“We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor”—that’s the way the Declaration of Independence wraps up. July 4, 1776. In a country founded on that principle, you would think that the theme of “We’re all in this together” would bury the opposite: “You’re on your own.” But despite the Democrats’ best effort to frame the coming presidential choice as one or the other, the polls tell us that the voter preferences are still about 50-50. It goes back to that strange 50-50 breakdown that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. America is all about “united” and “out of many one” and all that national mutuality that comes out of town meetings, congregations, and the freedom to associate. And yet, and yet, there is always in the country’s social DNA that counter-pull of the lone cowboy, solo gold prospector, the manic man with the new mousetrap, and free agent. If you are a person who has ever needed help, the idea that we are all in this together should have real appeal, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes there is a reluctance to admit that help is needed. “I built this” is a self-affirming belief. It takes a little humility to acknowledge that a victory had a few more mothers and fathers than might be apparent. The best golfer has a caddy. The best swimmer has a coach. The supermarket magnate needs a public road for delivery trucks to travel on.
The 50 united states as a sum is larger than the parts. The hurricane in Florida, the flood in Iowa, the brush fire in California—these disasters are addressed better with a pool of money from all the states. We’re all in this together. The political arguments are about how much togetherness we need and can stand.
President Clinton last night did well in showing why we benefit from making certain decisions as a group. There are common challenges and aspirations from coast to coast. To deal with these in a uniform way is the fair approach. Government is the way we organize ourselves to make decisions about those things of mutual concern. Environmental quality. The purity of food and water. Equal treatment when we seek housing and jobs. National security. Educational opportunity. Treatment of the aged, sick, and poor. And more.
I liked it when President Clinton mentioned President Eisenhower sending federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to protect the civil rights of African Americans. He spoke about Republican leaders that he admires and with whom he has worked. And then he talked about the “hate” for President Obama that he sees among some elements of the opposition. It’s as if a fever has gripped the national Republican Party and made the members frantic with anger about Obama. I think it’s fear. They saw the vast crowds he drew, the enthusiam he uncorked, in the 2008 campaign and at his inaugural (one million people in Washington, D.C.) and panicked about him putting them out of business for at least eight years—and decided right off to stop him any way they could.
I was struck by the moral force of the leader of the “Nuns on the Bus,” Sister Simone Campell, and Elizabeth Warren quoting Matthew 25:40 about “what ye have done unto one of the least of my brethren, ye have done unto me.” The national Republicans have tried to corner the market on Godliness in politics in the past 30 years, and have been more successful than they should have been allowed to be by the Democrats. The nuns called out Rep Ryan for writing a mean-spirited federal budget proposal. Warren was saying it is not the American way to pull up the ladder and lock the entry when you reach the top floor of wealth. The same thing on the business front: it was good to see regular looking business people standing up on the convention platform and testifying on behalf of President Obama. The GOP would have people think that every business owner in the nation is voting for Gov Romney. I am biased in favor of the Dems. When I look at the crowd at Democratic Party conventions and listen to the speeches I am a lot more comfortable with that group making decisions than what I saw in Tampa last week.