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Democracy, science, and respect

May 29, 2017

While I wholeheartedly endorse the need to #resist, the simple truth is that movements need positive goals, not just an enemy. By tradition and rythm, these come in three. As much as I love the notion of laïcité, it is forever the forgotten fourth of a famous triumvirate.

Most importantly, the goals for a political movement must express notions that are specific enough to speak to the times and to move politicians, but broad enough that they can be supported by various factions who disagree regarding a political agenda or narrow ideology. “Progress” is too broad a goal. “Single-payer health care” too specific. Neither are bad things to want. They just don’t make an elevator pitch.

Without further apology, here are three that I think do.

Democracy

America’s current state is characterized by a lack of democracy. Not only did Trump attain the presidency after losing the popular vote by significant margin, but his minority and authoritarian party holds power in Congress and the majority of statehouses through the decades long application of gerrymandering and a variety of mechanisms they put in place to make voting more difficult. For Republicans, low voter turnout is a desired feature they build into the electoral system.

We want democracy. We want to make it easier to vote. We want more not less expression of popular opinion. There are many ways to move toward that, short of a Constitutional amendment. This is the 21st century, and it is past time that we should be able to vote online, in a manner that is secure, secret, and auditable. Congress should write law requiring that for all elections for federal office, and encouraging it for all state and local elections.

The courts now are the only speedbump in the way of gerrymandering. A Democratic Congress should address that, too. The 14th amendment is plenty justification.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact undoes the ills of the electoral college. Unlike an amendment to the Constitution, it requires passage only in enough states to carry an electoral college majority. Every Democrat standing for state legislative office or executive house should be pressed to support its passage.

All of these moves to democracy face the catch-22 that they threaten the power of many politicians whose continued power depends on today’s faux and fettered democracy. That always is the case, and makes democracy a hard goal. The only way to make progress on it is for people to push the politicians. We will need to press Democrats on this, even more than Republicans who have their rote excuses ready.

Science

We should expect a president who regularly goes to battle against facts to undermine science. His proposed budget would cut core science research, pollution monitoring, medical research, and even weather forecasting.

So let’s say it loud. We want our science. We want scientific research funded for future US innovation. We want environmental protections based on studies of effects and careful monitoring of what is happening. We want funding for applied programs that serve the public good, from medical research and climate modeling to weather forecasting. We want Congressmen who are knowledgeable of science heading the committees that write science policy and funding. And we want science deniers out.

Respect

“America first” is the cry of those who see our nation in a zero-sum battle against other nations, who would pit “real” Americans against minorities of various sorts, and who engage in conspiracy theories born of those hatreds. It is time again to animate our politics with the notion that people deserve respect simply by virtue of being people. America can and should cooperate with other nations on shared goals from global warming to resettlement of refugees. Making allowance for undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children and raised as Americans is not just good sense, it also is the only humane thing to do. We should not make friends with strongmen who would joke about rape as a tool of war.

America should be first. In demonstrating how a nation shows people respect. That includes Trump’s voters, also. But we must show them a true respect, not the con that he pulled. A respect that may include acknowledging that the past cannot be brought back.

Too often, respecting people hasn’t been our nation’s history. It certainly isn’t our present. We can make it our future.

It is a principle that doesn’t cut a fine policy line. For example, it is hard to bring to bear between those who want to prop up Obamacare and those who want larger changes to our healthcare system. But it falls squarely on the side of universal coverage, the singular feature of healthcare that Republicans long have opposed.

Resist and Persist

So, fellow members of the resistance, what do we want? Democracy, science, and respect.

Has a nice ring to the tongue, doesn’t it?

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