What are their ideas for the country’s future? Obama has learned that much of governing requires pragmatic deal making for marginal progress. But that is not all of governing, and I believe the Democrats need to renew the vision of a diverse, just and vibrant America that excited the electorate in 2008 and was noticeably subdued last fall. For me, the big issues we face are:
- The growing disparities between rich and poor.
- The devastation of our environment.
- The militarization of everything – from China’s saber rattling to Iran’s nuclear threat to ivory poaching in Africa.
These are not unrelated. The huge gaps between rich and poor, both within America and around the world, are creating expanding pockets of misery and despair. These mock the idea of a community of all people, and encourage environmental destruction by creating some classes who amass nature’s fruits for their private enjoyment and others who must do whatever they can to survive. Such a world creates opportunities for heavily armed gangs, terrorists groups, and rogue armies to sell themselves to the highest bidders.
A country as divided as we are threatening to become internally – and as isolationist externally – ignores these issues. We rightly make much, for example, of the nation’s 7.8% unemployment rate. But we barely notice that half the people of Detroit are out of work.
Obama’s promise was to build a national community of our diverse parts. We are headed in the other direction. He needs to lead us back.