Throughout history, liberals have always had to drag our conservative counterparts into the future, like parents dragging their stubborn children to nap time.
Rebellion from monarchy, establishment of the United States, ending slavery, votes for black men, end of child labor, votes for women, pants for women, 40-hour work week, end of Jim Crow, Roe v. Wade, end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum. As society matures, policies necessarily liberalize. And like stubborn children, conservatives have always used the same tired arguments for the status quo, kicking and screaming the whole way. But please don’t mistake this for a simple, Fox Newsian, name-calling metaphor because at this particular moment in history, nap time in political terms is critical, and we will drag conservatives to it.
We have reached a point in global society in which we can no longer afford to keep things the way they are. In no particular order, here is an abbreviated list of the critical problems conservatives in this country continue to ignore:
• Population dynamics are changing: Our society is aging, Americans are having fewer babies, and boomers are reaching retirement. What’s the problem? More retirees means that the social services we continue to cut will be strained to the breaking point, that there are fewer workers than we need to replace the retiring workforce, and that immigrants will become our only source of fresh, young workers.
• The income gap is widening: The rich are getting richer and the poor are growing in number. What’s the problem? Perpetuating this plutocratic society in which the wealthiest 1% of Americans own more wealth than the bottom 95% combined is unstable at best and undemocratic by any definition. Perpetuating the myth that TeShaun Brown, son of a single mother on welfare from Southside Chicago, has the exact same chance in life as Donald Trump’s kid exacerbates this problem.
• Our environment is in peril: We are facing critical water shortages, a solid waste problem in which we generate an unsustainable amount of waste given current landfill capacity, unsustainable energy consumption, outdated energy production, and climate change. What’s the problem? Continuing to debate objectively verifiable evidence because it’s inconvenient to do so is only making matters worse, and worse still as the years tick by.
• Health care costs are rising: In part because we have a rapidly aging society, in part because we have such poor nutrition, and in part because our system is privatized, the United States pays more per capita for health care than any other industrialized nation in the world. What’s the problem? The number of uninsured (myself included) is growing, health care costs are out of control, and more people are facing the choice between food and medicine.
• Globalization is a fact: It does us no good to continue to insist that the US is somehow exceptional or separate from the rest of the world. A global economy has changed all that, and we are now, as everyone else, citizens of the world. What’s the problem? We continue to enact policies that do harm overseas (the farm bill, loose economic regulations, loose environmental policies, etc.), and soon we may find ourselves being sanctioned.
• Our tax system is out of touch with reality: We tax individuals, but not wealthy ones. We tax businesses, but not the largest ones. What’s the problem? We’re running a government that spends more than it generates in a society that cannot afford more spending cuts to our already emaciated social programs. Unless we overhaul the tax code and create a fair tax where everyone puts in his or her fair share, we will continue to operate in the red until we can’t operate any longer.
• Education is not up to snuff: Academic achievement in the US falls behind other industrialized nations, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math. Furthermore, students leaving high school are less and less prepared for university or the work force, and we continue to put public education on the chopping block when we cut spending. What’s the problem? We’re only cheating ourselves by creating a less educated society. How will we stay in a community of industrialized nations if we do not have the same access to education?
• Our infrastructure is crumbling: Experts estimate that more than $1 trillion needs to be spent to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, levees, dams, and other critical infrastructure. And yet investment levels are far shy of that mark. What’s the problem? We can not support current population levels with crumbling infrastructure. And don’t even get me started on how far we lag behind other nations in high speed rail.
These are but a few of the myriad challenges we face as a nation. These are but a few of the issues we must tackle now if we want to continue to be a great United States. This is why we cannot afford to elect another tea bagger, another Republican president, another 24 years of Mitch McConnell and his ilk.
We need liberals to drag the status quo conservatives into the future by the hair. In the end, they’ll thank us for it. They always do.