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Living the dream ... or living IN a dream

Ken Wolf
Ken Wolf

It is not unusual to hear the phrase “living the dream.” For over a generation it has generally meant that someone was living their imagined best life. It has also been used to refer to the American Dream, which is the idea that all who work hard in America can prosper and live the “good life,” usually understood to mean personal freedom and economic success.

Part of that American dream included the idea of living in a democracy marked by government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” a famous phrase in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address that I memorized in grade school.

That American dream of freedom and of opportunity for all to “achieve more than their parents” is under assault in the United States. Those responsible are not just Trumplicans, but also to some degree members of both major political parties.

Too many of today’s leaders have replaced Living the Dream with Living IN a Dream. Allow me to begin with Republicans, since more of them seem to live in this dream world.

Republicans live in a dream world:

  • When they really think that storms, fires, and floods caused by climate change will become manageable once we elect more Republicans and stop “reckless” Democratic plans to slow carbon-dioxide pollution of the environment;
  • When they really think that ending the right to safe and legal abortions will make America a less sinful nation, but then ignore the continual, widespread lying about the results of the 2020 election. Lying, like murder, also weakens the moral fiber of our nation; both are included in the ten commandments;
  • When they really think that the political polarization they have encouraged since the 1990s, when Newt Gingrich told his fellow Republicans to consider Democrats enemies instead of opponents, will end once they control the agencies and levers of power in Washington;
  • When they really think that suppressing the votes of people who might disagree with them will be a successful tactic for keeping power. How do they imagine people will “assemble peacefully and petition their government” for redress of grievances once the ballot box is no longer an option for promoting change or even expressing disagreement with politicians and policies?

Republicans, however, don’t live in this fantasy world all by themselves.

Consider this: An article in The New Republic, a liberal magazine, discussed the inability of Democrats in the Senate to pass legislation which would have protected voting rights. The author ended the piece by saying that, even though Republican bias would dominate “the Senate and the Electoral College for many, many years to come … (Democrats) should continue building public support for the provisions of the For the People Act anyway.”

Democrats live in a dream world:

  • When they believe that they have time to slowly “build public support” to thwart Republican assaults on our democratic republic. How can Democrats “build support” for “democratic reforms” in legislatures controlled by Republicans;
  • When they claim success by winning the presidency and (barely) the Senate, and spend far less money on Congressional, state, and even local races. The troubles facing the Biden administration should have convinced them that the White House is not enough;
  • when they fail to recognize that Democrats cannot best Republicans in soliciting big money from wealthy Wall Street one-percenters. Instead, Dems should return to policies that demonstrate, in word and deed, public, authentic concern for all the poor and middle-class voters that supported Trump;
  • When they seem unable to find enough leaders able to speak with clarity, conviction, and genuine understanding about the systemic racism and poverty afflicting the poor they claim to represent.

We live in a world in which many Republicans and their “base” supporters have abandoned democracy, tried to steal the 2020 election, and plan to win in 2022 and 2024, by “hook or crook.”

If Democrats don’t come out of their dream world and take this threat seriously, instead of living the American Dream, we will all be living in a nightmare. Think about that the next time you vote!

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Ken Wolf

Ken Wolf spent 40 years teaching European and World History, punctuated by several administrative chores, at Murray State University, retiring in 2008. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)


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