There’s More To Do

Progress is a continuum, not a light switch.

I still want a public option.

I still want us to leave Iraq, and Afghanistan.

I still want cramdown, and the formalization of the short sale process.

I still want gays to be able to serve openly in the military, and get married.

I still want the wealthy to pay their fair share.  

For that matter, I still want riparian buffers.

The fact that I still want these things does not mean that I do not revel in that which has already been accomplished. I’d rather have a lead after the first two months of the baseball season than be behind, but I understand that there’s a lot more baseball to play, even with that lead. So, too, with politics and government. Just because we have gotten so much done doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot more to do. It just means that we’re better off for having done what we have so far.

But neither does it mean that we are done with the issues on which we have already legislated. Throughout US history, Congresses and Presidents have returned to issues after their first attempts showed more was needed:

  • At the beginning of our Republic, passage of the Constitution was not sufficient without the further addition of the Bill of Rights.
  • After the Civil War, passage of the 13th Amendment was proven to be insufficient to guarantee the rights of all our citizens, and we passed the 14th Amendment to rectify those deficiencies.
  • In the first 100 days of the New Deal, dozens of great pieces of legislation were passed. In the following eight years, modifying legislation was passed dozens more times to adjust and improve on the original ideas.
  • During the fight for Civil Rights in the 1960s, the Civil Rights Act was shown to be insufficient, and the Voting Rights Act followed shortly thereafter.

So, too, with the major issues that face us today. From health care reform to financial reform to re-examining our military challenges in the face of a new world, our first steps in reform will not be our last. We must, and we will, return to these questions to address the unforeseen needs and limitations of what has already been done.This is why I get frustrated with the idea that we should give up in disgust because everything isn’t fixed already. This is why I get frustrated when people I talk to ask why they should help when all their work so far has been for naught.

Who said this was going to be easy? Who ever said that electing the first black President and giving him a Democratic Congress would actually be anything other than the first step in fixing the raging cluster of problems left by the previous administration?

‘Tis surprising to see how rapidly a panic will sometimes run through a country. All nations and ages have been subject to them. Britain has trembled like an ague at the report of a French fleet of flat-bottomed boats; and in the fourteenth [fifteenth] century the whole English army, after ravaging the kingdom of France, was driven back like men petrified with fear; and this brave exploit was performed by a few broken forces collected and headed by a woman, Joan of Arc. Would that heaven might inspire some Jersey maid to spirit up her countrymen, and save her fair fellow sufferers from ravage and ravishment! Yet panics, in some cases, have their uses; they produce as much good as hurt. Their duration is always short; the mind soon grows through them, and acquires a firmer habit than before. But their peculiar advantage is, that they are the touchstones of sincerity and hypocrisy, and bring things and men to light, which might otherwise have lain forever undiscovered. In fact, they have the same effect on secret traitors, which an imaginary apparition would have upon a private murderer. They sift out the hidden thoughts of man, and hold them up in public to the world. Many a disguised Tory has lately shown his head, that shall penitentially solemnize with curses the day on which Howe arrived upon the Delaware. – The Crisis, Thomas Paine

What will this “panic” show of us? What things and people will be brought to light? We have seen what has been brought to light on the other side, hate, bigotry, ignorance, fear and irrationality. What about on our side? Will we provide inspiration, discipline and persistence in the face of these challenges? I believe we can. I believe we will.

Progress is a process, a journey, a constant struggle against the forces of regression, fear, and division. It requires commitment and continuity. It involves steps backwards as well as leaps forward. It is hard. It is always hard.

We are the Party. Not the President, not Congress members, us. The Party is what we make of it. The fight is never done, and the party is not perfect – no human institution is – but it’s what we have, and it’s what we make of it. Just as America isn’t perfect, but we’re working towards an ever-more perfect union. Our Democratic party isn’t perfect. It’s flawed and it’s scared, and it needs our help to stay true to its bearings. But isn’t that kinda the point of being involved in the first place?

President Obama said we are the change, remember? That doesn’t end with an election, the election is only where it starts. – Paradox13

Revisiting issues many would prefer dispensed with will not be easy, but we will do it. Attacking the next challenge will not be easy, but we will do it. But to do it we must remember that it’s “we” who do these things. Not “them.” Not our elected officials alone, our President alone, but our leaders in concert with us, and more often than not our leaders following us.

And that, that is how we continue to move America forward. Yes, we can.

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