Essay | U.S. showing progress in becoming more progressive

04/18/2013 6:25 PM

04/18/2013 6:26 PM

America stands on the cusp of what may well turn out to be its greatest century. There are many positive signs. Ninety percent of the American people want sensible controls on guns.

Fifty-eight percent want gays to have the same marriage rights they do. Fifty-seven percent want to provide a path to citizenship for undocumented aliens. More than half of our citizens would like to legalize marijuana and put the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted on the drug war to better use.

Both political parties have agreed that action to reduce the deficit is required. The American public seems to be moving rapidly in a direction of increased rationality and fairness, almost diametrically opposite that of certain outspoken politicians.

Silicon Valley’s top leaders are raising their voices to demand that the best and the brightest from American universities, regardless of national origin, be allowed to remain here to contribute their skills and help create jobs. We are nearing energy independence faster than many realize, with some estimates that domestic sources will out-produce imports by as much as two million barrels per day by the end of 2014.

Even hawks seem to have had their fill of war. More people than ever are surviving cancer, and for longer periods.

At the risk of seeming too bullish on America, we need to cling to this hope of American pre-eminence because the world needs our vision more than ever before. While we have momentum, our forward movement is not inexorable. It relies on the continued workability of this fragile system called “democracy.” It can yet be derailed by two forces, one of them oblivious and the other willing to sacrifice their country if that achieves their personal advancement.

The blameless are citizens who lack the understanding to identify their own vital self-interests, and thereby become the unwitting victims of populist politicians who instill fear, shore up enmities, and stoke prejudices to further their own causes.

The shockingly culpable are the egocentric politicians running in districts where leadership is a hindrance to election and pandering to constituents’ worst instincts the ultimate winning strategy. The unwashed cannot stop America’s march to a better future by themselves. But with the backing of the McConnells, the Pauls, the Limbaughs, the Ryans, the Bachmanns, the Santorums and other posturing politicos, they have the power, and apparently the will, to stall or derail our forward motion.

Our brand of democracy has worked for more than 220 years because most of us saw the American enterprise as a joint effort – one that was a win-win for everyone without anyone claiming total victory.

The worst elements in Congress now emulate the scorched-earth ambitions of Kim Jong-un: ‘We may not win’, they seem to be saying, ‘but at least we can take you down with us.’ Their aspiration is to turn the American dream into the American nightmare. They must be stopped. Their barbaric program of dumbing down America has made that difficult, but not impossible.

The writer lives in Pawleys Island.

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