America demands good-faith public service

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Then Vice President Joe Biden receives a briefing by Bob Fenton, Assistant Administrator for Disaster Response, FEMA on the impact of Hurricane Sandy and the ongoing recovery process at the Seaside Heights Volunteer Fire Department in Seaside Heights, N.J., Nov. 15, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

The United States has just pulled off an amazing and historic feat: In the middle of a devastating pandemic, as infectiondeath and hardship ravage the country, and amid a nonstop firestorm of disinformation, the people of the United States have held a free and fair election, with record numbers of votes cast, and no evidence of fraud found anywhere. Facing real personal risk and uncertainty about new voting processes, we have acted to keep the republic.

This was an accomplishment of the whole of American society: Despite the challenges — and the coordinated attempts at election interference from a sitting president and his allies — a record number of Americans voted, and the election was not only free and fair, but the most secure in history.

While the votes are still being counted, at least 78.5 million people have chosen Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to lead the nation out of this time of crisis. That is 9 million more than Barack Obama’s all-time record national popular vote in 2008. It is also the most votes cast for any candidate in any democratic society in history (outside of India, the world’s most populous democracy).

The 2020 US Presidential election was a clear demand for good faith in politics and public service. Trump may be “the devil we know”, but Biden has served the nation with honor and distinction for 47 years; he is the tested public servant we know never to be a devil. He is the emblem and example of good faith governance.

It is not unreasonable to say, after decades of watching it happen in plain public view, that ideological extremists driven by their own self interests have sought to undermine the quality of governance in the US, to discredit public institutions, to pirate their funding and “drown [government] in a bathtub” — as one of the movement’s leaders notoriously said. This campaign of sabotage, steadily worsening income inequality, and stagnating social mobility, are the most visible and persistent drivers of America’s crisis of trust.

The right to good quality education, for instance, is not radical socialism; it is a fundamental right of all people and a basic need for a self-governing society. We are all less free and less well-served if many or most of our compatriots are deprived of the ability to distinguish truth from lie or make good moral judgments based on evidence.

  • If you are a conservative Republican who favors small government and local decision-making, you should be a champion of well-funded high-quality public education.
  • The idea that you should not is not a conservative idea; it is part of a campaign of advocacy against your values and your rights.
  • Americans of all political persuasions want their kids to have the best possible education, and want their kids to grow up in a society that will treat them with dignity and respect, and recognize and protect their rights and freedoms.

It is not a partisan question whether innocent people should be protected from harm imposed by unaccountable elites. It is the core of American democracy that all human beings enjoy a natural right to be protected from needless harm, to remain free from tyranny and abuse, and to counter it with the full force of law, wherever it occurs.

The time of Trump has been a time of impunity — where the organizing principle of the highest offices in the land was that powerful interests should be allowed to abuse ordinary people and suffer little to no consequence. Authoritarian actions by agency heads looking to undermine protections of human and environmental health, or basic rights, will be investigated for years. Some may well constitute serious crimes.

Sadly, for many Americans, the general instability of their own situation appears to create a desire to see “their side” escape responsibility. (Note: 78% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck before the pandemic.) This explains, in part, why so many people who are most gravely harmed by Trump’s abuses still supported him.

But this dynamic is not set in stone. People don’t need to live every day vulnerable to the worst abuses in our political or economic systems. The status quo is not inevitable. As Vice President-elect Harris has said, “every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity and respect.”

Charles Koch now recognizes that the hyper-partisanship of the network of institutions he and his brother created and funded as led to a terrible, nightmarish “mess”. This matters mainly because it is a recognition that the math was always wrong: You don’t get better conditions for enterprise by rigging the system against accountability. You get better conditions for enterprise by requiring everyone to live up to basic standards, be accountable for their decisions, and compete to improve.

That is exactly the kind of common sense approach to rebuilding Main Street economies that the Biden-Harris administration was elected to enact.

  • Good faith enterprise means you don’t generate preventable deaths, then try to get away with it.
  • Good faith politics means you don’t help your friends create grave risks to everyone else, then remove the safeguards that protect the innocent.
  • Good faith governance means you don’t talk about freedom and then act to serve impunity.

After four years of bad faith, corruption, and impunity, the American people have voted overwhelmingly for a new direction: good faith governance, working in service of all of the people, founded on the principle that America should “lead by the power of our example,” as President-elect Biden says.

——

Originally published on Medium.

Respond to America demands good-faith public service

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