We Are Better Than This

Author: Gary Hart

These are the times that try Americans’ souls.  For more than a year now we have tolerated a small group in national leadership who have little or no government experience, who seem not to have studied our nation’s history, who disdain the bedrock of our culture, and who do not value the truth.

This is not the government uniquely devised by our Founders.  It is not based on the principles we were taught to hold dear in our classrooms.  It is not the government hundreds of thousands of young Americans fought and died for.  In terms of demeanor, maturity, and even good breeding it is a disgrace.

Decent Americans turn away when asked to justify the behavior of our leaders by foreign friends.  This is not the shining city on a hill, or the statue in our harbor with its torch of welcome raised, or the refuge of those seeking a better life that have been our symbol and our glory.

Overwhelmingly, Americans are decent, caring, and benevolent people.  But our current leadership buries those characteristics in a daily sea of turmoil, chaos, and blatant falsehoods.  There are no adults in charge here anymore.

To a person, the president’s party has lost all moral authority.  It has sold its courage to the highest bidder.  It is terrified of its own voters, or at least a militant minority of them.  The opposition party cannot decide whether to return to the age of Franklin Roosevelt, at a time when people are distrustful of government, or mill around in an undefined “centrism” undistinguished by hard-won principles of justice, fairness, and inclusion.

We as Americans are better than this.  If statesmen and women do not rise up and reclaim their beliefs founded in four thousand years of republican democracy, we will be washed away by the relentless tides of history.  We are better than this.  But it is up to all of us to show that we are better than childish and petulant occupants of high office and those too cowardly to confront them.

If not, we will sacrifice our self-respect and the lingering respect of friends around the world.

Resistance to the current childish anarchy begins with refusal to remain silent.  It begins with polite but strong response to media demagogues.  In every church and synagogue, in every school, in the coffee shops and civic groups, voices must be heard proclaiming America’s historic principles.

To remain silent in the face of daily assault upon those principles and the common decency derived from centuries of evolution of common civilities is not American.  It is the beginning of the silence of fear that welcomes in authoritarianism and eventually fascism.

Demand a free press but equally an honest press.  Insist on the right of public assembly and debate.  Respond to the demagogic barbarians who have entered our gates and emerged from under the rocks where they have been hiding from the bright light of decency and civility.

We must restore honor to our nation.  The events of this past year are unprecedented in our history.  They must not, for the sake of our nation’s honor, become the new and degraded norm that threatens to replace the highest aspirations for which generations gone by struggled to uphold.

We are better than this.  That must be our watchword.  We are more decent than the man seeking to destroy the office he now holds.

We must not privatize our nation’s schools.  We must not hand our natural inheritance, which we hold in trust for future generations, to robber coal barons.  We must not permit the wholesale destruction of our diplomacy.  We must not turn over the keys to the nation’s treasury to those who need tax giveaways the least.

We are better than this.

We must not let our Congress, the representatives of all our people, be owned lock, stock, and barrel by thousands of special interest lobbyists, too many of whom were previously elected to office.

We are better than this.

What do we say to our children, who look to us for instruction and guidance, in the wake of corruption and deceit in our nation’s capitol?  Is this our political legacy to them?

We are better than this.

One thing must now guide us.  It is the rule of law.  No one, including a lawless president, is above the law.

We must hold up the banner of truth, of justice, of honor, of decency.  These are not just political jargon.  They are the pillars of this society and nation.  They either reflect what America is and believes in, or we are doomed.

In the face of a growing open sewer running through the highest offices, we must resist, and we must be heard.  To be silent today is to be complicit.

At its very best, there is a nobility running through the American ideal.  It is our duty to recapture that nobility.

Let the voices of millions of decent, honest, caring American citizens be heard and increase in volume.  Let justice ring.  Let us restore our dignity and self-respect.  Let us restore our nation’s honor.

We have no choice.  We are better than this.

9 Responses to “We Are Better Than This”

  1. J.F. Kaminski Says:

    Sir:

    One of the finest pieces you have written.

    JFK

  2. Paul G Says:

    LET JUSTICE RING

    Happy “TJ Day,” Senator!

    Reading our honorable host’s straight from the heart call to restore our republic, “We’re Better Than This” essay made me feel as if our brilliantly human founders such as Pat Henry, Ben Franklin, Tom Jefferson, and more recent heroes Abe, FDR, JFK, RFK and MLK, were all singing in choral unison from our roof-tops: “Let justice ring. Let’s restore our dignity and self-respect. Let’s restore our nation’s honor.”

    My only quibble with what commenter JFK rightly cites as one of your finest blogs is the following phrase: “for more than a year now we have tolerated a small group in national leadership who have little or no government experience, who seem not to have studied our nation’s history, who disdain the bedrock of our culture, and who do not value the truth … To a person, the president’s party has lost all moral authority. It has sold its courage to the highest bidder.”

    On reflection, I think you’d agree this shredding of our republic’s constitutional fabric and ideals have been tolerated for decades.For example, Dick Chaney and Don Rumsfeld with lots of government experience serving in Nixon, Ford, Bush I and Bush II administrations, proved impeachably immoral (screwing our Constitution and Bill of Rights) especially pre-9/11 by proving to be willfully blind to credible warnings to justify their pre-ordained greed for wars of choice in the Middle East. They succeeded in “seeming” rational and law-abiding. Such veterans of both major parties must be outraged not at the substance but the juvenile image conveyed by the chief executive, though centrists (Bush, Clinton) protest the opposite.

    Our current “president” is explicitly different mainly by his relentless public bullying and self-centered childishness. In contrast, his executive predecessors’ “genius” was their ability to exude “gravitas” by using our free but dishonest (only seeming public interest) commercial media to keep us constantly interrupted, off balance, unsure, entertained, satiated and ultimately complicit as their profits grow and corporate fascism becomes our republic’s demise. As you rightly stated from the start, such silent complicity is un-American; We The People are Better Than This.

    Let’s honor our founders on this TJ Day; pick up our cell phones right now and Let Justice Ring … for us.

    It’s time wise and “ancient” leaders enlighten our dedicated young people.
    It’s time to begin to restore our republic.

  3. Gary Hart Says:

    Being called “an untruthful slim ball” by this president is like being called ugly by a frog. GH

  4. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    I’ve been too exhausted to contribute much of late and that has nothing to do with my love of this blog nor with my increasingly unhealthy interest in US presidential politics, just everything to do with real life.

    But, there is always time to read these great pieces and comments and appreciate the existence of this place (of refuge!).

    I think Director Comey is doing what he can to sound the alarm bells about where this president is going and taking his country with him and to point out that America and Americans are better than this. Hence the writing and timing of A Higher Loyalty.

    Looking forward to reading this important book and discussing here …

  5. Neal Taslitz Says:

    Indeed-we must keep up the “good fight”.

  6. LORENZO CHERIN Says:

    Superb!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Senator Hart, it is a real pleasure, a political and personal one to engage for much time on here, it is pieces like the one herein, that make this especially so.

    Like Carrolls Aged aged man, you can feel like a character in fiction amidst a fact much stranger than it, that the man Trump won, and you never even nominated, but there are those who win and those who lose, but it is the ones who do neither obviously, but much, subtly, who are the real winners, and never losers, true too of us all of that ilk.

  7. Bill Pruden Says:

    Senator,
    Over the last eighteen months your efforts have regularly served as an uplifting respite from the daily, discouraging drudgery that is daily news. This current post is no exception. Indeed, it is particularly inspiring for in reminding us of what we are as a people and a nation, you give us yet another reason to keep up the fight. Indeed, from our very beginning, when Jefferson asserted that all men are created equal, when clearly that was not a universal belief, we Americans have been on an aspirational journey to be what that initial promise said we were. The road has not been smooth, nor the journey easy. But at its best it has been led by leaders who call upon and inspire the best in us. In this post and in countless other times in your career you have done that, and in doing so have set an example that all of us should follow. In doing so we will take an important step in the effort to get us back on track. Thank you.

  8. Eric Jacobson Says:

    Senator: In Leonard Cohen’s phrase “everybody knows” (at least peripherally) of the megatrends of which you speak in recent posts, but most Americans have “no confidence” that the current crop of elite incumbent pols and civil servants will advance their best interests or “do the right thing” by the multitudes in the face of these trends. On the contrary, most of our fellow citizens have concluded (generally correctly) that these trends are working against them. And that paradoxically, as Leonard Cohen prophesied, that the negative outcomes for everyday Americans accelerated when the Cold War ended.

    Indeed, toward the end of his life, Leonard reflected somberly upon the essential accuracy of his instincts that the result of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the USSR would be the disintegration of world order and “widespread murder” (including of Americans on 9/11). See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axDoGt16O2I .

    The problem has lately been amplified by the right-wing’s confidence-game in purporting that Donald Trump’s Republican Party (of all things!) will protect and serve the best interests of non-wealthy Americans when in fact their ONLY loyalty is to the interests the 1% elements in this nation and their counterparts throughout the world. As George Carlin memorably said in 2010 – previewing the Sanders’s (honest) and Trump’s (dishonest) 2015-2016 populist presidential campaign themes: the 1% is a “club, and you ain’t in it.” See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5dBZDSSky0 (at the 2 minute mark).

    As I pointed out in an op-ed in mid-January, the Trump-GOP tax cut in December decisively revealed the president’s entire campaign to have been a ruse by a world-class con artist “right from the start”: https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/01/12/hello-i-must-be-going-is-michael-wolffs-book-fake-populist-trumps-exit-strategy/ . That this obvious line of attack has STILL not been made a constant refrain amongst non-conservatives surprised me at first but shouldn’t have:

    For the related (bigger) part of the problem is the very organized and deep-seated effort being made by mainstream Democrats to depict nationalist-oriented policies as atavistic and unsuited to the 21st century. This is a “yuge” mistake, as a panelist at the LA Times Festival of Books I watched on cspan2 yesterday pointed out. Author Steve Almond deftly quoted this passage from Teddy Roosevelt’s New Nationalism speech in 1910:
    ————–
    http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/images/research/speeches/trnationalismspeech.pdf at ¶¶15-16

    “In every wise struggle for human betterment one of the main objects, and often the only object, has been to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity. In the struggle for this great end, nations rise from barbarism to civilization, and through it people press forward from one stage of enlightenment to the next. One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privilege. The essence of any struggle for healthy liberty has always been, and must always be, to take from some one man or class of men the right to enjoy power, or wealth, or position, or immunity, which has not been earned by service to his or their fellows. That is what you fought for in the Civil War, and that is what we strive for now.

    “At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they possess is the central condition of progress. In our day it appears as the struggle of freemen to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests, who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will. At every stage, and under all circumstances, the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity, destroy privilege, and give to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the commonwealth.”
    ————–
    Mr. Almond contrasted this passage favorably with the pathetically lackluster rhetoric of all elected Democrats save for the Sanders-wing of the party.

    TR gave the speech in “Bloody Kansas” 2-3 generations after John Brown (who TR mentions) and then the Civil War (to an audience that included some aging Civil War vets) and titled it “The New Nationalism” for a reason. The 1% super-rich of the early 20th century (AKA Gilded Age) had expropriated a vastly disproportionate share of the nation’s bounty then, just as they have again in the early 21st century. Given the basics of “democratic theory” (anything near universal suffrage) there had to be a political correction and there eventually was, via the progressive era and New Deal.

    The bottom line is that we are in a monumental societal crisis – namely: the vanished American Dream for the great majority of Americans that Carlin speaks of throughout and (by name) at the end of the clip linked above – that is primarily DOMESTIC in nature. Many of the megatrends involving foreign relations and the state of the world (however pressing) cannot feasibly remain the focus of American politics and public policy if we are EVER to get about the business of the necessary political reckoning here at home! There is only so many agenda-frames and subject-matter the American people can absorb and address at one time! Donald Trump (with the help of diabolically shrewd right-wing polemicists working for the worst elements of the 1%) shrewdly lied his way into the nation’s highest office by appealing to this common sense reality and PRETENDING he would focus on- and prioritize the well-being of the American people first.

    To date, our nation’s non-conservative political forces – including the nearly defunct Democratic Party-proper which has now pathetically turned its Russiagate neurosis (in the Yiddish slang: Mishegas) into a lawsuit (WTF?!?) – is beating to a drummer that may be resonating negatively to some extent with the voters (given their dismay with the con-artist-in-chief) but is NOT resonating at all positively with the American multitudes. And that is because it is doubling-down on policies and priorities that speak to- and favor global constituencies and sensibilities instead of those of the well-being of the American electorate.

    I’m tempted to conclude that the current generation of American non-conservatives (including their elite pols – present company notably excepted) is AFRAID of- and intimidated by their fellow American who make up the conservative right. So these non-conservatives are hiding behind the skirts of powerful foreigners such as the Communist Chinese, with whom the Democratic Party entered into a defacto alliance (a “misalliance” worthy of GB Shaw as I just tweeted https://twitter.com/ECJLA/status/987704800593657857 ) during the Clinton Administration.

    I remember like it was yesterday when president Clinton announced that his Administration was dropping our nation’s traditional objections to China’s human rights debacle in the name of promoting global economic integration. In other words: In order to enable our corporations and their mostly 1% shareholders to profit from the millions of workers who have no rights and endure deplorable working condition which drive some of them to suicide. See https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/18/foxconn-life-death-forbidden-city-longhua-suicide-apple-iphone-brian-merchant-one-device-extract .

    In GHW Bush’s phrase: “Not gonna work!”

    The core task for non-conservatives, and it is URGENT, is to apply the principles of TR and FDR’s new nationalism to the 21st century. Devise and articulate such a platform! Let it include racial and economic and environmental justice and decency! Have our electoral civil war! As the man whose presidential campaign you managed prophetically said: “Come home America!”

  9. Paul G Says:

    ARE WE FOREVER SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER?

    “The president’s party has lost all moral authority. It has sold its courage to the highest bidder. It is terrified of its own voters, or at least a militant minority of them … We must not let our Congress, the representatives of all our people, be owned lock, stock, and barrel by thousands of special interest lobbyists, too many of whom were previously elected to office.”

    – Gary Hart

    Terrified? Where to begin?

    Why is the DEA terrified of McKesson Corporation or Purdue Pharma?

    More than 1,000 mostly poor people a week suffered and died of opioid addiction during the last presidential campaign year, totaling 64,000 in 2016. The new “president” declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency in 2017, but declined to add necessary funding. Instead, he approved funding of yet another $trillion tax cut almost entirely for the wealthiest of the wealthy.

    One of the most devastated states’ leaders, Governor Sununu (NH), told the national loud-mouth-in-chief “(you) can’t come to New Hampshire without a plan that has substance.” As Governing Magazine recently noted, “people are terrified of seeking help because they think they’ll get punished.”
    Contrary to media scandalizing and marketing exploitation of all our human weaknesses to sell things, the greatest immorality is not only profitable wars of choice overseas but the insane “war on drugs.”

    As any detective worth her salt would do to uncover the genesis of today’s drug-war insanity, she would go back almost 50 years to the scene of the ‘crime’ – where another “president” discarded his appointed commission’s drug decriminalization recommendations – and see we exceed all Vietnam’s US death toll in only one year!

    Adding insult to injury, our political media cowards fail to connect the historic dots of the weekly human carnage but focus us instead on the “ever-breaking-news” of celebrity gossip and horse race predictions. It seems more than Congress is owned “lock, stock, and barrel by thousands of special interest lobbyists, too many of whom were previously elected to office.”

    As the 2020 presidential election approaches fast We The (little) People need to ask: Who will refuse the $PAC and therefore credibly begin to end this?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EvYTWc9BRIM
    http://www.governing.com/topics/health-human-services/gov-opioid-emergency-declaration-trump.html?utm_term=6%20Months%20Since%20Trump%20Declared%20an%20Opioid%20Emergency%2C%20What%27s%20Changed&utm_campaign=6%20Months%20Since%20Trump%20Declared%20an%20Opioid%20Emergency%2C%20What%27s%20Changed&utm_content=email&utm_source=Act-On+Software&utm_medium=email

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