Young people ages 15 to 25 are the heart of the global society as the second decade of the twenty-first century begins. In an era where productive adult life spans nearly six decades on average, the importance of an early start in pursuit of human freedom, values, and rights is unprecedented. The power and influence of this demographic (in coalition with an array of moderate and progressive citizens of all ages) elected Barack Obama as President of the United States in November 2008. The enthusiasm that organized nearly 70 million voters in the United States revolved around a promise of hope and change from the fear and ineptitude of the previous administration. Recently, Bakari Kitwana emphasized the inability of the Obama presidency to move beyond the marketing of structural reform to the realization of institutional reconstruction. He stands in a long tradition that stretches back at least to William Monroe Trotter in terms of confronting executive authority to engage the democratic ideals of the nation’s founding. As the next round of Congressional elections approach, the answer to the criticisms Obama and the Democratic Party face lies in the rejuvenated engagement of the coalition that carried the progressive agenda into office.
We, as a nation, have allowed the cable news broadcasts and internet comment boards to serve as proxies for personal conversations about the most difficult choices we have to make. As Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow expose the ways CNN and Fox News confuse reporting for entertainment in pursuit of advertising dollars, no one has stepped forward to hold our journalists, editors, and publishers accountable for the information they produce. All of us rely on our individual resources to find accurate information, evaluate it, and then share it with our families and communities in productive ways. It is too large a job, given the mortgage and job crises devastating so much of the country. Too much of our time serves our lengthy commutes, increasing responsibilities to church and school activities, and finding ways to pay our bills. We have lost the time to talk with each other and build relationships that sustain communities. This isolation fuels our resentments and fears. It betrays the promise of hope and change we pursued in 2008. Donating our time and our money in support of more efficient government and long-term, sustainable job growth through small businesses can overcome the morass of polarizing rhetoric that filled political discussion over the last year. The energy among young Americans to build new structures of state government investment through smart tax policies is the next step in pursuit of a stronger nation, learning from the mistakes of privatization and revenue-slashing policies that older Americans made since 1981.
These conversations must occur at the passionate heart of our political disagreements. The Tea Party organizations spring from the booming suburbs of the Southwest where economic contractions have been especially sharp. They may have fewer than 100,000 supporters nationwide. The fear and anger they articulate remains the point of a spear designed to destroy the first national coalition dedicated to rebuilding the American middle class since the Truman administration. The broad, energized organizations that transformed American democracy in 2008 can and must engage our fellow citizens who refuse to acknowledge the unlimited power of a people united for freedom and democracy. Xenophobia and paranoia cannot dominate our public conversations about the future of humanity. The hatred of the movement symbolized by Obama’s electoral victory cannot resist the forces of love and faith when we organize in our neighborhoods, businesses, and community centers. As we enter summer 2010, let us spread the word about the strategies we have to start new businesses, the importance of regulating Wall Street into service to Main Street, the successes of the public works projects using the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the stability and security offered by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act. We have a federal government that provided a framework for the American people to revitalize democracy in our states and in our towns. The only question that remains is whether or not we can change our Congress, state legislatures, and governors to respect our will this November.