John Halpin explains in his latest at The Liberal Patriot:
“Is it any wonder that the Democratic Party’s brand is in the toilet these days? Voters don’t have a clue what Democrats are talking about half the time but sense that it has little to do with them or their values.
Much of modern progressive-left discourse sounds like a dreary small group discussion in sociology class. “Systemic problem this” and “structural change that” with no clarity whatsoever about what is being discussed, why it matters, and why anyone should care. Contemporary progressive language often seems designed to alienate and confuse people rather than find shared priorities and connections across disparate groups….
According to Pew’s data, Americans draw ideas about what is right and wrong in the world from several sources—religion among them for one-third of Americans, along with common sense (45 percent), philosophy (11 percent), and science (9 percent).
American values rightly emerge from a nice blend of all these sources.
But rather than listen to another strange Democratic speech on systemic inequality or a 10-point plan about a complicated new social policy that few people understand, it would be nice occasionally if religious Democrats just said: “We believe everyone is equal in the eyes of God and under our Constitution. Our policies are motivated by a desire to secure the common good for the entire nation and equal dignity and rights for all people.”
What would a Democratic politics motivated by concern for the common good look like? As Ruy Teixeira and I outlined way back in 2006 in a report for The American Prospect entitled, “The Politics of Definition”:
“Securing the common good means putting the public interest above narrow self-interest and group demands; working to achieve social and economic conditions that benefit everyone; promoting a personal, governmental and corporate ethic of responsibility and service to others; creating a more open and honest governmental structure that relies upon an engaged and participatory citizenry; and doing more to meet our common responsibilities to aid the disadvantaged, protect our natural resources, and provide opportunities rather than burdens for future generations…
A primary goal of the government in this approach is to ensure basic fairness and opportunity: the civil, legal, and economic arrangements necessary to ensure every American has a real shot at his or her dreams. Common-good progressivism does not guarantee that everybody will be the same, think the same, or get the same material benefits in life; it simply means that people should start from a level playing field and have a reasonable chance at achieving success.
Internationally, common-good progressivism focuses on new and revitalized global leadership grounded in the integrated use of military, economic, and diplomatic power; the just use of force; global engagement; new institutions and networks to deal with intractable problems; and global equity. As in past battles against fascism and totalitarianism, common-good progressives today seek to fight global extremism by using a comprehensive national-security strategy that employs all our strengths for strategic and moral advantage. This requires true leadership and global cooperation rather than the dominant “my-way-or-the-highway” mentality…
Progressives should not forget that the common good is a powerful theme in the social teachings of many major faith traditions—Catholicism and mainline Protestantism, in particular, and in moderate evangelical and other denominations as well. The principle of the common good is drawn upon in these faiths to guide people towards more thoughtful consideration of their own actions in light of others; to compel political leaders and policymakers to consider the needs of the entire society; and to check unrestrained individualism that frequently erodes community sensibilities and values.
The goal of the common good in both the secular and faith traditions is a more balanced and considerate populace that seeks to provide the social and economic conditions necessary for all people to lead meaningful and dignified lives.”
These common good values, in turn, underlie Democrats’ efforts to advance affordable health care, support for the poor, family and environmental policies, and public investments. If Democrats lead with consensus values like these—religious or otherwise—then specific policies and messages will flow more naturally and persuasively for voters.”
The common good: it was a great idea then, it’s an even better idea now!