A Consensus for Good Government

Digby has a great post about finding (perhaps, rediscovering) the American consensus, which is "the mainstream majority belief in liberalism that held that the government should actively expand 'to new frontiers' to promote the welfare of its citizens." His examination of the loss of the American consensus, and his call for liberals to find it again, dovetails nicely with my recent piece, A Liberal Argument, in which I suggested that we must somehow move voters beyond voting purely out of self-interest. Digby says:
The difference between Republicans and Democrats isn't about who cares more for the people. All politicians say they care about the people and the people are always justifiably skeptical. The difference between us is how we believe the good of the people is best achieved and liberals have a fundamentally different philosophy than the Republicans. Government is our preferred method to advance progressive ideals. Capitalism cannot substitute for a democratic government that answers to all the people. The invisible hand doesn’t give a shit if children starve or old people have to work until they are eighty or if half the country has to work at slave wages to support the other half. Only government can guarantee its citizens the equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We believe that progress toward that end requires that the government be active and engaged in delivering those things.
I said:
The way to get past that inequality is not to constantly try to reframe each argument individually, because there are some, like the example offered, that just aren’t ever going to be able to compete with the delicious simplicity and immediacy of the counterargument. Instead, we must lead the nation away from self-interest; we are all dependent upon each other in infinite ways and it is our obligation to remind the electorate of the importance of such interconnectedness. No man is an island. So said John Donne, and so should we say. We are in this thing together, and our policies are geared to ensure that no man is ever left adrift on his own, without a safety net, without the help he needs, without a community. To vote purely out of self-interest is to turn one’s back on the belief that there is a social conscience to be nurtured for the benefit of us all.
Just as capitalism cannot substitute for a democratic government that answers to all the people, a government that relieves itself of the obligation to ensure life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by allowing a social Darwinist free-for-all among its masses isn’t exactly an appealing option, either. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it should be increasingly obvious to everyone by this point that as government shirks its duties, leaving industry to self-regulate, allowing religious groups to discriminate if it’s necessary for maintaining their identities, refusing to strengthen legal protections of groups targeted for hate crimes, encouraging citizens to patrol the borders, etc. etc. etc., that “the People” can’t handle the responsibility of picking up the government’s slack. Of course they can’t—the People are dicks.

We have always needed government for good reason, but without the American consensus, that there was once goodness in government is becoming ever more difficult to recall.

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