Watching the Democratic debate last night illuminated two thoughts: first, how in the world could anyone have thought that limiting the number of Democratic debates was anything resembling a good idea; and second, how fundamentally different the tenor and substance between the two parties is with respect to discussion of issues that really matter to the country.
I could not help but think how constructive and positive the discussion between Hillary and Bernie is versus how nasty, vacuous, vindictive and petty the Republican circus is. Democrats ought to be thankful if not downright giddy as they watch the two candidates virtually agree on larger concepts and argue only about how best to reach them: universal health care, affordable college tuition, social and economic equality, compassionate immigration policy, racial justice, the role of government and public service in the protection of civil liberties and rights and any host of other important issues. There is little disagreement over the need to remove the scourge of dysfunction that so deeply afflicts our society only the degree to which each candidate views the practicality of approaches to get there. Both candidates deserve respect for the intellectual gravitas they have brought to the public discourse.
The Democratic debates are exercises in forward thinking, the Republican debates are a race to the bottom to find that mythical time where things were just right, the goldilocks vision of history. I often wonder if those who want to take the country back have really thought this through? Do they want to return to periods that reflect what the Democrats are talking about?
For instance, was the time when college tuition was affordable a good reference point? Was the time when a growing union movement that essentially built a burgeoning middle class the right time? Was the era of enhanced federal government intervention to ensure voting rights, civil rights, fair housing, environmental protection, and social programs bolstering Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid the right time? How about the time when a staunch Republican president who was a career military commander boldly cautioned us to beware of the growing military industrial complex? Or maybe it was that four-year period when the country was not involved in war, you know the Carter years?
No, I sincerely doubt that the period of our greatest intellectual growth and international prowess based upon a growing quality of life is what is envisioned when Republicans talk of making America great again. Dare I say those trumpeting a return to a period of greatness most likely involves a projection of military might and ass kicking. Of course as is often the case those proclaiming greater use of military might most likely used their influence to avoid military service or have never seen actual combat? In an impolitically correct world there might be a vulgar anatomical female body part ascribed to these folks but I will leave that to Donald Trump.
Importantly there is an enormously positive influence coursing through this election cycle and it involves first and foremost the involvement of previously disaffected millennials. The key will be to make sure they remain involved after the initial excitement gives way to slogging in the trenches in what is going to be an extended battle. As a father of two millennials I am excited to see the younger generation becoming involved in issues that are going to affect them far more than any other generation. The greatest caution I would offer is to not be discouraged by a process that may relegate who you feel may be the best candidate to the sidelines. The important thing is that the ideas will live on and only your continued involvement will accelerate their acceptance and implementation. Once you start the revolution you cannot walk away, you must see it through to its conclusion.
Winning the White House is only a first step. Because of the construction of our process of checks and balances and the incremental and deliberative nature of our federalist system of government the legislative branch of government needs a radical makeover and that will take some time. But also be cognizant of the important nature of our judicial branch, most particularly the Supreme Court, which will be set for decades by the next President.
This is an exciting time and this election could represent the beginning of the political revolution that Bernie talks about. But it will only be the beginning and will require much work to be done regardless of which Democratic candidate sits in the White House next year. I believe both Bernie and Hillary have done a masterful job of tempering their disagreements so far and it is so vitally important that they energize their respective bases without poisoning the well of respect that should be afforded to each other. After all, they are essentially in agreement on the major issues, and for this I believe the Sanders campaign has done an inestimably commendable job. Keep up the good work.
But let this serve as a shout out to the millennials who are pouring out their hearts and souls for their respective candidates: this is your game, your party, your world, grab ahold of it and mold it to your needs and ideals. Too many people are too easily discounting your staying power, prove them wrong. The palpable energy that is evident in the election can be a portent to a much brighter future. Carpe diem.