The Positive Vision of America We Need

If there is a common lesson of American life it is that you should never have to hold back from your desires. You want it? Buy it or take it. Borrow the money, hire a lawyer, talk to the manager. Democrats are asking themselves, and America as a whole, to adopt sober plans and do things that benefit more people for a longer period of time. Stay home and wear masks to prevent the spread of disease and death. Use less and pollute less to make the planet habitable for the next generation and to prevent poverty and collapse around the world. Uplift people of all types to create a world where everyone is safe from fear and abuse, even if that comes at the cost of slower personal opportunity and more complicated communities, work conditions, and interpersonal expectations. Create economic opportunity and voice for anyone who wants it, even if that comes at the cost of higher commodity prices, less free shit handed out, and reduced income on retirement investment accounts.

It’s such an easy sell to take the other side of all of those issues. Don’t worry! It’s other people’s problem. Work hard. Get paid. Screw the rest of those losers. You don’t need a more just society, because when you’re rich you’ll be taken care of. Climate change only hurts poor people in other places. You’re straight and white and deserve what you’ve worked for. If you’re not white, just work hard and you’ll be brought in anyway. These arguments almost sell themselves.

Even in the face of an easy argument, Americans are better than this. The commentariat paid for by the corporate marketing machine will tell you that the country is evenly divided. This is not what the numbers show. Democratic presidential candidates have won the most American votes in seven of the last eight national elections. We are a liberal country with a violent, immoral, entrenched right-wing power structure.

The corporate media likes to perpetuate the myths of division. They get ratings and revenue from stress and drama.

Huge infusions of money from divisive races. Jeff Zucker at CNN was reviled by Trump, but also was responsible for promoting him and profiting from him. There was a landslide this year of small donor contribution to political change which is phenomenal and inspiring, but also serves to pad the bottom lines of the television networks that at best refuse to report on the truth of our positions, and at worst, like Sinclair Media, actively propagandize against us.

These outlets cover “both sides” by “fairly” airing entire Trump rallies without edits, while complaining that Joe Biden hasn’t clearly articulated his agenda. They define our issues by emphasis on the conflict rather than the consensus. Discussion of fairness, health, opportunity, and safety are covered instead as protest, racism, identity politics. The consensus on universal access to health care is covered as a fight over how federalized the proposed solution should be. When 60 minutes interviews the presidential candidates, Lesley Stahl spends her time with Donald Trump asking him hard questions about whether the obviously false things he says are true, but then spends her time with Joe Biden asking him if the obviously false things Donald Trump says about him are true. When the most Americans ever vote for Joe Biden for President, it is covered as a 50-50 split which perpetuates the false legitimacy of the American electoral (and congressional and judicial) system of minority rule.

We need to stop allowing our agreements to be defined as division by profit seeking, algorithmically-managed media outlets and understand that there is much that we agree upon. We need to ruthlessly use our opportunities when we are in power to balance the field, knowing that the profits and incentives of promoting division will evaporate when it is no longer possible to buy power by duping the poor and misinformed.

Finally, we need to articulate a vision of prosperity and opportunity that can be achieved through lifting up our whole community. The measure of our efforts cannot only be defined by our willingness to sacrifice for the betterment of all, since it is always too easy to convince to vote for their own selfishness rather than ask them to be generous when their own horizons are shrinking. If we only serve as the party of super-ego, the corrupt will elevate the collective id as the birthright of every American. I do think, however that sobriety can lead to happiness and that recovery is not incarceration. 

It’s hard work, but 75 million of our neighbors just voted for that future, so let’s do the work.