The New Patriotism

Democrats should inspire America to a New Patriotism as the successor to the New Deal and the New Frontier.

This is the first of several columns counseling Democrats to call on Americans to inaugurate the next great era of patriotic renewal, reform and economic reconstruction.

Counselor, the new book by Ted Sorensen, offers both inspiration and a roadmap for how the best in our history have been able to guide us to a landslide for change and inspire a nation that is ready to return to true greatness.

In 531 pages of history and insight, Sorensen takes us side by side with John and Robert Kennedy when the world faced nuclear annihilation, the nation was challenged by bigotry, the Mercury Seven astronauts triumphed in space, the Peace Corps brought hope to the world, the first bricks in the Berlin Wall began to crack and leaders lifted our spirits with challenges, not promises.

Sorensen reminds us that these events were shaped by real people who achieve great things that occur at major moments in history and that we, like all generations, have it within our power to make that happen again.

When the phone rings at 3 a.m., as it often did for President Kennedy with Sorensen near his side, it is not about demeaning commercials written by political flacks. It is about presidents with great and noble aspirations, surrounded by advisers with experience and wisdom, appealing to the better angels of our nature and rallying the nation to a patriotism in which every American joins the cause.

The New Patriotism I suggest would challenge the enormous inequities of America under Bush. It is not patriotic for the top 1 percent of Americans to reap enormous wealth while 99 percent bear the burdens and endure the pain.

It is not patriotic when the sacrifice of America at war is borne by 1 percent while our troops suffer preventable deaths and wounds and those who have the most do nothing.

It is not patriotic for negligent or corrupt executives to reap tens of millions of dollars of wealth while mismanaging financial institutions, creating a foreclosure crisis, outsourcing jobs, firing workers and destroying benefits for those who work loyally and well.

It is not patriotic for super-wealthy speculators to drive up the price of oil, gasoline and food, which causes hardship for Americans and worsens mass starvation around the world, thereby eroding our values and jeopardizing our security.

It is not patriotic to have perpetual epidemics of fraud, corruption and war-profiteering while more American children are homeless, our roads and bridges fall apart, our infant mortality rises, our life expectancy falls, our influence around the world wanes, our schools suffer and our children are poisoned by foreign toys.

It is not patriotic when unwise leaders make us dependent on foreign debt, addicted to foreign oil from unfriendly nations, and defenseless in foreign trade while politicians drown in money from registered foreign agents.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) cannot compete against the New Patriotism. He summons Americans to war while summoning the privileged to tax cuts. He refuses to ask for shared sacrifice. He opposes adequate benefits for our veterans. He fails to stand up for our workers with policies frozen in the ice of indifference and ideology of the old politics, which the New Patriotism will leave behind.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then-chief deputy whip of the House. He serves on the Advisory Council of the Intelligence Summit and as contributing editor of Fighting Dems News Service. He can be read on The Hill Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.