From The Vaults

Progressives Should Push A Debate Over National Identity — Over Remembering Who We Are

The showdown over the federal budget is not a debate about money, it is a over our national character, a debate about how we see ourselves. I like the scene from “The Lion King” when the voice booms down the great advice, “Remember Who You Are.”

The right wing urges us to return to original values.  At their rallies, usually, a few of their members are dressed up in colonial costumes.  The right wing points out that the founding fathers wanted a limited democracy, a small government, a society that favored the wealthy and calls for Americans to agree with this 200 year old point of view.

The right wing urges us to remember who we are. Progressives should embrace that challenge and claim the founding fathers as their own. Progressives, too, could have rallies where they dress up in colonial outfits. After all, the founding fathers, in the context of their time, were bold progressives, willing to risk everything to change the world of their day.

The message of today’s progressives should be that our national character is not to look backward. It is central to our national character to keep pressing forward. The constitution is a living document adding over the years progressive amendments such as giving the government the right to impose an income tax and giving women the right to vote.

Our history is one of expanding democracy. What separates progressives from the right wing is a marked different view of democracy. The progressive view is that we move towards greater “liberty and justice for all” via vitalizing our democracy. The right wing, however, fears democracy and seeks to suppress it — even as the founding fathers did.

The debate over the budget, as many Washington conflicts, is a phony debate. The fix is in. It’s a fixed fight, because our government has been purchased, and the owners are calling the tunes. It’s a fixed fight because our democracy is a faint shadow of what it should be. The real  debate is over competing visions of America’s character. The battle, at heart, is over democracy. Progressives should frame the debate as a debate over national identity — over remembering who we are.


6 comments to Progressives Should Push A Debate Over National Identity — Over Remembering Who We Are

  • Mike, your underlying assumption, that the fight over the budget is a phony debate, is absolutely false. I believe we have only 2 to 3 years to get our fiscal house in order or our economy and our country will collapse. It is my belief that if that should happen there will be civil war and millions will die. Now, that is just my prediction, but I believe that.

    If that should happen, there will be no socialist agenda because the economy will not support it.

    Secondly, while the founding fathers came from a variety of religious and philosophical backgrounds, they agreed on on one thing. Call it original sin or the nature of man, they realized that human beings are naturally flaw and cannot be trusted with great power. They created a federal government that was quite limited. Then they separated the powers into three branches. Liberals do not share that belief. While the three branches sometimes quarrel, it is usually over which branch of the federal government gets to exercise a particular power of the state that has been usurped.

    Conservatives do not believe that the nature of man has changed since the United States was created. Do you?

  • Mike Bock

    Rick, my use of the term “phony debate” is based on the fact that I can’t shake the feeling that much of what happens in Washington is pure theater, that the figures on stage are basically reading from the same script. The question is, given the fact that our democracy has been bought and paid for: Who writes the script? I’m not saying that the decisions that come out of Washington have no consequence, quite the contrary, it is obvious there are deadly consequences, it just that the whole process is far from being “of the people.”

    I’d say we are a long way from understanding the nature of humanity, the nature of consciousness and Mind. I’m reading, as I posted here, the Ray Kurzweil book, “The Singularity Is Near.” It’s part of my research for the book I’ve declared I’m writing, “Kettering Public Education In The Year 2030.”

    Kurzweil predicts that within 35 years, as I write here, computers will be billions of times more intelligent than humans. The common objection to this prediction is a strongly held belief that there will always be a distinction between human intelligence and machine intelligence. If we assume that belief to be true, then it poses an interesting question: If the purpose of education is to increase human intelligence, then what is human “intelligence”? If human intelligence is not revealed by the skill of one’s chess playing, or the brilliance of one’s reply to “Jeopardy” type questions, then where is it revealed? If the point of education, a life long pursuit, is to develop human potential, then what does a fully developed human being look like? I think about this question here: “The Education Of John Adams”

    Kurzweil believes that it is possible to reverse engineer the brain to the point of ultimate understanding, and then to construct a computer that parallels brain functions while exceeding the computing power of the brain by many times. If we fully duplicate the human brain via a machine, then, according to how I understand Kurzweil, the machine will become conscious!

    This seems a horrifying prediction — it reduces humanity down to machines — but if machines can perfectly simulate every human mental state including simulating independent thought, then whether machines have “consciousness,” or not, is a moot point. They will appear to have consciousness, and they will appear to present themselves as both conscious and as billions of times more intelligent.

    My point in this post is that there is a battle over the meaning of who we are — on a profound level, it is a battle over what it means to be human. Interestingly the current power structure increasingly defines the role of humans in machine like terms — making the replacement of humans by machines more easily facilitated. I’m thinking, specifically, of the teaching profession. I write here: The Dumbing Down Of What It Means To Be A “Great Teacher” — Will Lead To Machines Replacing Teachers

    When we remember who we are — as a guide to advancing into the future — we need to know that our human nature is the same as our forefathers. We come from a long line of optimistic problem solvers, entrepreneurs, progressive and independent thinkers, bold engineers of social progress. It is that spirit of our founding fathers we should seek to emulate.

  • Rick

    Mike, we should also emulate the wisdom and caution of our founding fathers. They knew that a powerful government is a danger to freedom.

    Your statement, ” The right wing, however, fears democracy and seeks to suppress it — even as the founding fathers did” is pure bullshit. When liberal judges overturn state laws and even referenda, it is they who are suppressing democracy.

  • Ice Bandit

    ….it was Ben Franklin, dear Mike, who described democracy as “two foxes and a chicken debating what to have for lunch.” And the founders equated a democracy with mob rule and an apparatus for acquiring the wealth of others if it were popular to do so. So yeah, dear Mike, the founders were terrified of establishing a democracy, which they knew would result in plunder and failure. That’s why we have a Republic. Rick is correct about the possible financial apocalypse, though methinks he is wrong about it being two or three years away. The recent move by India to divest itself of dollars, the moves by the Saudis to replace the dollar as the currency of exchange for OPEC oil, and a Spender in Chief with a Paris Hilton at the Galleria mentality are all preamble to the upcoming collapse just months away if immediate steps are not taken. And good luck with trying to convince anyone that the founders were closet liberals, that First, Second and Tenth Amendments, which the left abhors, were put there for a reason……

  • Jeff Putman

    Calvin Coolidge addressed this question in Philadelphia on July 5, 1926 in his speech commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence:

    About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful.
    It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776,
    that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day,
    and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern.
    But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter.
    If all men are created equal, that is final.
    If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final.
    If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final.
    No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions.
    If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness,
    the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward
    toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people.
    Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary.
    Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.

    Much more of his speech can be seen at He had a lot to say about the idea that, if all are created equal, then no one has any right to rule over another.

    Today, the excuse is given, “We’re ruling over them for their own good!” To that I reply that justice may be defined as each person receiving the natural result of his own freely chosen actions. People, when left to themselves, will choose the actions that lead to the results they desire according to their own values. Some people are willing to work hard at a high-paying job. Others prefer a more relaxed lifestyle. Today’s government is bent on giving the results of some people’s actions to others. That is injustice.

    Bad principle cannot produce good results. Good principles have been discovered through thousands of years of experience with civilization. They were articulated in the Declaration. No new principle can be progress if it violates the ones already established. These principles are not just LIKE laws of nature, they ARE laws of nature! The Declaration itself says that people are entitled to their rights by “the laws of nature and nature’s God.”

    Another good article on this subject is “How Politicians Exploit People” at

    A biography of Calvin Coolidge can be found at:

  • Mike Bock

    Ice Bandit, you write, “The founders were terrified of establishing a democracy, which they knew would result in plunder and failure. That’s why we have a Republic.”

    If you go to the link provided by Jeff Putnam, you will see that Calvin Coolidge does not agree with your emphasis. Coolidge says ours is a “Democratic Republic.” If Coolidge in 1928 could assert that we are not simply a “Republic,” but a “Democratic Republic,” then it would seem a good term for us to use today. In that speech commemorating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Coolidge also made these comments:

    The just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed.

    The practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed.

    Sovereignty through divine right was displaced by sovereignty through the consent of the people.

    If there is any one thing among us that is established beyond question, it is self-government–the right of the people to rule.

    Ours is a government of the people.

    Jeff, about Calvin Coolidge, you write, “He had a lot to say about the idea that, if all are created equal, then no one has any right to rule over another.”

    But, obviously, Coolidge believed in the necessity of empowering a system of government with sufficient authority to rule. In a profound sense, yes, everyone is equal. But in order for humanity to live in peace and harmony, in order for a citizens within a nation to enjoy “liberty and justice,” even Coolidge affirmed that government, with power sufficient to rule, is a necessity.

    He said America’s democratic republic derives its “just powers from the consent of the governed.”

    Yes, the founding fathers thought that only male property owners should have the right to participate in the forming of the government. But, over the years, the right of participation has been greatly expanded. And yes, this has led to the reality of two foxes and a chicken voting for what they might have for lunch. Since sufficient voters agreed to give women the right to vote, today, women have that right. Since sufficient voters agreed to an income tax for the purpose of “soaking the rich,” and redistributing their wealth, then this big change in the founders’ original vision was established. If sufficient voters agree to the formation of a socialist state, then, according to Coolidge, this will be a logical outcome of creating a government “of the people.”

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>