As we celebrate America’s birthday, I also celebrate the good sense of the American people at a time when “us versus them” has become an all too often felt and shared sentiment. Those who are critical of “them” fail to remember what “we” can be and do together. The very first days of America’s founding were based on a “more perfect union.”
A series of new surveys this week present a troubling low point in American patriotism. For the first time since the beginning of this century, a record low percentage of adults are “extremely proud” to be an American; just 47 percent describe themselves that way, down from 70 percent in 2003 according to the latest Gallup survey.
Not surprising, there’s a 42 point gap between Democrats and Republicans. Yes, President Trump is a factor cited by those who have experienced a decline in their patriotic spirit. But a loss in national pride is just one issue fueling party loyalty. Opinions about guns, abortion, labor unions and the environment are other contributing factors.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are
Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We know those words are from our Declaration of Independence, a document that also included:
…”whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the
Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government”
“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established
should not be changed for light and transient causes”
Our Founding Fathers were objecting to the establishment of an absolute tyranny of the American colonies. While some current Americans doubt the future of our country, I am still confident in the idea of the United States of America.
In his recent book “The Hellfire Club” Jake Tapper of CNN wrote about political life and politics in the early 1950’s during the Joe McCarthy “Red Scare” era. In one passage, a character says, “I believe that a combination of checks and balances and a free press and our democratically elected representatives will ultimately expose charlatans…I know in my soul that truth will win out.”
It’s that truth that is troubling to me today. Getting there sometimes involves pointed questions and uncomfortable moments with people. How many of us have friends who we can no longer discuss politics with because we have such differences of opinion? Our “truth” has become “fake news” and journalists protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution have become the “enemy of the people.”
I transitioned from a career in journalism to a candidate for Congress and the issue of free speech became one of my early campaign issues. The resignation of Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy last week prompted hundreds of news stories about his three decades of votes on the deeply divided court. He preserved Roe v. Wade, voted to establish the right of gay Americans to marry and assured that even those accused of terrorism were able to petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Justice Kennedy was also the most dedicated defender of the First Amendment, including his majority opinion for the court in Citizens United v. FEC where he wrote that “political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence,” and that the “First Amendment has its fullest and most urgent application to speech uttered during a campaign for political office.”
When I announced my campaign, I made it clear I would support any effort to overturn Citizens United because I don’t believe corporations should be allowed to make expenditures in connection with federal elections. Many people may have forgotten that Citizens United is a conservative 501 © (4) nonprofit organization whose website says it is “Dedicated to restoring our government to citizens’ control.” One look at its website presents a deeply dark view of what they envision. www.citizensunited.org
My view is much different. As I’ve traveled the 8th District, I’ve talked with hundreds of people who are facing challenges in their lives and within their families. It’s true that some doubt there’s a way forward for them when they see news reports of efforts to strip Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education funding and job retraining initiatives. These are people who question whether there is hope of a better tomorrow as they face daily struggles and feel they have been forgotten by their government.
I can’t promise them that I can solve all that’s broken in our country. No one can. During his campaign, Donald Trump told Americans that “I alone can fix it.” When it came time for me to announce my campaign, I said I would speak truth to power and that my “people’s campaign” would be driven by the voices of those I listened to throughout this 8th District. It wasn’t by chance that I adopted “Forward. Together” as the theme of my campaign. When people were describing the challenges they were facing, we also talked about opportunities that existed to turn their lives around, how we could find solutions together.
Some of you might remember that during one of my first candidate debates I said that if voters were looking for the candidate who could raise the most amount of money, that wasn’t going to be me. I was right. I’m not that candidate. What I have been and will be is a person who believes that all work has dignity, that the truth matters, that we should be free to pursue life, liberty and happiness, and that we are created equal and are all God’s children.
I want to represent you in the U.S. Congress. Not because of some burning desire for personal glory. That’s not what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they put their names to the Declaration of Independence. They were driven by the will and hopes of the people, knowing full well they would be proud to call this new country home. In an era where “us versus them” attitudes have deeply divided us, If elected I promise I’ll do everything I can to restore this spirit of moving forward together. “We” can do this.
I wish you a Happy 4th of July.