America’s Desperate Need for Optimism (Part 2)

In yesterday’s post, we argued that Democrats must counter the scurrilous conservative meme that times are bad and America is going to hell. By most objective measures, that just isn’t true, and Americans need to hear it. They not only need to hear it, they are desperate to hear it, and Democrats have plenty of proof to back it up. We believe voters will flock to the message if it is delivered convincingly and in unison by Democrats.

We would love to see Hillary Clinton, for example, give a major speech that incorporates a message like this:

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to create a new narrative about America.

I hear conservatives these days talk about how they think America is falling apart, that we’re in some kind of moral decline, that our government is useless, and America isn’t respected around the world.

I hear all of that, and I wonder what country they live in. Yes, we just went through some very tough economic times. But let’s just take a minute to recap where we are now:

Does that sound like a country that’s falling apart? I was secretary of State for four years, and I know for a fact that America is highly respected around the world—especially compared to the last Republican administration—and our economy is the envy of the world.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, as I’m sure conservatives will: I’m not saying America doesn’t have challenges. Of course we do, and many of them are very serious. Just to name a few:

  • The turmoil in the Middle East and the threat of terrorism here at home.
  • Stagnant wages and underemployed workers
  • The growing disparity between rich and poor
  • A shameful gridlock in Congress and the influence of money in politics

Those issues are critical, but we also need to put them in perspective. Our issues today are no worse than those we’ve faced in every other decade of our nation’s existence. And in many cases they’re much less worse.

Have conservatives already forgotten that until recently we were fighting two intractable wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, dealing with al Qaeda after 9/11, and facing exploding deficits from ill-advised tax cuts for the wealthy?

Do they remember the violent crime of the 1990s?

The major recession and the AIDS crisis of the ’80s?

The rampant inflation of the ’70s? The gas crisis, Iran hostage crisis, and Watergate?

The Vietnam War, the Cold War and the threat of nuclear annihilation, political assassinations, and social unrest of the ’60s?

The Korean War of the ’50s?

World War II?

The Great Depression?

When hasn’t America had major issues to deal with? By comparison, our problems today seem pretty manageable, don’t they? And we will deal with them the way Americans always have: With resilience, compromise, determination, and the fundamental optimism of the American character.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to move past the dark-hearted anger and pessimism of conservatism. It’s time to turn off Fox News. It’s time to stop listening to Chicken Little politicians who tell us the sky is falling. It isn’t. America is the greatest, richest, most powerful nation on earth, and we will continue to be into the far future.

And the problems we do have will never be solved by conservatives, who want to rush recklessly into wars, who think that rich people deserve bigger tax breaks than the middle class, and that the poor should be mocked and shamed rather than helped.

Democrats have been standing with the American worker for a hundred years. Democrats have been fighting to raise the minimum wage, making health care affordable for millions of Americans, and supporting unions, so that Americans have a voice in their workplace. While we were doing that, Republicans were giving huge tax breaks to people who are already rich and trying to destroy the health care program and unions.

Conservatives have been telling us since Ronald Reagan was president that all their favors to the rich and powerful would “trickle down” to working people. Well, for more than 30 years corporate profits have soared. The stock market has soared. The incomes of the richest people in America have gone through the roof, thanks to Republican policies. Where is yours, America? How much has trickled down to you?

It’s time to bury the fallacy of trickle-down economics once and for all. You don’t need Republicans in Washington doing more favors for the rich and powerful. You need Democrats in Washington doing a few favors for you.

America, stop listening to conservatives who preach anger and fear. Who tell you your country is failing. Who want to put America on a starvation diet and abandon our responsibilities to our own citizens and to the world. You don’t have to hate your government. You don’t have to be ashamed of your government. Americans have actually done a pretty good job of governing ourselves for over 200 years.

Yes, we have work to do. So let’s get to it. America is a 21st-century superpower. Our economy is strong and getting stronger. Our commitment to equality for everyone is greater than ever. Our future is as bright as it’s ever been. Why on earth would you elect a leader who doesn’t believe that?

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