good deal of my life trying to write a history of labor’s century-long fight for progressively shorter work hours, and the accompanying dream of what Walt Whitman called ‘the higher progress’. This… [refers to] the confident expectation that economic progress was paving the way to humane and moral progress. After providing for the material necessities of life, technology would free us, increasingly, for better things. Eventually we would have plenty of time for family, friends, beauty, joy, creativity, God, and nature” (
How galling, how angersome is this? David Leonhardt asks: “Amazon. Delta Air Lines. Chevron. IBM. General Motors. Molson Coors. Eli Lilly. What do these companies have in common? They paid no federal taxes last year. Thanks to President Trump’s 2017 tax law, the number of Fortune 500 companies that pay no federal taxes roughly doubled last year, to 60, according to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a research group.”
“A lot of Americans are very insecure economically,” Professor Douglas J. Amy notes. “We worry about how we’ll be able to retire, how we’ll afford to send our kids to college, pay for our healthcare, or make our mortgage payments. People are looking for someone to blame for these problems,” he indicates. “One of the loudest voices is that of big business, which routinely points the finger at government. They’ve made government a scapegoat to distract people from the real problems, many of which come from the private sector itself. The political right doesn’t want to talk about that.” Note to Democrats: to use a sports metaphor, the goal is not well-guarded; don’t miss this year’s golden opportunity!
Indeed, former professor, noted author, and one-time Congressional staffer Gar Alperovitz points out: “We live at a time when the dominant institutions of corporate capitalism have come under question, one in which a democratic socialist candidate came very close to becoming the nominee of the Democratic Party, and a time when millions of Americans sense that something is fundamentally wrong with the way the current system operates.”
Leonhardt characterizes the “dignity approach” of Sperling, Dionne, Kucinich, Sanders, Nader, Zinn, Wellstone, and (Van) Jones as “a more skeptical approach to trade deals and to large corporations; a higher minimum wage and larger earned-income tax credit (but not a Universal Basic Income); increased pay for ‘double-dignity’ jobs, like home care workers and preschool teachers.”
Dionne advises: “You might say I am suggesting a Pope Francis move: Move our discourse away from culture wars by focusing on the ways in which religious faith and a concern for family are not, or do not have to be, reactionary.”
To flesh this out further, Leonhardt specifies that the key is “the notion that politicians shouldn’t focus on policy mechanisms. They should focus on principles. When a political debate revolves around means rather than ends — like private vs. public health insurance — people often retreat to their tribal corners. When a debate instead revolves around principles — people with serious illnesses shouldn’t have to pay more health insurance — progress becomes easier.”
Here is an essay you might like, which influenced Sperling. A snippet from it:
“As a rule, it’s easy to complain about inequality, hard to settle on the type of equality we want. Do we want things to be equal where we start in life or where we land? When inequalities arise, what are the knobs that we adjust to get things back on track? Individually, people are unequal in countless ways, and together they join groups that resist blending. … How do you move from a basic model of egalitarian variety, in which everybody gets a crack at being a star at something, to figuring out how to respond to a complex one, where people, with different allotments of talent and virtue, get unequal starts, and often meet with different constraints along the way?” (Nathan Heller)
Gar Alperovitz emphasizes dignity and other worthy values in his concept of a “pluralist commonwealth” (LINK). An accurate but dense summation of his approach: “Our time demands we meet the challenges inherent in an era of deepening despair and accelerating crises—political, ecological, and economic—that is also potentially the prehistory of transformative and fundamental systemic change. This requires a serious discussion of practical new economic efforts and organizing strategies as well as the steady development of both power and ideas that can help us move through and beyond the current emergency. The approach and model outlined in my new book—the Pluralist Commonwealth—offers a trajectory and pattern for wide-ranging institutional change towards real democracy over the long haul, guided by a transformative vision beyond both corporate capitalism and traditional state socialism.”
It isn’t just getting a raise to a living wage, per se. Noted philosopher Michael J. Sandel: “Providing everyone a fair opportunity to reap the rewards of an affluent society is one aspect of the good society. But fairness isn’t everything. It does not answer the hunger for a public life of larger meaning because it does not connect the project of self-government with people’s desire to participate in a common good greater than themselves.”
The Dems are the only Party (and Sanders is a quasi-Democrat) who can make peoples’ lives significantly better because they aren’t selling the public a bill of good like Trump, McConnell, and McCarthy are. Democrats may have some character issues (Clinton and Pelosi are not what I would consider to be benevolent and modest individuals), but they are far and away better able to both bring back some of the shared economic prosperity that characterized the 1946-1976 era, and usher in a new era of values that most Americans would agree are praiseworthy (e.g., eating less meat), helpful (e.g., decreasing carbon emissions), and good (e.g., noting for example that Trump has publicly broadcast or spoken over 15,000 documented lies or half-truths, as of this writing).
Indeed, modern conservatism is a weird and noxious combination of increasing debt, income and wealth inequality, social wedge issues, corporatism, the Cult of Personality (Trump), extremism, and misinformation. This is my opinion, but I think it is borne out by the facts. It is a gross elevation of party above principle, class conflict, racial animus, and international bumbling. It’s a terrible time to be a Republican, not just because only about four in ten truly identify with Trumpism, but because the country is growing less white, and the young are moving up the ladder. The young today are not ideologically Right, they favor more progressive social stances and frankly 70% of America favors more progressive economic policies than folks like Trump, Bannon, Limbaugh, McConnell, and those at the hard-core think tanks do.
At bottom, I think the GOP has eroded proper values and norms, and torn at much of our social fabric. Indeed, the crass way we speak to each other and the things that go on in the White House are not just due to the pernicious effects of social media; they are designed to enrich the rich and obstruct good legislation that 8 in 10 Americans would end up being happy with. They have cut taxes, lowered interest rates into the danger zone, and wish to reduce spending by unraveling the social safety net. Throw in xenophobia, massive political corruption, and the unwillingness to stand up to the ugly and tenuous former Tea Party extremists which come across like white supremists much of the time and I don’t have to work much harder than I already have to show the fair-minded reader that the GOP is not a purveyor of dignity as described herein.
There is no dignity in most of the demagoguery Trump engages in.
There is no dignity in allowing the Earth to founder for the first time since humankind started cooking its food.
There is no dignity in 3 people owning as much wealth as HALF of people in the United States combined. (LINK)
There is no dignity for Americans like those who live in Flint, MI, which is a horrific story (LINK). Michael Moore characterizes it thusly: “The people of my hometown, Flint, Mich., are being poisoned. Let me not mince words: This is a racial crime. If it were happening in another country, we’d call it an ethnic cleansing. Flint is a very poor, majority African-American city, and the Republican governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, knows they have no political power, no lobbyists, no money. And they didn’t vote for him. So when the residents of Flint, many of whom work two or three jobs for minimum wage, complained about the levels of lead in their water and told the governor their children were getting sick—two years ago!—he didn’t have to listen.”
Dignity is a) about what went wrong with globalization, the age of social media, the wholesale selling out of Americans’ privacy to corporations like Facebook and the government itself. Dignity b) is akin to how those who are blinkered and in the thrall of Donald Trump’s narcissistic and dystopian vision for himself (while the rest of us are along for the ride) can be brought back into the fold. Dignity c) is how those on the Left show those crucial independents and swing voters that the Republicans are not at this time trustworthy to govern; Trump spends 25% of his time golfing or on vacation, and conducts rallies that both Hitler and Bernie Madoff would be impressed by, and the Senate had only one GOP Senator who was interested at all in giving Trump a fair trial (not a sham trial). Corruption, verbal smoke and mirrors, and demagoguery should illustrate to the observer that Trump is merely a divider, not a uniter; that he is much more a con-man than a leader. Dignity d) will feel like a breath of fresh air to all but that 35% of Americans who are willing to let Trump (as he himself suggested) figuratively or literally shoot someone on 5th Avenue without abandoning him politically. In other words, the tough nuts and hard cases to whom propriety and rationality are no longer valued. Dignity e) is perceiving and believing the (more or less) truth, rather than falling for convenient untruths and swallowing disinformation whole.
Dionne and others suggest that though the goalposts have been moved significantly to the right by Trump, liberals can court independents and induce voters successfully if they do less “culture warring” and fighting Trump’s fire with fire, and more showing what could be done. I think Obama had that vision, and Sanders does. I don’t see anything wrong with the Klobuchar/Buttigieg/Biden philosophy (e.g., fixing the ACA instead of attempting to subvert the power of the insurance and drug and medical industries and have government make healthcare a right, not a privilege). It is a delicate balancing act, but one needs to stand up to Trump the way one confronts a bully or con-man in everyday life, but by the same token, to lay down with dogs will only give the Democrats fleas, if you will.
Thus, I will happily support Amy Klobuchar against a Donald Trump any day of the week. I don’t think America will be “America” if we endure four more years of Trumpism. Between unforced errors (provoking Iran and going to the brink of war) and red meat wedge issues (Trump’s ginning up racial tensions vis-a-vis Colin Kaepernick’s “taking a knee” to protect social injustice), we have a lot more to lose than simply a woman’s right to choose abortion, or rollbacks on the criminalization of marijuana use. Trump is horribly corrosive to our national character and functioning, and he is an assault on truth, restrained/functional government, and dignity. We need to fight fire with a fire extinguisher, not more fire. Ω
I will now share a few quotes about the place where politics meets philosophy, progressivism meets potential, and psychology meets propriety:
The nemeses of the Trumpist movement are liberals — in both the classical and American sense of the world — not America’s traditional geopolitical foes. This is something new in our lifetime. Despite right-wing persecution fantasies about Barack Obama, we’ve never before had a president who treats half the country like enemies, subjecting them to an unending barrage of dehumanization and hostile propaganda. Opponents in a liberal political system share at least some overlapping language. They have some shared values to orient debates. With those things gone, words lose their meaning and political exchange becomes impossible and irrelevant. ~ Michelle Goldberg
America believes in a thing called Truth. She does not believe that we are entitled to our own alternate facts. She recoils at those who spread pernicious falsehoods. There is nothing more corrosive to a democracy than the idea that there is no truth. America also believes that there is a difference between right and wrong, and right matters. But there is more: truth matters, justice matters, but there is also decency. Decency matters. ~ Adam Schiff
At this stage of history, either one of two things is possible: either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests guided by values of solidarity, and sympathy, and concern for others. Or, alternatively, there will be no destiny for anyone to control. ~ Noam Chomsky
Like so many others, I’ve watched the dismantling of our public education, the steep rise in our incarceration rates, the demonization of our young black men, the accusations against our teenage mothers, the selling of healthcare—public and private—to the highest bidders, the export of subsistence-level jobs in the United States to even lower-wage countries, the use of below-minimum-wage prison labor to break strikes and raise profits, the scapegoating of immigrants, the denial of dignity and minimal security to our working and poor people.
The moral fabric of society is invisible but essential. Some use their public position to dissolve it so they can have an open space for their selfishness. John McCain is one of the strongest reweavers we have, and one of our best and most stubborn teachers. ~ David Brooks
After seven disastrous years, Americans have woken up to the fact that they have just experienced perhaps their nation’s worst leadership ever. Its combination of gross incompetence, ideological extremism, and deeply embedded corruption has, at least temporarily, discredited conservatives as proper stewards of the nation’s destiny and offered liberals their best opportunity in nearly half a century to make their case to the nation at large. ~ Eric Alterman
…there is nothing intrinsically conservative about family or neighborhood or community or religion. To the contrary, under modern conditions, traditional values cannot be vindicated by conservative policies. This can be seen in Reagan’s failure to govern by the vision he evoked. ~ Michael J. Sandel
When does silence become complicity? What will it take for us all to say, with one voice, that we have had enough? The question is less about the president’s sense of decency, but of ours. As leaders of faith who believe in the sacredness of every single human being, the time for silence is over. We must boldly stand witness against the bigotry, hatred, intolerance, and xenophobia that is hurled at us, especially when it comes from the highest offices of this nation. We must say that this will not be tolerated. To stay silent in the face of such rhetoric is for us to tacitly condone the violence of these words. ~ Mariann Edgar Budde, Randolph Marshall Hollerith, and Kelly Brown Douglas
…[W]hat you want is a government which, broadly speaking, represents the people and not a handful of billionaires. And once you have that, once you have members going forward saying “No, of course nobody in your community wants to cut social security and give tax breaks to billionaires. Okay, how do we address this issue?” Then we can work together. But right now, to me, the major job we have is to build a strong, progressive, grassroots movement where millions of people become active in the political process in a way we have not seen in the modern history of this country. ~ Bernie Sanders
There are enough resources to go around to deal with the risky issues and produce much more equal opportunity (plus improved productivity that will grow the economic pie). My big worry is that the sides will be intransigent in their positions so that capitalism will either a) be abandoned or b) not be reformed because those on the Right will fight for keeping it as it is and those on the Left will fight against it. ~ Ray Dalio
People are not “things” to be manipulated, labeled, boxed, bought, and sold. Above all else, they are not “human resources.” We are entire human beings, containing the whole of the evolving universe, limitless until we are limited, whether by self or others. ~ Dee Hock
It is impossible to nurture a culture of “community” if the members of the local community are insecure, risk losing their jobs, must fight for basic economic security, and must see each other always as rivals and threats. Without a stable basis to build upon, local community decision-making is so constrained and disrupted as to make a mockery of democratic procedures, with the next system nothing but a hollow shell. ~ Gar Alperovitz
Human beings, anthropologists and psychologists tell us, are social creatures. Much of our happiness flows from our connections to other people, our sense of community, and joint purpose. On these measures, America – despite its economic dynamism and vibrant culture – is in distinct decline. Trust in government, the media, and other institutions has plunged. Most people feel the system is ‘rigged’ in favor of corporations, coastal elites, or some tribe other than their own. Work, and the ceaseless hunt for money, security, and consumer goods dominate most people’s lives; time for family and friends and the activities that build community and meaning are often scarce. Loneliness is epidemic. So are consoling addictions to painkillers, unhealthy food, and technology. The most alienated among us load up on weapons and express their soul-sickness in blood. ~ William Falk
This election needs to be about so much more than beating Donald Trump. It is a mistake to think that this election is simply about beating one man — an aberration of a president — and that everything will simply return to “normal.” The reality is that “normal” in our country before there was a President Trump still meant an immoral lack of healthcare, unlivable low wages, rampant corporate greed, a racist criminal justice system, and a corrupt political system. So, no. It is not enough to just defeat Donald Trump. Returning to “normal” is not acceptable. ~ Faiz Shakir
Our shared desire for dignity transcends all of our differences, putting our common human identity above all else. While our uniqueness is important, history has shown us that if we don’t take the next step toward recognizing our shared identity, conflicts in our workplace, our personal lives, and between nations will continue to abound. The glue that holds all of our relationships together is the mutual recognition of the desire to be seen, heard, listened to, and treated fairly; to be recognized, understood, and to feel safe in the world. ~ Donna Hicks
This quest for dignity has produced a remarkable democratic wave. More than 100 nations have seen democratic uprisings over the past few decades. More than 85 authoritarian governments have fallen. Somewhere around 62 countries have become democracies, loosely defined.
The great danger that America faces is that we will cease to be one nation and become instead a collection of interest groups: city against suburb, region against region, individual against individual. Each seeking to satisfy private wants. If that happens, who will then speak for America? Who will look out for the common good? ~ Barbara Jordan
To deliberate well about the common good requires more than the capacity to choose one’s ends and to respect others’ rights to do the same. It requires a knowledge of public affairs, a sense of belonging, a concern for the whole, and a moral bond with the community whose fate is at stake. ~ Michael J. Sandel
America should truly be a land of opportunity. But the current minimum-wage denies workers the opportunity to support a family. We have a responsibility to make the American Dream more than just a fantasy. ~ Bernie Horn
The values that women uniquely bring to the table—empathy, inclusion across the lines of authority, relational skills, community focus—are vital if we are to solve any of the monumental issues facing our world today. ~ Marie C. Wilson
What is virtue? It is to hold yourself to your fullest development as a person and as a responsible member of the human community. ~ Arthur Dobrin
…the strategy the Democratic Party has been pursuing in recent years has failed. Since 2009, Democrats have lost more than 1,000 seats in state legislatures across the country. Republicans now control the White House, 34 out of 50 governorships as well as the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. In dozens of states, the Democratic Party is virtually non-existent. Too much is at stake for our country and our people for us not to learn from our past failures and move forward in a way that makes the Democratic Party stronger so we can take on and beat Trump and the right-wing Republican agenda. ~ Bernie Sanders
Human dignity…can be achieved only in the field of ethics, and ethical achievement is measured by the degree in which our actions are governed by compassion and love, not by greed and aggressiveness.
All too often, visions of virtue or decency have been invoked to brand as immoral and dangerous anyone who is different. Such aggressive moral dogmatism – which, it is worth stressing, can occur on both the political right and left – is one of the greatest enemies of human dignity. ~ Elizabeth Kiss
Sooner or later, profound change will come to this nation tired of war, tired of seeing its wealth squandered, while the basic needs of families are not met. These needs are not hard to describe. Some are very practical, some are requirements of the soul: health care, work, living wages, a sense of dignity, a feeling of being at one with our fellow human beings on this Earth. ~ Howard Zinn
Maintaining the kind of society and the kind of government that serve all the people— consistent with the principles of justice, fair play, and opportunity— doesn’t happen by itself. Somebody has to look after it. Otherwise our government and our institutions get captured by special interests. At the very least, we need countervailing powers. ~ Joseph Stiglitz
Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character. ~ Mark Galli
Deep down, most Republicans know that their party has lost its way. They know the president is a lazy conman who cares more about making money than running the country, and who was thrilled to receive help from Russians to win his election. They know that his spouting of conspiracy theories and his flouting law enforcement and intelligence agencies poses a danger to democracy. But it’s this very knowledge — the shame of their own complicity — that keeps them loyal. Like Tucker Carlson, their best defense is to go full frat boy, to embrace shamelessness as a form of liberation and empowerment. ~ Steve Almond
From Thomas Jefferson to the New Deal, a more demanding, civic conception of freedom has also informed American political argument. …Recalling the civic strand of our tradition can help us reimagine present possibilities.