On Wednesday, we marked Independence Day with readings and parades, community outings and family barbecues. Patriotic speeches, articles and email messages declared loyalty, commitment and pride.
Of course, it was independence that needed to be declared two-hundred-thirty-six years ago, when it had become "necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another."
Those words got me thinking about some other people who I'd like to see dissolve political bands of their own.
Let's start with Mitt Romney. It's been another awkward week for the GOP hopeful as he continues to run from his signature achievement as Governor of Massachusetts: a mandate-based health plan that became a model for Obamacare. After a few fumbling days, he's decided to call the Affordable Care Act's mandate a "tax" - because that's what the anti-investment, anti-healthcare conservative machine has told him to do.
Wouldn't it be great if Romney declared independence from the right-wingers who run his party? I don't mean he needs to distance himself from Republicans. But there are the conservatives who said they'd leave America if the Court upheld healthcare (unclear what industrialized nation they could find that doesn't have more sweeping universal health policy). There are the activists who still call it socialism, who still trot out "death panels," who talk about taking up arms in revolt. There are the pundits who question John Roberts' mental condition for changing his mind.
Wouldn't it be impressive if Romney dissolved the political bands that connect him to that crooked branch of the GOP tree? Then he stand in favor of a policy he himself had championed in Massachusetts. He could apply his management consulting skills to suggesting ways of strengthening, not shattering, healthcare in America. He could show some sympathy for the tens of millions of Americans who are already being helped under this act.
Somehow, that seems unlikely. But as long as we're making our wish-list...
I want to see Republican candidates declare their independence from Super PAC billionaires who are preparing to flood our elections with money to an unprecedented degree. But it's tough to declare independence when you are dependent.
On the other side of the aisle, I want Democrats in DC declare themselves independent from the coal and oil lobbies and propose an ambitious energy policy that looks beyond fracking deeper and piping further.
I want candidates of both parties across the country to declare their independence from conservative, narrow thinking that tells them to be deficit hawks and trickle-down enthusiasts, and I want them to think big about how our country builds an infrastructure that remains the envy of the world.
And I want President Obama to declare his own independence from the bankers who have played too much a role in shaping his economic policy and bankrolling his campaign - and whose greedy and powerful institutions should confront a list of grievances and indictments as long as any that was sent to King George.
Much of the lethargy that bogs down our political leaders and limits their imaginations comes from their political ties -- to institutions that are broken, conventional wisdom that has failed, and lobbying forces not looking out for the common good. But just because you have those ties doesn't mean you need to be tied up in them -- we've dissolved these bands before and can do it again.