My training is as an historian—Yale PhD 1996—a scholar of the history of American foreign relations who believes that we can draw from our common past to build a shared future.
My favorite revolutionary among the framers of our Constitution is the Pennsylvania lawyer James Wilson. According to Wilson we—the American people—are “sovereigns without subjects.” This was—and is—a succinct way of stating the most basic ideal of the American Revolution. It took the Civil War, and the civil rights movement, to even begin to make this true for African-Americans. It took the suffragists, and the women’s rights movement generally, to even begin to make this true for women. And it took the organization of trade unions, and the labor movement generally, to even begin to keep this true for working people: to prevent the power of the state being used on behalf of corporations to make subjects of workers. In our own day, it will take a moral and political revolution to keep the 1% from making subjects of all the rest of us and destroying the promise of the American Revolution. And it will take repentance on the part of the American people to cease attempting to rule over the Indian nations as if they were in any way our subjects, or subject to our jurisdiction.
As a practical strategy, I think Democrats have to be focused on the programs and policies we advocate for the country rather than on being “not-Trump” or primarily focused on Trump’s abuses, grotesque and numerous as those abuses are. I enjoyed the incumbent Mike Quigley’s introducing his “Covfefe Act” as much as anyone, but whether people are cheering Trump or jeering at him, they are playing his game. And Quigley is a centrist—a Hillary Clinton supporter in the primaries and someone who hasn’t yet signed on to HR 676 (Medicare for All). Sameena Mustafa and Benjamin Wolf are running on more progressive platforms, but they have yet to offer the kind of broad historical vision of what the country needs that I have sought to articulate. None of them have championed the massive infrastructure investment, including a commitment to “decarbonize” our economy, which the economist Jeffrey Sachs has advocated, or have spoken up, as I have, for an updated version of A. Philip Randolph’s Freedom Budget.
America’s founding generation established a relationship between the sacred and the secular that enabled civic freedom to expand and flourish. They founded a civil religion that has grown over the centuries to include people of diverse faiths—and of no particular faith—as equal citizens and as worthy members of the body politic. If we are to deal successfully with the dystopias that now confront us, as a people and as a world, that civil religion must be reinvigorated and the moral foundations of our common life restored and renewed. I recently presented my view of what we should be seeking in a speech to the 144-year-old Chicago Literary Club on “America and the Kingdom” that can be downloaded here: America and the Kingdom (187 downloads)
The political fight that is now before us turns on the question of whether the United States will uphold the vision of the most progressive framers of the Constitution—that the American people as a whole are sovereign under an international moral and legal order that also guarantees other peoples, and ultimately every individual, their rights—or whether we will slip further back into something more like the Articles of Confederation and the “states’ rights” vision that the states have a right to bully those they consider inferior or, worse yet, into a new vision of a bullying federal government in which that government is answerable not to the American people but to the whims of a demagogue or to what Bernie Sanders refers to as “a handful of billionaires, their Super-PACs and their lobbyists.”
There was an essentially social democratic consensus in this country for a generation after the New Deal. I am running to help rebuild and improve that consensus and to help revivify the promise of the American Revolution with a new interfaith conception of the promise of the Kingdom of God, a conception that I hope will prove agreeable to secular folk and maybe even to some atheists as well as to believers.
We, the American people, are all in this together. As James Wilson wrote of the spirit behind American progress in 1790: “All will receive from each, and each will receive from all, mutual support and assistance: mutually supported and assisted, all may be carried to a degree of perfection hitherto unknown; perhaps, hitherto not believed.” We must rebuild the unwritten moral consensus on which our society rests and transform our politics and our economics to serve the common good rather than the 1%.
Here are my five top issues:
(with links to newsletters on each)
✔ Universal Health Care
✔ Massive Infrastructure Investment
✔ A Foreign Policy for Civility
✔ Respect for Tribal Sovereignty
✔ A Freedom Budget for the 21st Century
But there are many reasons to vote for social democratic leadership for the Illinois 5th District:
✔ Affordable Public College
✔ Montessori-style Pre-K for All
✔ Invest in Public K-12 Education
✔ Decarbonize Our Energy System
✔ Overturn Citizens United
✔ Guarantee Family/Medical Leave
✔ Raise The Minimum Wage to $15
✔ Support Union Organizing
✔ End the War on Drugs
✔ Restore Eisenhower Era Tax Rates
✔ Stop Endless Military Spending
✔ Support Civil Rights
✔ End Anti-LGBT Discrimination
✔ Expand Social Security
✔ Train the Police in De-escalation
✔ Demilitarize the Police
✔ Bust up the “Too Big to Fail”
✔ Welcome Refugees and Immigrants
✔ Support Planned Parenthood
The artwork above, “The Valley,” is a painting by Nick Fisher. It presents a hopeful view of a peaceful, prosperous, just, and ecologically-sound community.