The Bare Minimum for Legitimacy

Ciro wrote:

As long as a fascist is President, I will stop pretending that the important conversation is how to help the middle class.

I was born and raised poor. The kind of poor that skips doctor visits, dental check-ups, school supplies, clothes, groceries, basic meals, safe spaces sans drug and alcohol abuse. I was regularly without child care as young as 8. I sheltered a mentally ill and homeless parent on my bedroom floor in my late teens and twenties while working minimum wage, dreaming of a way into college. I later lost that parent to his illness. The one that remains continues to suffer under crippling illness and abject poverty.

Neither trickle-down nor compassionate conservatism nor personal responsibility nor “liberty” nor middle-out economics did a thing to help me through these times. I called every public, private, and religious service in existence for help with my father to absolutely no avail. I myself survived only on the grace of some remarkable people that I continue to think of as heroes and saints.

We rarely talk about poverty in American politics except to say that it is a chronic, systemic problem that it is not pragmatic to consider, perhaps because the poor rarely vote. I have been stunned and saddened to see Democrats (Clintonian and otherwise) confidently dismiss “economics” as the fig leaf of misogynist Bernie bros and self-righteous white-boy radicals, even as it touches every group with a claim to the politics of identity. Going forward I will no longer tolerate this myopic view of what is possible or practical. There comes a point where “pragmatic” simply means whatever you can do without changing anything.

Everything must change. Outside the realm of traditional “third way” politics is another child who has fallen through the cracks. I will not leave that child behind. I will not accept a politics that insists nothing can be done for that child. If we can first rescue civilization from the folly of capitalist environmental destruction, we must then consider the least among us, before anyone else.

The core of my politics: Every person deserves a safe place to sleep, enough food to eat, basic medical care, and enough education to read, to add, and to understand the rights within our democracy’s basic legal and governmental framework. That’s not liberal or conservative. That’s basic morality. It’s the bare minimum that must belong to everyone, including people who won’t or can’t work and people who hate my guts. Any government that doesn’t prioritize guaranteeing these things is not a legitimate government. We’ve been illegitimate a long time. Enough is enough.

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