“Our nation is not held together by nationality, but by the promise of liberty, freedom and prosperity”; this is the gist of Congressman John Carney’s message to my students. Rep. Carney is the Democratic candidate for Governor of Delaware and is widely perceived as the favorite to win on November 8th. On October 20th he spoke to about 80 students in my Contemporary Political Ideologies class at the University of Delaware.
My brief to John Carney was to speak about the political values that he holds and how they shape his politics and the issues he pursues. He delivered a very passionate and fascinating talk about the normative challenges that our country faces today and the economic challenges that plague our state. Many students stayed back after the class to engage with him and ask him more questions. It was clear that he had captured their attention. To a Professor nothing is more rewarding than to have an important guest who connects with the students at an intellectual level and invites them to think outside the box.
Carney began by describing his vision of America. He spoke of how we are a nation of immigrants, not held together by shared identity, but rather by a shared political vision. America he argued was committed to the ideals of equality, freedom and prosperity. The promise that if we worked hard, there would be no barriers to growth and prosperity. This was the American dream where everyone had an equal opportunity to enjoy freedom and pursue success.
He spoke about the nation’s not so stellar past. But argued that in spite of that people come here because they have hope in the American dream. He disagreed with the anti-immigrant mood in the country and argued that it ran against the fundamental character of our country. He shared his experience of dealing with child refugees from Central America. He described the terrible, unsafe, unhealthy and poor circumstances they were escaping and he argued that it will be un-American to deny them safety. He also pointed out that many countries relied on remittances from the US, such as Honduras 17% of its GDP was US remittances, and thus encouraged migration to the US.
He described his political orientation as “Centrist Democrat” and also admitted that the decline of the culture of bipartisanship in Washington DC made him part of a very small group of people willing to work across the aisle on issues of shared concern. He identified immigration reform as one of those issues along with national security and economy. He proceeded to educate the students on the “Delawarean way”; when Democrats use to be socially and fiscally conservative and Republicans use to be moderate. He explained that he owed his moderation and centrist approach to that Delawarean tradition and explained to the students how gerrymandering of Congressional constituencies was eliminating moderation from American politics.
Carney attributed the reason for the political divisions and acrimony that we are witnessing in this year’s presidential elections to a national anxiety about the loss of middle class jobs. Good, reliable, high paying manufacturing jobs were going away rapidly and the new economy demanded more knowledge, more schooling and was neither as stable or as well paying.
Carney spoke at length about how the old economy jobs are gone. He pointed out that a few years ago DuPont employed more than 35,000 people in Delaware and now that number was a meager 6600.
Delaware, he insisted, will have to reset its business environment to attract more jobs and investments, but he also emphasized the role of education in order to attract the new economy jobs. It was important for the students to hear about the changing nature of the job market and the growing importance of college education.
John Carney spoke quite eloquently and with a lot of passion, especially when he was talking about American values and his commitment to middle of the road politics. As I listened to him and watched him talk candidly with my students, I felt that Delaware was going to be in safe hands, if he became our Governor. How successful he will be in revitalizing our economy remains to be seen, but I am confident that he will insulate Delaware from the stormy political winds our country will face regardless of who wins the Presidential race in two weeks.
John Carney, taking the time out to lecture to students, many of whom will not vote in Delaware, just two weeks before the elections is a good sign. It shows that in the age of super PACs and corporate donors, in Delaware at least, people still matter to their leaders.
Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Professor at the University of Delaware. He is a Senior Fellow with the Center for Global Policy. His website is www.ijtihad.org and he tweets at www.twitter.com/Muqtedarkhan. Click for his Amazon Page, and his Youtube Channel.