A New Age of a Common Man
My husband and I are eligible to become American citizens this year. We are to pay a hefty sum (between the lawyer and the government fees) and we have to be fingerprinted, and a test is to be administered in our knowledge of American government, legal system and culture. A nerd that I am, I started reading about the American history, the government and the legal system. I want to know all that I can about the country that will soon become my permanent home. Even though I have felt that this was my home for the past 18 years, there was always a small part of me that nagged at me, insisting that legally I am not an American without the full right to vote and become engaged in the local politics. I did not possess the blue/Eagle passport that would be the final symbol of my Americanism.
In my pursuit to learn all that I can about the American political system, I came across a documentary that spoke about Henry Wallace, former Vice President of America during Roosevelt’s presidency. I have admired our President Barack Obama in the past eight years because he embodied the American dream for me. His humility, his approachability, his calmness and persistence I came to admire, felt foreign as I’ve been studying the politics that have shaped the political path of this great country, so it was even more special. He was not an ordinary politician. His inexperience was one of the concerns that many of my Republican friends expressed when he was elected. He did not have the legislative experience to push his agenda in Congress (loosely translated this meant that he did not know how to strike deals and he did not have a wide circle of friends and allies to push the bills through complicated corridors of our government). Pushing the bills through Congress, I’m finding out, is like pushing a Sisyphean rock up a steep hill. It would eventually tumble down regardless how far ahead it was pushed. Founding Fathers imagined that the system would have many obstacles, this was intentional on their part, but as the government expanded this created a maze so complex that a regular citizen has a hard time participating in the law-making process. This is why a Common Man feels left out, and he is frustrated, tired and overworked.
America is considered to be a free country, a country of dreams, a country where you can be whatever you can dream up. Henry Wallace seemed to have understood that. He was Roosevelt's wingman, a common man, and a man who believed that all men are in fact equal. He was one of the most progressive Democrats of his time. He did not start out to be a Democrat, but as he worked with FDR, he changed his allegiance, as he believed the party represented his goals and his beliefs. He was wrong. Wallace had the support of the majority of the delegates during the 1944 Democratic convention, but the forces larger than the Common Man's desire to propel Wallace to a position of leadership crushed this possibility with deals that only politicians can make. Segregationist line of Democrats at the time rallied hard against Wallace who was famous for his "common man" speech and who was appalled by the worker's strikes in Detroit and by the hostility of the white worker force towards their fellow black workers.
He famously said : "We cannot plead for equality of opportunity for peoples everywhere and overlook the denial of the right to vote for millions of our own people. Every citizen of the United States without regard to color or creed, whether he resides where he was born or whether he has moved to a great defense center or to a fighting front, is entitled to cast his vote." (A speech delivered in Detroit on July 25, 1943. From Henry A. Wallace, Democracy Reborn (New York, 1944), edited by Russell Lord, p. 238.)
This is the same dilemma we are facing now. How can America be a leader in equality and democracy in the world and ignore the rights of its new base of citizens, citizens of different religions and colors, new immigrants and refugees who seek shelter here?
Wallace was a scientist and a farmer and had he been nominated for the Vice President that year we might not have thrown an atomic bomb in Japan. We might have avoided the cold war.These, of course, remain conjectures. Wallace reminds me of Mr. Sanders. Had he stayed on the Democratic ticket would Democrats have had a victory? We will never know.Henry Wallace, once a Republican turned Democrat is a forgotten hero of the American politics. He worked tirelessly to promote American freedoms domestically and abroad. He is my new political hero.
The question is how does a Common Man now become a part of the government that the Founding Fathers wanted him to be a part of? We are so far removed from the election process, and we have little power as to how the laws of this country are made. Except for the largely publicized issues, such as the abortion rights, gun ownership and apparently a universal healthcare, we see little of what happens in Washington, and this is why my fellow Americans have voted President Trump in. The change was so necessary that it came in a package of someone who stirs racial, religious and gender inequality waters with ease and through Twitter.
One article about a worker strike in upstate New York (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/24/union-strike-momentive-stephen-schwarzman-blackstone) talks about workers voting for Trump, even though the group that owned the shares of their company has close ties to Trump and is responsible for the job cuts. One of the workers commented that either option they were presented with on the presidential ticket (he was a Bernie supporter) was going to be bad for them, they did not have any hope that the change would happen, so at least they wanted to stir the system up by voting for Trump.
A lesson for the Democrats, they cannot longer ignore the common men in their progressive agenda. They must include the farmers and the factory workers to carry them through presidential elections in 2020 and the 2018 congressional elections. If they don’t do this, and they focus solely on the special interest groups close to the Wall Street and the large multi-billion dollar companies that seem to be making the laws now, they will continue to lose the elections. We will continue to see radical candidates popping up on the political scene trying to promote change, a change that 's hard to achieve given the complexity of the government and in the end will divide this country even further.
As for my husband and me, we will be making a step to gain citizenship and affiliate ourselves with a political party. We will participate in the elections and the political system on both national and local level because we will want a change that brings back American ideals to everyone. American ideals that will support to multicultural, multiracial and multi-religious America, because for better of for worse, that will be us.