Mainstream history presents our nation’s arc as a surging tide of freedom and prosperity, a land of Horatio Algers where anyone could rise from rags to riches.
The American Dream has long been as President Obama described it in his State of the Union speech: “to give [our] children a better life.” We can still realize that dream, but to enable it we progressive Democrats must embrace and advocate a new vision of “a better life,” one that treats the earth as our home, not our trash can.
Janitor Professor of Astrology looked up at the stars to preview your weekend. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Our Democratic Movement, Part II – Home, not Trash Can (Plus Kossascopes)
This week Morning Feature calls progressives to join our local Democratic Party groups and engage in public, face-to-face advocacy. We’ve offered a simple, clear, progressive message in three sentences:
1. People matter more than profits.
2. The earth is our home, not our trash can.
3. We need good government for both #1 and #2.
Yesterday we discussed people over profits. Today we’ll discuss the earth as our home. Tomorrow we’ll discuss how both goals require good government.
This week is not just about theory or messaging. It’s about action. Writing to each other online is not enough; the internet is an excellent medium for fundraising and a good medium for organizing, but for effective advocacy we must become the visible faces of the Democratic Party in our local communities. To reach Fred, our archetypal median voter, we have to “take it to the streets.”
Does Fred care about the environment?
That’s a trick question. Fred believes the threat of global climate change is real, not exaggerated. But in the midst of a recession, Fred thinks improving the economy comes first. More recent data – even from conservative-weighted Rasmussen – show Fred thinks we need new sources of energy, and “renewable sources such as solar and wind power are a better long-term financial investment for America.”
Fred cares about the environment and renewable energy, but as we noted yesterday he and his wife and child live on a median income, and right now a median income is one bad life event from dire poverty. If the issue is presented as a choice between the environment and the economy, Fred wants more security about his job, his home, and whether he can afford food and clothing and health care for his family.
But Environment vs. Economy is a false frame that steers Fred toward solutions that won’t help either one … except to make the wealthy even wealthier. It’s a false frame we’ve bought into for too long.
Bigger home, or bigger trash can?
Half a century ago, historian William Appleman Williams took stock of the American Dream and how we’ve tried to pursue it. On the one hand, we said “all men are created equal” and told Horatio Alger stories. On the other hand, we perpetuated a wealth-based aristocracy. Dr. Williams argued that we squared that circle, when we did, through expansion: first westward, then overseas, usually with military force. In order to keep giving huge slices of pie to the wealthy, while still giving the rest a bit more pie than their parents had as children, we made the pie bigger. As Greg Grandin wrote in The Nation:
Williams quoted a phrase of Madison’s every chance he could: “Extend the sphere” and “you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens.” Demands for a leveling of wealth could be defused by opening up “surplus social space.”
That plan works if you can keep adding rooms to the house, but what if you can’t? Sooner or later, Dr. Williams argued, America would have to choose between liberalism and aristocracy.
The limits of our planet – our home – are forcing that choice sooner rather than later. To address our economy, we must address our environment. To address our environment, we must address our economy. It’s both/and rather than either/or. We need….
A cleaner, greener American Dream.
Fred already agrees with that, as noted in the polling data above. He thinks cleaner, renewable energy is better for our climate and for our long-term economy. Google “poll mass transit” and you’ll find majorities in local polls across the U.S. supporting light and high-speed rail. The same is true for clean energy. Even GOP spinmeister Frank Luntz agrees.
A cleaner, greener American Dream will create new jobs that have to be done here … by Fred or people he knows and cares about. It also changes how we see the earth and our place in it. This is our home, not our trash can.
That’s a progressive, Democratic message we can carry to Fred, and each of us has to do it. Life is not a spectator sport, and neither is politics. Call your local Democratic Party today; you can find contact information here. Ask them how you can join and how you can volunteer to help.
Take it to the streets.
The dream of better Kossascopes will have to wait another week at least.
Aquarius – It’s your age again. You keep getting older.
Pisces – When we said “trash,” we didn’t mean that leftover pie.
Aries – Yes, for Oscar the Grouch, home is a trash can. What’s your point?
Taurus – Empty the garbage, and take it to the streets. Yes, we’re nagging.
Gemini – No, you don’t have to throw that away, but we can’t imagine why you’ve kept it.
Cancer – You may need a snow shovel to take it to the streets.
Leo – Yes, they do move the streets farther away each winter.
Virgo – You really don’t need to use the edger after shoveling out the driveway.
Libra – Those boots are great for taking it to the streets. But we meant something else.
Scorpio – Oh, the Aries meant you? That wasn’t very nice of them.
Sagittarius – A greener dream can start at the back of the refrigerator. As can a cleaner one.
Capricorn – Do you miss being at the top of the list? We didn’t think so.