Fifteen years ago, then-Presidential-candidate, Bill Clinton went to Georgetown University and delivered a speech about a New Covenant between the people and their government. In that speech fifteen years ago, he said:
People once looked at the president and the Congress to bring us together, to solve problems, to make progress. Now, in the face of massive challenges, our government stands discredited, our people are disillusioned. There’s a hole in our politics where our sense of common purpose used to be.
Yesterday, now-former-President, Bill Clinton went back to Georgetown and delivered a speech intending to put the message of progressive politics under a unifying theme that the American people - voters - can understand:
This sort of politics — striving for a common good — for me stands in stark contrast to both the political and governing philosophy of the leadership in Washington today and for the last six years.
Striving for the common good...man, it seems like it's been a long time since a political leader would talk about something like that. At least six years, I'd say. A Common Good - it is so encouraging to hear a politician talk about something higher than partisan politics - working together for American goals:
The country has been well served by its progressive and conservative traditions. We understand that campaigns will be heated, but we want it to be connected somehow to the real lives of real people, to the aspirations of ordinary Americans.
Hopefully, the Clinton's message yesterday will be studied by Democrats running for office all of the nation. The last thing that we need is for the Democrats to actually squeak into office in these mid-term elections and be just as partisan, just as corrupt, and just as unwilling to do the work of the American people as the Republicans currently are. We need to accomplish the goals of the people:
We believe in mutual responsibility. They believe that, in large measure, people make or break their own lives and you’re on your own,” he explained in today’s speech. “We believe in striving, at least, to cooperate with others because we think that there are very few problems in the world we can solve on our own. They favor unilateralism whenever possible, and cooperation when it’s unavoidable.
For some - completely unknown - reason the current Bush administration, and the Republican party in general, still blames Clinton for every issue that comes before them - North Korea, the Foley scandal, terrorism, etc. Such 'blame-Clinton' tactics are nakedly irresponsible... but they are also poor politics. Clinton is about as popular as he has ever been, and his popularity is only on the rise:
When Clinton left office, his approval numbers in the Gallup poll were at a low 39 percent in early 2001. Today they are 20 points higher, and they have risen steadily as President Bush’s numbers have dropped.
Sure, blaming Clinton may still stir the rabid, right-wing base of the party... but that is the opposite of reaching out to the common good. And it's wholly ineffective. Weeks ago, Clinton was ambushed while doing an interview for Fox News - and he took much criticism when he actually fought back. But that moment - the moment when a Democrat actually fought back against Fox News and, as an extention, right-wing talk radio - has been a rallying cry not only for progressives, but also for the average American. We saw someone stand up against the propaganda and lies spewed constantly from the right-wing media. That media, Fox News and talk-radio, made such a big deal about it because it was terrifying for them. Because the people understood where it came from - for too long, the party in power has irresponsibly attacked the left and Clinton himself, while being entirely ineffective in their governing. Republicans may well be experts at winning elections - but they have utterly failed at governing.
In another recent speech, Clinton said the following:
Democrats, Clinton said, have a “big responsibility.” “Forget about politics,” he whispered. “Just go out and find somebody and look them dead in the eye and say, ‘You know this isn’t right’… We can do better, and this year, it’s a job that Democrats have to do alone.”
We, the people, can do better. It's time for us to return to a focus on the Common Good.
Related prior posts:
The Democrat's Problem...