My maternal grandmother had four pictures in her living room. One was an old sepia-tone portrait of her parents and siblings in Budapest, two were of her daughters’ with their respective families and the fourth was an official portrait of Franklin Roosevelt. I have a very early memory of asking whether the man in the photo was also a member of our family and I recall my father, just a few years out of his World War II uniform, explaining that no, he wasn’t actually a relative, but that everybody in our family thought of him that way.
My family's faith in Roosevelt's programs may have been naive, but underlying it was a strong belief that, through programs such as social security and the WPA, he had established the principle that society, through government, was responsible for ensuring the welfare of its citizens.
As I grew up, my own politics shifted to the left of the New Deal Democrats, especially during the wrenching 1960’s, but over the years, my differences with liberal Democrats have become more a matter of nuance than fundamental argument.
My core values coincide with the concepts that shaped the New Deal, concepts that are at the heart of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
The Republicans attempted to limit discussion in this campaign to an argument about the economy, ignoring every other aspect of their severely regressive platform. But as important as the economic issues are, the stakes in this election were even higher. This election was a test of this country’s core values. At stake was whether the values we embraced 80 years ago, with Roosevelt’s New Deal, would still guide this country’s direction.
I believe that the social contract requires us to help ensure the collective welfare of every member of our community. Just as we assume collective responsibility for protection from external threats, fire, criminal activity, we, as a society, assume responsibility for educating our children, caring for our sick and injured, ensuring we can apply our resources toward providing a basic quality of life for the oldest, poorest and weakest among us. The Ayn Rand-espousing Republican right sought to up-end that precept. On this past Tuesday, they failed.
I believe that the future of our world must be guided by a clear-eyed view of what we must accomplish to slow the damage to our environment and produce non-lethal energy sources. I believe educators and textbook authors should no longer have to fight the same battles of “creationism” that were hashed out in the 1925 Scopes-“monkey” trial, that neither innovations in stem cell technology nor women’s reproductive rights should be handcuffed by religious ideology. I believe that women shouldn’t have to fight for equal treatment in the workplace and immigrants--like my own grandparents--shouldn’t have to live in fear. The Republican platform took the opposite position. And this past Tuesday, their arguments were rejected.
Although the Republicans attempted to reduce this campaign to a simplistic argument over economic issues, whether the Democratic Keynesians should be replaced by the Republican supply-siders, we all know that the stakes were higher than that. This election was a test of core values. And though I have no illusions as to the difficulties this country--and this President—faces in the four years ahead, I am both relieved and proud that this past Tuesday, the core values I hold so dear were affirmed.