Democrats seeking the greater good

by Jo Boykin

In his 1961 inaugural speech John Kennedy said, ‘“Ask not what your country can do for you ‘— ask what you can do for your country.’”

These days politics has all but abandoned the belief in a greater good and of government helping those in need. It could be argued that we as a nation have lost our moral compass. This shift towards single-issue government, catering to interest groups and the age of no sacrifice has resulted in the current Republican Party power bloat and its implosion, as well as the Democratic paralysis.

This emphasis on individuality and self-involvement has weakened America and her people. We are more divided than ever, even though statistics show we really do believe in the same things. Only one in six people believe abortion should be illegal and the vast majority believe it should be legal in most cases. An overwhelming majority believes in the right to own weapons, but four in five want modest restraints on handguns. When asked if same-sex behavior for gays and lesbians is acceptable, a majority responds affirmatively. About half of Americans support life without parole and only one third believe the death penalty deters crime.

The Democratic Party is in a position to take control of Congress in the midterm elections. Americans are tired of the Republican scandals, cronyism and lawlessness. People, not just Democrats, are looking for a new direction, which will come in the form of not just new policies, cleaner government and accountability, but equality, justice and yes, a sense of common interests ‘— in essence, a return to what was best about the Democratic Party to begin with.

The argument for the greater good can be easily linked to core economic issues: the need to deal with our environment and global warming, our energy independence, the gap between those who are able to run from a hurricane and those who are not. If Democratic leaders talk in terms of communal sacrifice where everyone has not only a stake and a share, but also a moral duty, their proposals take on a different angle.

Ultimately, talk isn’t all Democratic leadership must do. They must decide what actions they’ll take once the rhetoric has won them elections. But the policy of the greater good is in itself the ideal of American leadership and government, based on the faith that the Constitutional fathers had in the American populace ‘— that we are decent, moral people who care about our neighbors and want to help those in need. When we are faced with a shared problem, Katrina or 9/11, or even someone else’s need, such as the Asian tsunami, the best in America shines and becomes the greater good itself.

In a speech in 1978, Jimmy Carter said, ‘“A country will have authority and influence because of moral factors, not its military strength; because it can be humble and not blatant and arrogant; because our people and our country want to serve others and not dominate others. And a nation without morality will soon lose its influence around the world.’”

Sounds almost prophetic to me.

Jo Boykin is a graphic artist living in Greensboro.