On this Thanksgiving day it would be useful to think about the opportunities all Americans have to achieve the impossible and succeed in this country. The idea boils down to an ideal which defines the United States: equal opportunity. In this country it is still possible to make it big and, even if you don’t, to make yourself better off and hope that future generations can do one better.
With President Obama’s reelection, I would argue that the majority of the country that voted for him believes that he is better suited to preserve the ideal of equal opportunity. The argument flies in the face of conservatives such as Governor Romney and Rush Limbaugh, who argue that President Obama won only because he showered different slices of electorate with different gifts. Their list is probably a long one, but here are a few examples. Women with insurance win free access to contraceptives and Planned Parenthood lives to see another day. The LGBT community got a President that supports gay marriage and a President that repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Environmentalists get a President who believes in global warming and is working to improve gas mileage and reduce coal emissions, and the poor get a President that won’t cut food stamps.
Yet it is these very “gifts” that embrace the ideal of equal opportunity and make the American dream live on. With family planning women can pursue their opportunities and live their lives on their own terms. Gays do not have to fear recrimination for the simple act of wanting to serve their country or working at a workplace that doesn’t support their lifestyle. Future generations do not have to pay the price for a warming planet if we take responsibility for our actions now. And those who depend on food stamps are not forsaken and in better economic times, can move up the economic ladder.
Perhaps the ideal of equal opportunity is slightly expanding–Obamacare will indeed require that most Americans get insurance. But then again, the legislation means that an uninsured family’s first and last line of defense isn’t the emergency room. Even Governor Romney supported an individual mandate (until Candidate Romney didn’t).
The point is that President Obama didn’t shower the electorate with gifts so much as President Obama’s policies guarantee that the American ideal of equal opportunity lives to see another day. And until rightwing pundits and candidates alike realize that they are undermining rather than supporting the American ideal, then they will be in the minority for a long time to come.