by Errington C. Thompson, MD –
Many people are focused on the multiple, epic failures of the Trump administration.
There are several to choose from—a healthcare bill that was all about denying healthcare to Americans and giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans; a Supreme Court nominee who refused to answer honestly many questions on many issues; and the fact, which we must not forget, that many Republicans are actively expressing a love for Russia over the United States.
But underneath all that, we have to acknowledge that we now live in a world in which Representative Maxine Waters is not simply criticized about the facts coming out of her mouth, but instead ridiculed, by Fox host Bill O’Reilly, about her “James Brown” hair. Note that Fox has had to settle at least five lawsuits for $13 million—$13 million!—for sexual harassment by this same man. They are as tarnished as he is. So I’m sorry, Fox News, but there is no apology by Bill O’Reilly that can excuse that comment. None.
The world we live in
So where did this world come from? The world we live in now is our own fault.
Our fault? Wait a minute—we are progressives. We actually represent hard working middle America, yet somehow we get labeled as the party of the elitists. How is this so?
Simple. We have completely failed at getting our message out to America. Our failure has real consequences. HB2, the bathroom bill, was a direct assault on progressive values and American values. If we were in power in Raleigh there wouldn’t have been any HB2. There would have been no gerrymandered re-districting and widespread disenfranchisement of African American voters. So why aren’t we in power? We didn’t get out and vote!
If we were in power, there would not have been the unprecedented assault on our educational system of the past five years. For three generations, North Carolina was leading the nation in education. Education for the rich, the middle-class, the poor, the elite, the blue-collar kid, the farmer’s child. If you wanted a great education you could get it here in North Carolina. From big universities to small colleges, we had a place to fit your needs—and you could afford it. Now? Not so much.
The power of progressivism should never be underestimated. There are those who claim to want to make America great again, but it was progressivism that made America great. We didn’t become a world leader by cutting taxes. We didn’t get ahead by cutting the size of government. We didn’t become the world’s beacon of hope by trashing our most cherished principles of liberty, justice, opportunity, and equality for all.
No, we began to be great by taking care of the poor and lifting up the middle class. We began to be great because progressive values led to progressive programs that helped Americans set out on the road to individual achievement, and with individual achievement, we started to become a great nation.
Welfare was a wonderful program. I know that is not a popular statement, but it is true: welfare gave people an opportunity to change their lives for the better. Medicare allowed our older folks—the elders, the grandparents, the ones who bequeathed us our future—to live without fear of illness-caused bankruptcy and ruin.
Medicaid helped the poor and the disabled who otherwise had no access to healthcare of any kind. Pensions—guaranteed not to fail by the word and promise of the United States government—allowed working people to live and retire with dignity and security, and even to pass something to their children: a house, a bank account, small investments, that gave the next generation a leg up. (401K’s are great for Wall Street but not great for middle America.)
The GI bill allowed millions to go to college, buy houses at low interest rates, start businesses and successful careers, as lawyers and accountants, doctors and teachers, journalists and, yes, corporate executives. The GI bill was rocket fuel for the American middle class. It made the middle class.
The Interstate Highway System was created in the 1950s. Now, do not think that because a Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, signed this great legislation it was some conservative explosion of compassion. The highway system was about moving commerce. It was about connecting communities. It was about making road travel safer. These are all progressive values.
The first attempt at passing this legislation fell flat. When you have progressive legislation, you need progressive leaders to get the job done. Senator Al Gore, Sr. from Tennessee—father of the future vice president—and Congressman George Fallon (both Democrats) wrote a bill and figured out how to pay for the bill. This is a great progressive achievement.
We have work to do
“Drugs and crime spreading in the streets, People can’t find enough to eat.” The words are from Janet Jackson’s State of the World Today. We need to work together to fix the problems of our America. The middle class is working too hard to get ahead. We don’t need to “work harder”—Paul Ryan’s view—or “work smarter”—the Silicon Valley mantra. What we need is to get paid more for the work that we do. Instead of all the money going to the top 1%, we need to spread it around among the 95% who create it by their daily efforts.
Raises and other benefits
We need a living minimum wage, and raises across the board. We need top-quality education that is affordable to everyone. We need better healthcare for all of us. There is no reason that we can’t have clean water and clean air without killing business. We can develop an Internet that is faster and cheaper for everyone. We need to invest in ourselves again. We need to build things here, and pay people enough that they can afford to buy them here. It is that simple.
To move forward, we need to move forward together. Behaving like Trump—an autocrat who thinks the rich need tax cuts while the working class needs a kick in the *** and the poor need to work for less—isn’t our goal, and it isn’t going to make America great.
Doing the right thing for the American middle class is our goal, and the only thing that will truly make America as great as it can be. When we value each other, we are great. When we work together we are great. When we live up to our principles and our Constitution, we are great. When we serve, instead of expecting to be served, we are great.
When we embrace our differences (including our hard-working immigrants) and understand that our differences make us extraordinary, and truly believe that our American dream can and should be shared by all of us, then we are truly great.