Equity Politics: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
Those of us, especially those of us on the authentic Left, who embrace the possibility of human equity guaranteed by and for a free people have no real political party for our allegiance.
I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own. And I am not free s long as one person of Color remains chained. Nor is any of you.
“The Uses of Anger,” Audre Lorde
The U.S. has elected Joe Biden president, ending the presidency of Donald Trump.
This is a return to the standard failure of the democratic process in a country that is primarily committed to the free market, rugged individualism, and guns.
Biden is the normal but truly awful presidential candidate, replacing the uniquely horrible election of Trump.
As many people have noted, changing presidents typically means only small differences in the daily lives of people. Those with some affluence and privilege continue to have really good lives, lives that allow them to focus on trivial matters that seem huge because of that affluence or privilege.
People in poverty, working class people, and the many different categories of people living in what we have euphemized as “diverse” identities, however, will mostly continue to live barely in the margins of the American dream — even when these people also attain some level of wealth or privilege in their accomplishments.
The American democracy is a failed and failing experiment because it has allowed inequity to flourish, and those living with the most privilege, white Americans, refuse still even to acknowledge that inequity because they are so enamored with their own pettiness and convinced that they too face disenfranchisement and disadvantage.
It is the “war on Christmas” rhetoric that arrives every holiday season by people who benefit from being in a majority and Christian-centric nation; there is no rational basis for such nonsense, but white America is still a majority of delusion, clinging to the one thing they will not relinquish — their white privilege.
Having never been a Republican or Democrat, and having never drunk the Kool Aid of idealism about the founding of the U.S. or the American Dream, I have always none the less found one possibility of the U.S. not only beautiful but also worth believing in — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
There is a poetic brilliance to that phrase that genuinely can and should be a map for the country the U.S. could become.
Even as I acknowledge Biden is a horrible candidate, I have found that his willingness to admit the U.S. has not yet reached our ideals and his charge to be the president for all Americans and not just those who elected him to be some of the better political rhetoric we can hear.
Those of us, especially those of us on the authentic Left, who embrace the possibility of human equity guaranteed by and for a free people have no real political party for our allegiance, but I do think we can use this moment in history to commit to a politics of equity built around the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
A first step to making equity a reality in the U.S. is an education campaign, one specifically targeting the demonizing and fear-mongering around “socialism.”
First, there must be an honest distinction made between regimes that are identified as socialism or communism — regimes rules by dictators or de facto dictators — and democratic socialism.
Fear-mongering around the former U.S.S.R., China, and Castro’s Cuba is purposefully distracting the voting public from democracies that embrace first publicly funded and democratically chosen institutions that make the free market and personal freedom possible in equitable ways for all citizens.
Pure socialism and communism would mean the end of private business and private property, and frankly, I see no avenue to that sort of shift under either Republicans or Democrats. I also see no Leftist movement in the U.S. that calls for rule by a dictator; only the Trump movement and his followers (all occurring on the Right, not the Left) appear eager for a dictator.
The sort of totalitarian “socialism” that the Right is using to fear-monger voters would be equally rejected by the Left, including the seemingly growing belief among young Americans that democratic socialism is preferable to the Social Darwinism of the unfettered free market in the U.S.
“Socialism” as a concept, then, is quite different than how that term has been folded into dishonest political rhetoric or even claimed improperly (or misleadingly) by political movements more concerned about totalitarian control.
I do support democratic socialism; I also embrace the idea that a robust publicly funded network of institutions must be established in order for the free market and individual freedom to be equitable and accessible to all people regardless of their identity or status.
I am essential public institutions first, and then free market and individual liberty.
And thus, equity politics must be policy first, and not partisan politics first.
Women’s reproductive rights.
De-militarizing and reforming policing and the judicial system.
Fully publicly funded K-16 education (student loan debt relief).
De-criminalizing, legalizing marijuana (releasing prisoners trapped in the war on drugs).
Removing the Electoral College and reforming representation across the U.S. that is equitable for rural and urban Americans.
Expanding access to voting and guaranteeing all Americans can vote without threat.
The pursuit of happiness?
Full rights to LGBTQ+ Americans.
De-coupling healthcare and retirement from employment.
Increasing the minimum wage and reducing the work week as well as expanding guaranteed paid vacation and family leave policies.
I cast a (worthless) vote for Biden/Harris in South Carolina (a self-defeating conservative state) as a symbolic gesture to end the reign of Trump. There is little hope in the Democratic Party, but the Republican Party is aggressively against all of the policies above that would move the U.S. closer to the ideal of human equity for all.
If the Senate remains in Republican hands, there will be little Democrats can do to move the moral arc toward equity.
But unless we have the political will as a people to form a new and stronger party built on principles of equity, we have only one option, transforming the Democratic Party into a genuine movement for change that serves all people.
And this cannot be achieved by compromising with Trump Republicans who do not value equity, human agency, or human dignity (except for themselves and those who look like them).
Biden as a person and a politician is only marginally preferable to Trump; this election should be seen as a mandate rejecting Trump, but it cannot be seen as an endorsement of returning to the normal that allowed the killing of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor.
White men and women in a majority and over 70,000,000 Americans voted for Trump, angrily and with a middle finger voted against equity for all because they belong to the cult of individuality and wealth that Trump represents.
This is a disturbing cancer on the American way of life; this is why the American Dream remains a nightmare for many and a fantasy for most.
Equity politics is a moral imperative, one driven by this proclamation by one of the most famous socialists in U.S. history, Eugene V. Debs:
Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
Without equity for all, there is equity for none.
Without the American Dream for all, there is no dream for anyone.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness must be extended to each and every American or we are failing our charge as humans.