Democrats have seized quite a lot of moral high ground this year. But they could set a higher bar for themselves in the home stretch. This year is an unusually opportune moment to seize back the high ground from Republicans on liberty and freedom. The GOP has owned this issue for too long, and this year’s Republican presidential nominee does not show any sign of caring a fig for freedom–on the contrary, “I alone can fix it.” So much for limited government and ordered liberty!
Khizr Khan’s speech at the Democratic convention this summer, for example, was all about ordered liberty, but the freedom theme got submerged (for both pro-Hillary and pro-Trump people) in the back-and-forth about whether or not he should or shouldn’t be immune from criticism because Mr. Khan and his wife are Gold Star parents. There is a strong case that Trump was a fool, politically, to attack the Khans, but the substance of Mr. Khan’s message in defense of constitutional freedoms could and should be lifted up more by Democrats.
Democrats could and should say more about freedom as equal opportunity, equal economic opportunity, as described by FDR in his “Second Bill of Rights” speech of 1944. The freedom to be left alone is part of freedom, but not all of it by any means. Most of us are not living on the open range, however powerful the fantasy may be. Most of us really do not want government to mess with our Social Security and Medicare benefits–which nobody has a right to look down on as “entitlements” when we spent decades paying in. Allowing Paul Ryan or the so-called Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget to get away with entitlement-shaming is political malpractice, not to mention wrong.
This year is a golden opportunity to reframe and reimagine freedom in ways that actually reflect our experience now. Not sure how many undecided voters are really left (or needed) in this year’s presidential election, but seizing the high ground on freedom will have far-reaching, long-lasting positive effects. As FDR said, “necessitous men are not free.” Lifting up that theme is the royal road to reaching swing voters–and beyond.
A leading inside-the-Beltway conservative wondered this morning why no one was willing to call him a conservative. “They refer to me with all sorts of labels, but never as what I really am,” he thought aloud, not cognizant his words were being recorded by multiple forms of surveillance. “While all these nut job anarchist flamethrowers get called ‘conservative.’ I just don’t get it.”
Poverty impedes cognitive function, according to Mani, Mullainathan, Shafir, and Zhao (Science magazine, 30 August 2013). The researchers “experimentally induced thoughts about finances and found that this reduces cognitive performance among poor but not in well-off participants.” Their evidence was gathered “from shoppers in a New Jersey mall and from farmers in Tamil Nadu, India.”
This blog will now reveal that research is in progress on a follow-up project interpreting the impairment in political functioning caused by utter spiritual and moral poverty. Evidence is being gathered from persons walking through the Ohio clock corridor outside the Senate chamber, Washington, D.C. Unbeknownst to passersby, the clock–commissioned in 1815, stopped since 12:14 Wednesday due to government shutdown–is equipped with 21st-century monitoring equipment. We might be willing to release video and transcripts for $980 billion or so.
OK, I’ll just tell you the truth for free: 78 per cent of House Republicans and 52 per cent of Senate Democrats are guilty of extreme inability to recognize the right, the good, and the true. The cognitive incapacity, moreover, associated with spiritual and moral meagerness of this magnitude appears to be preventing our elected representatives from functioning even at the most basic level of voting on “clean” bills that would prevent debt default and government collapse. Many Representatives appear to be actually incapable of grasping the very idea of “clean.” Any rallies in equity markets, it should go without saying, ought to be evaluated in light of a sober assessment of the moral solvency of the traders in Greenwich and Stamford.