Soul & Substance

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This election is about the soul and substance of who we are.

The United States is one of the world’s oldest democracies. Since our founding, we have been a source of inspiration for millions of people around the world who’ve dared to pursue their own noble experiment. Amazingly, through what seems like hell and high water, the American experiment has survived. She has thrived. She has embodied that amazing quality of humanity: progress. The United States was founded on this grand idea that “all men are created equal.” It’s important to note that that phrase is in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution. The declaration demonstrates the aspirations of our Founding Fathers; the constitution illustrates what they saw as pragmatic. The competing notions of these documents is clearly seen throughout this nation’s history. The elevation of blacks from 3/5 of a person to a whole person, the civil war, reconstruction, the women’s suffrage movement, and the civil rights movement have all called into question the relationship between these two texts. Independence calls upon us to boldly chase our goals and aspirations, to declare those grievances which prevent us from meeting our full potential. The constitution tells us that we should move slowly and be somewhat resistant to quick change or transitions.

We are in a similar place now.

Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and the Republican party are calling on us to move slowly. They are calling on us to resist change and transition.

Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, Bernie Sanders, and the whole Democratic party are laying out a clear vision for where we stand today. They are also encouraging us to run to meet our fullest potential.

So…what does it mean to be an American? What ideas do we really subscribe to. We often act as though our major political parties are really just one and the same. In this election that could not be further from the truth.

Six years after its passage and four years after its core components were declared constitutionally valid, Obamacare is again a part of the Republican platform. They make it clear that they want to repeal it. Democrats on the other hand now look towards a public option, so that every single American has access to quality affordable healthcare and to further build upon the success of Obamacare.

As the tide begins to turn on the morality of the death penalty, Republicans advocate for its expansion(RNC Platform, 37), while Democrats advocate for its abolition(DNC Platform, 16). I truly don’t understand this point from the Republicans. They are, after all, the party that advocates for the “sanctity of life.” You cannot on one hand promote the sanctity of an unborn child and on the other believe that we, as mere humans, have any right to sentence another man or woman to death.

Where the Democrats want to further ensure protections for LGBT Americans in everything from employment to housing and even youth homelessness, the Republicans still talk about a “homosexual rights agenda” (RNC Platform, 46).

Democrats want to ensure that folks, especially children, who are struggling with their sexuality in an unwelcome environment, know that it does get better. Republicans want to cement the right of parents to send their kids to gay conversion therapy (RNC Platform, 34).

Republicans still support a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a union between “one man and one woman” (RNC Platform, 10). Democrats applaud the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (DNC Platform, 19).

Democrats believe in “at last guaranteeing equal pay for women” (DNC Platform, 2), while Republicans don’t even mention it in their platform. To be clear here, it is 2016. Whether a woman is being paid 64 cents to a man’s dollar or 99.9 cents to 1, if they aren’t being paid one dollar to one dollar for the same work, the same responsibilities, and the same experience, then it is not fair. It is not right. It must change now.

The Republican platform says that discrimination based upon race or religion is “unacceptable and immoral,” yet their nominee has advocated for the banning of all Muslim immigrants and for the construction of a wall along our southern border. Democrats advocate for the implementation of DACA, further support of DREAMers, and comprehensive reform that will bring the eleven million immigrants who illegally entered our country out of the darkness and into the light (DNC Platform, 17).

The Republicans advocate for reciprocity for gun licenses, so that a license in one state becomes a license in any state (RNC Platform, 13). Democrats are calling for an expansion of background checks and to finally, finally, finally give the CDC permission to study gun violence as a public health issue (DNC Platform, 39).

That’s it. This is by no means an exhaustive comparison, but it illustrates the stark differences in this election. One party’s platform calls for stagnation in the march towards a better tomorrow, while the other is calling for us to run towards it.

Years from now, we will all recall where we were the moment that George Stephanopoulos, or Wolf Blitzer, or Lester Holt told the nation who had won our presidency. Our children will ask us who we voted for and what we did during the lead up to the one of the most consequential decisions that a generation of Americans has ever been tasked with making. I will tell my children that I was with her, because she was with us. I will tell my children that even though I voted for Bernie Sanders in my primary I knew that a Trump victory in 2016 would push the “political revolution” back by many many decades, while a Clinton victory would only keep it at bay for, at most, 8 years. I will tell my children that November 8th, 2016 was the day that our country decided what we were made of.

I hope to tell them that we decided that the soul and substance of who we are as Americans lived up to the high ideals expressed in our Declaration of Independence and in the grand idea embodied in the phrase “E Pluribus Unum.”

I hope to tell them that we used what LBJ called the “most powerful instrument ever devised by men for breaking down injustice” and said “never hatred, never fear, never xenophobia, never misogyny, and, yes indeed, Never ever Trump.”

I hope to tell them that we felt the rolling over of our Founding Fathers and Mothers in their graves stop. I hope to tell them that the world looked at our nation once again with bright and wide eyes, as it imagined what life must be like in America. I hope to tell them that we made it clear that we didn’t have to “Make America great Again,” because in electing Hillary Rodham Clinton to the presidency we decided to simply make America greater.

I hope to tell them that we chose hope over fear; optimism over despair; light over dark; progress over stagnation; and that we went high, when they went low.

I hope to tell them that we demonstrated to ourselves and the world the soul and substance of who we are.

P.S. To my friends who wish to support a 3rd party, know that I support a multi-party system. Pragmatically; however, based upon the way that our government actually works, a 3rd party president will get nearly nothing done without a 3rd party majority in Congress and without 3rd party candidates running up and down the ticket for offices from local to state to federal. Jill Stein and Gary Johnson are qualified for the office of POTUS, but there is not currently a strong infrastructure in place that could effectively support their movements. Trickle down economics doesn’t work and neither will trickle down politics. You can’t put everything at the top and hope that the bottom will magically fill itself out.