Commentary: Things left behind, hoped for in future
In the classic “A Christmas Carol,” the ghosts of Christmas Past and Christmas Future visit the hard-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge and show him things that change his life. Being at the year’s end, let me take a minute to list those things of Christmas Past that I decidedly want to leave behind and things I fervently hope will come in Christmas Future.
-- “Putting words in our mouths.” Good gosh, if one more politician says, “The American people are saying,” followed by his or her own political views -- when we’ve said the opposite -- I’m going to send him lip balm made out of glue.
-- “The word ‘Elitist.’” For the record, let’s agree that we are all elitist about some things. But, as we toss around the terms “Boston Blue Bloods” and “Tea Party Elitists,” let’s remember we live in a Democracy where Thomas Jefferson greeted White House guests wearing his down-at-the-heel bedroom slippers. In his inaugural address, Jefferson said, “We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans. We are all Federalists.” Today, read “Democrats” for Federalists.
-- “We the People.” Along the same line, let’s agree to agree that “We the People” refers to all the American people. For instance, those Americans who win an election are that section of “We the People” who have won the right to govern. That portion of “We the People” who lost the election enjoys guaranteed rights and has votes in Congress. Only together do we compose “We the People.”
-- “Only in America.” I miss Harry Golden, the sage of mid-century last, who wrote the American classic “Only in America.” Golden, the son of immigrants, grew up in New York’s lower east side. He “made it” on Wall Street, and in the American tradition, went to jail for fraud. Golden reformed and became an author. He wrote that they came to America expecting to find the streets paved with gold. He learned three things: 1) they were not paved with gold; 2) they were not even paved; 3) he had to do the paving. We need more humble humor in our national life.
-- “Judicial activists.” Again, let’s all stipulate that when we agree with a court decision, it’s “constitutionally sound,” and when we disagree, it’s “judicial activism.” The fact is, there are as many conservative judicial activists on the bench as there are liberal activists. That’s why higher courts are composed of several judges, and why decisions, based on this supposedly “only-one-interpretation-is-possible” Constitution, are by majority decision. That is its strength, not its weakness.
That’s Christmas Past. Now, about Christmas Future...
-- Obama Leads Public Opinion. This is my main dream for Christmas Future: that the president leads. For his first two years in office, President Obama was a president of action. He didn’t talk, he acted. Obama made staggering gains and changes: health reform, consumer card reform, wall street reform, repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored pay equity for women. However, with an ideologically rigid Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, he must now use his “bully pulpit.” The shaping of public opinion has been lopsided, with only the Republicans aggressively molding public opinion.
Unless we want to become a nation where people accept their opinions from one cable network and their cadre of potential presidential candidates (yes, I am referring to Fox News) the way a ball of wax receives a thumbprint, President Obama must fight for the future as well as act.
-- Immigration Reform. If we really, deep down, want to recover from this recession, then we must get over our anger about the “illegal” part of illegal immigrants. President Obama has deported more than 1 million immigrants in his first two years, focusing on criminals. He is committed to strengthening the border and enforcing employment rules. The remaining 10 to 12 million immigrants cannot simply be here without rules.
Yes, some overstayed their visas and others came here illegally -- to find a better life -- and to be Americans. Only our laws keep them illegal. We should remember our government, through Republican and Democrat administrations, is complicit in the illegality. They all but gave a green-light to illegal immigration.
They are here. They are our neighbors, good, God-fearing, church-going people. They work hard a nd raise their children to be good neighbors. The Dream Act in Congress is about illegal immigrant children who have grown to adulthood. They know no foreign land. Now, in the flower of their youth, they are serving in our Armed Forces, and some of them die for our country.
We should let them become citizens, by letting them work for it.
Restore the American Dream. The American Dream, plainly stated, is the opportunity to rise as far as your talents and hard work will take you. If people earning $50,000 a year must eat chili and hotdogs and even with this cannot put anything in their savings accounts, the dream is stagnant. Restoring economic equality, especially in our tax code, is essential.
Merry Christmas, and May 2011 bring you and your family an abundance of good cheer.
Donna Brazile is a political commentator and contributor to CNN and ABC News; and contributing columnist to MS Magazine and O, the Oprah Magazine.