Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason

Destiny rendezvous, redux



"The brave and clear platform adopted by this convention ... sets forth that government in a modern civilization has certain inescapable obligations to its citizens, among which are protection of the family and the home, the establishment of a democracy of opportunity, and aid to those overtaken by disaster."

Could these words have been spoken at the roiling, angry, divisive Republican National Convention last week?

The answer is no. Why not? Because it's a trick question: the Republicans have no platform. Literally, no platform.

In the face of a devastating pandemic, more than 180,000 American deaths, economic disaster, crushing unemployment, ferocious storms unleashed by a worsening climate crisis, and civil unrest sparked by vicious systemic racism, the RNC dispensed altogether with articulating a vision and establishing priorities for our future.

They chose, instead, to fawn over the whims of Donald Trump, who cannot even be called a standard-bearer because he has no standards, no moral clarity or dignity. And no plans for the future.

The quote is from Franklin Roosevelt's acceptance speech at the 1936 Democratic convention. Like today, it was a "time of great moment," an inflection point in which the everyday lives of all Americans were reordered by a confluence of profound challenges. To meet the moment and deliver on the American promise, government must be founded on moral principles, Roosevelt declared. "In the place of privilege, we seek to build a temple out of faith and hope and charity."

Joe Biden may not be the orator FDR was (although he gave a soaring acceptance speech of his own), but he embodies the core principles of FDR. To meet the gravest of moments in our history, Biden has outlined an actual, workable platform drawn from a broad coalition across the Democratic Party. Make no mistake, whether you view the platform from the left or the right, it shakes—it must shake—the foundations of grossly disproportionate power and privilege in order to bring about a more perfect American union of justice, freedom, security—and outright survival.

How does Biden propose to meet the moment?

For one thing, his platform confronts the pandemic Trump once called a hoax. At the RNC, the head of Trump's Economic Council had the temerity to talk about it in the past tense. Yet Americans are dying as I write. What will the death toll be on Nov. 3—200,000 plus?

Day 1 of the Biden presidency will initiate an aggressive, coordinated attack on COVID-19, including ramped-up testing and improved COVID-19 surveillance by revamping insurance claims data.

Biden's approach puts science—not politics—at the heart of this war effort. He will bolster the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. He'll offer a public option as a step to universal health care, leading toward security for all Americans. That's protection of the family.

Under Trump's phantom response to the virus, an estimated 5.4 million American workers lost their health insurance. Biden proposes that, for the duration of the pandemic, the government would provide insurance for people who recently lost job-based coverage. Biden believes that a moral government rescues citizens from disaster.

Biden's Day 1 to-do list includes rejoining the historic Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and keep the global temperature from rising above a life-killing 1.5 degrees Celsius. Climate activists agree that Biden's plan is the most ambitious from any president in history—which is no less than what the planet's survival calls for.

The Biden climate plan embraces environmental justice and job creation. "When I think about climate change, the word I think of is 'jobs,'" he says, pointing out how his proposal would create millions of jobs in electric vehicle manufacturing, upgrading buildings, and cleaning pollution created by the fossil fuel industry.

The Biden climate platform seeks to reestablish a "democracy of opportunity" through a green economy, and through his plans to invest in early education, bring down college costs, finance affordable housing, and establish a $15 minimum wage.

Right-wing doubters—who never worry about federal debt when they get their monumental tax breaks—will ask how he'll pay for it. Biden will reverse the exorbitant tax cuts of the 1-percenters. And not one penny will come from the middle class or below.

FDR labeled the 1 percent plutocrats as "the privileged princes of new economic dynasties" who "thirst for ... control of government itself." This same class of economic tyrannists become hysterical at Biden's proposals because they chip away at their riches and power. But don't be fooled by their Trumpist rhetoric.

FDR pledged to "restore to the people a wider freedom ... and American way of life." Where would American senior citizens be today without Social Security or Medicare? Seriously. Economic royalists opposed those crucial proposals in FDR's time just as they oppose Biden's proposals now.

In FDR's famous speech, he said, "To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected."

This is it, folks. We must choose a president who is actually up to the prodigious task, who can rally us together to lead this generation of Americans beyond the selfish goals of the howling privileged in order to guarantee a world for our progeny while living up to our democratic ideals of justice. We must elect an effectual president and Congress.

We must face our own "rendezvous with destiny." Δ

Amy Hewes is a grassroots activist. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

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