Both conservative republican and liberal democratic tenets of 20th Century America have gradually taken on the characteristics of dogma in that the underlying assumptions of their respective conventional wisdoms are rarely challenged or evaluated for their efficacy.
This is particularly concerning as we move into a new century where the problems we face as a nation, society, and world community are of an unprecedented breadth and scope. The unfortunate reality is that many of the challenges we face as members of an increasingly diverse people in an ever-more-complex new century are the consequence of the choices and policies of both republican and democratic leadership in the 20th Century. Those policies, choices, and ideologies will no longer take us where we need to go.
Most troubling is the emergence of the “tea party movement” that is striving to take us back to a time in America history that is perceived as better; a time when values seemed clearer. The problem, of course, is that the only people for whom that idyllic past was better were non- poor, white Americans. It was a time when white Americans represented the overwhelming majority and when they lived in a world in which they occupied a special place in society. This past is not recalled with the same reverence by black Americans and other minorities or by poor, white Americans.
Interestingly, this cherished past was a time in which blue-collar America, thanks to strong unions, enjoyed a level of economic success at least approaching that of “white collar” middle class Americans. The present day irony is that tea party and other conservative politicians and policy makers are doing their best to emasculate present-day unions as if they somehow pose a threat to the middle class. Why we would ever think that a strong working class able to earn levels of income to provide for their families, contribute to a vibrant economy, and pay their fair share of taxes is a bad thing is difficult to fathom.
The actions and policies of conservative politicians and policy makers seem to be driven by an equal resentment of the interests of African-Americans; other minorities; new immigrants, illegal or not; Muslim-Americans; gay and lesbians; and any other population of human beings who are perceived as different.
The unalterable fact is that African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and other groups as defined by race, color, creed, faith, or sexual preferences represent one of the two fastest growing segments of our population and will soon replace white Americans as the majority. The needs of these growing segments of the American population, simply stated, cannot be ignored or otherwise abused without placing our entire society at risk.
What conservative Americans do not seem to comprehend is that the more the interests of these “other” Americans are left unattended, the more likely they will be to rise up and begin exercising their right to vote. Given that these groups, in the aggregate, will represent a statistical majority, such an eventuality will bring the conservative agenda to an abrupt but judicious end. We can only hope that the traditional liberal agenda will also be laid to rest.
We have not even addressed the issues involving the other fastest growing population of Americans made up of baby-boomers who are joining the ranks of the retired; a group whose political clout will also mushroom.
The best hope for preserving our liberty and providing a safe and affluent future for our children and grandchildren is through leadership that embraces our diversity and engages all Americans in the quest for new and innovative solutions to the challenges of the 21st Century. At present, we are not even seeking new and innovative solutions, much to our great disadvantage.
In my novel, Light and Transient Causes, I show what could happen if we relax our vigilance and abdicate our responsibilities as citizens of a participatory democracy.