Guest Opinion: Now get to work (Mixed)


File image of Congressman Sean Casten.

The following is from a Twitter thread posted by Congressman Sean Casten, who represents the Illinois Sixth Congressional District.  We have made minor edits for clarity. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the Babbler’s editorial staff or of the bloggers on Freethought Blogs:

Let’s take a moment to rise above the shame of the US Senate this week and focus on some larger scale reasons for optimism about our democracy.

Start with that beautiful and always insightful line of Learned Hand: “Liberty lies in the hearts of men (and women). As long as it remains it needs no court, no constitution, no law to defend it.”

If we’ve learned nothing of our country and fellow citizens since 2016, it’s that liberty still lies in the hearts of Americans:

The majority of Americans, after all, voted for Hillary.

And in response to Trump, the majority of Americans didn’t give up. They marched. For women. For science. For our lives. For our democracy. Peacefully. But righteously. And it was that righteous civic action that flipped the House with the biggest (and dare I say, most awesome?) freshman class since Watergate. And it was that righteous civic action that flipped the Virginia legislature, which gave us the final state required to ratify the ERA. And started the process to rejoin RGGI.

Meanwhile, in the House we have not only ended Trump’s legislative agenda, but advanced an agenda that is not just the Democratic party agenda, but the agenda of the American people.

The bills we have passed have the overwhelming support of the American electorate, Ds and Rs alike. Ensuring universal healthcare. Background checks for guns. Dealing with climate change. Campaign finance reform. These things are popular! This isn’t surprising, since the Democratic members of Congress are as diverse as our country. On the obvious metrics (race, gender, sexual preference) but no less significantly in terms of ideology. The fact that you can go from AOC to Joe Manchin and still be in the same party is a testament to a party that reflects the full diversity of the majority of the country. And that diversity only happened because Americans got engaged after Nov ’16.

This point gets lost in all the silly “Dems in disarray” nonsense. Diverse opinions, held by people with the courage to express them is what democracy is all about. Celebrate it!

Now to be sure, there is no equivalent diversity across the aisle. The ideological walk from Steve King to Peter King is not that long. And the fact that they all stay on message is not that surprising. But it’s not how representative government is supposed to work.

And the fact that all that righteous civic action brought about all this change doesn’t mean that 2020 will be a cakewalk. To the contrary, it will be harder. Because the @GOP – a once great party – has been totally captured by a base and donor class whose interests are wildly opposed by the majority of the country. Absent reform, they have no path to retain power that is not based on lies and disenfranchisement. That’s ultimately what the impeachment trial was about: withhold the truth so we can get back to appointing unqualified judges and protecting those who seek to corrupt our democracy.

What’s on the ballot in 2020 is not a contest between Democrats and Republicans. It is a contest between Democracy and kleptocracy. Between the rule of law and the law of the jungle. But here’s the thing: we have nothing to fear from our 300 million fellow Americans. They’re good people. We’ve just seen 3 years of good people, rising up in peaceful defense of this beautiful, 244-year-old experiment.

Our threat is instead from just a few hundred elected @GOP officials. And that’s a battle we can win. Because while there’s hatred here, it’s dumber…and love has got the numbers.

So yes, be angry at those in the Senate who would destroy our democracy rather than alienate their donors. Who would destroy the institution in order to preserve their job. But take greater solace from the fact that they are in the tiny minority. Their power reflects their position, not the will of those they represent.

So back to Learned Hand, in full:

…what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow.

“The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interest alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten—that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side-by-side with the greatest.

I’d say that spirit still lies in the American heart. I wouldn’t have gotten this job if it didn’t. That heart is a bit battered and a bit stressed. But for all that, a bit wiser. So take solace today not in our institutions. Because in the final analysis, they won’t save us. Take solace in the liberty in American hearts that still beats strong and is the only thing that ever has saved us.

Now get to work.

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