A false stereo­type of the left’s mo­tives

The Washington Post - - WASHINGTON FORUM -

In his Oct. 10 op-ed, “Amer­ica can rise above its griev­ances,” Michael Gerson re­peated a cliche that of­ten plagues The Post’s op-ed page. This is the false stereo­type of the “tenured class” on the left as cou­pling hon­est at­ten­tion to in­jus­tice in the Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence with a call for “the cleans­ing pu­rity of so­cial rev­o­lu­tion.”

In fact, many of us take our cues from Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt’s Sec­ond Bill of Rights speech. Roo­sevelt, a pro­gres­sive who sought to se­cure Amer­i­can cap­i­tal­ist democ­racy, not to re­pu­di­ate it, ar­gued that ba­sic uni­ver­sal eco­nomic se­cu­ri­ties of em­ploy­ment, de­cent pay and hous­ing, health care, nondis­crim­i­na­tion and ed­u­ca­tion are nec­es­sary to the claims of lib­erty, equal dig­nity and pur­suit of happiness ar­tic­u­lated in the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence.

Th­ese are pri­or­i­ties, not bro­mides — but sin­cere, ac­count­able, ur­gent pri­or­i­ties, on which the honor and de­cency of our democ­racy de­pend. In Roo­sevelt’s words: “Amer­ica’s own right­ful place in the world de­pends in large part upon how fully th­ese and sim­i­lar rights have been car­ried into prac­tice for our ci­ti­zens.”

Notwith­stand­ing our cur­rent pres­i­dent, there is im­por­tant room — on is­sues in­clud­ing health care, im­mi­gra­tion, mass in­car­cer­a­tion and more — for co­op­er­a­tive, sober, fac­tu­ally ac­count­able con­gres­sional ac­tion between Repub­li­cans and Democrats to­ward th­ese ends. Mr. Gerson’s in­vo­ca­tions of Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Pres­i­dent Barack Obama evinced this spirit of ac­count­able bi­par­ti­san en­gage­ment; oth­ers he un­justly car­i­ca­tures share this spirit, too.

Peter Lancelot Mal­lios, El­li­cott City

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