Listening to the news a few mornings ago, I learned that it’s the 50th anniversary of artist Marvin Gaye’s celebrated album and title song,“What’s Going On.” Like the earlier civil rights anthem “A Change Is Gonna Come,” by Sam Cooke, it’s as timeless and haunting as ever.
Listening to the news again that evening, I heard the differently haunting refrain of the Senate’s now-minority leader Mitch McConnell instructing his followers that their overriding objective is once again to prevent a lawfully, popularly elected Democratic president from reaching any of his goals.
Including those the now-minority lawmakers once declared in the nation’s best interest. And suddenly the equally unforgettable voice of political philosopher, commentator and debater William F. Buckley came back from the past saying, “A conservative is someone who stands athwart history yelling Stop!”
That may be an unfair generalization. After all, Republicans like Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Georgia Attorney General Brad Raffensperger, among others, recently risked their personal and political security to hold a renegade president accountable and enable an election to move forward to its legitimate end.
But it’s a shoe that fits too many lawmakers and other officials too often. For example, Governor Hogan, when he tries to block an education bill that would help level the playing field for all the state’s children, and when he stops short of including all his state’s residents in a potentially life-saving COVID-relief program. And it fits state and local officials who use the amendment process to weaken or nullify efforts to right the most flagrant of old wrongs: like the ability of biased, brutal, or corrupt police officers, sheriffs, and prosecutors to evade meaningful oversight and accountability; and the withholding of essential rights, protections and services from many socially and economically contributing minority community members.
By nature or nurture or who knows what else, Left and Right will probably never agree on priorities and principles. But if, after four years of incomparable excesses, indignities and indecencies on the part of an outlier president, we still can’t agree as a nation on our obligation to finally keep the promise implicit — in some places explicit — in our founding documents and Pledge of Allegiance (.. inalienable rights ... life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ... liberty and justice for all), then who and what are we really, and what in the world is still going on?