In 1984, I was running for Congress, as the Democratic nominee for the 10th Congressional district, standing on the floor of the Democratic convention in San Francisco, when New York Governor Mario Cuomo challenged the convention and the nation to get on with the business of the American people. What he said then remains as urgent today.
As it was true of President Ronald Reagan, we shall soon experience a Republican leadership in our U.S. Congress who invoke the golden rule but their actions and words tell us that what they really believe is “social Darwinism” that, as the Governor said then, means the nation “should settle for taking care of the strong and hope that economic ambition and charity will do the rest,” so that “what falls from the table will be enough for the middle class and those who are trying desperately to work their way into the middle class.”
Republicans who so easily invoke Judeo-Christian “values” believe, not what Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, namely, that the meek shall inherit the earth, but that only the strong shall.
I believe, as the Governor said then, that “we can make it all the way with the whole family [of men and women, children and seniors] intact.” This is a more worthy legacy for public service than what we’ve been getting. Millions now have health care who didn’t. The Republican leadership looks to deny that coverage.
We must make it as integral to our culture and public service, as it truly is already a part of our Constitution, enacted laws, and court decisions, to respect the right of women to be let alone, of women to be free of intrusive limitations on their health and safety, of persons of color to be free of coercion and of all persons to be free of discrimination, and when laws are enforced, we don’t just say all persons will be treated the same, but that we do truly treat them the same, without regard to politics, ideology, partisan preference, sectionalism, status, income, color, race, creed, or nationality.
The law is not what is convenient, what some prefer to do, it is what was established in a long tradition of law giving and judicial decision-making since before we were colonies or a nation.
We must re-dedicate ourselves to educating our young, with scholarships, grants, affordable loans, and work-study programs, at the federal, state and local level, and rid our schools of the superstition and nonsense that defies science and intelligence.
We must assure our seniors, as the Governor said, so “terrorized by the idea that their only security, their Social Security, is being threatened.”
We must be stewards of the earth, water, and air, necessary to sustain life. Science has taught us that our flesh and blood bodies have been carefully adapted to our environment over thousands of years. As the Governor said, we must “preserve our environment from greed and from stupidity.”
In 1984, when the Governor spoke, the nation was concerned that our government’s “defense” policy was to accumulate nuclear weapons “pile [d] so high that they [would] pierce the clouds,” and “frighten our enemies.” This insanity has vigorous support in some quarters today – even as we war in the Mideast with no end in sight.
No progress on any of these vital concerns shall be accomplished in the new congress if our so-called leaders continue to game “our” government for their partisan advantage.
“We the people” must demand our leaders in the new congress protect these rights and more.