“Americans [are] united on a slew of issues, despite [the] contentious election season,” wrote Politico about new polling data out last week from Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights and Institute of Politics.
“Americans are fed up with polarization,” declared The Boston Globe.
The big takeaway: The public overwhelming supports the need to protect our most important public goods and that we need government to do it.
Ninety-three percent of Americans consider the right to clean air and water important. Ninety-two percent feel that way about a quality education. Eighty-seven percent agree that the government has a responsibility to protect the lives, livelihoods, and rights of all Americans.
Those percentages are astounding. And inspiring.
Corporate figures, right-wing organizations, and conservative politicians have been waging war on the idea of public for decades. Attacking government, perhaps more than any other idea or issue, has unified right-wing forces, from white supremacists to the religious right.
And yet a vast majority of Americans believe that the government is responsible for making life better for everyone.
That’s even with the Trump administration dismantling public institutions, gutting the rights of working people, cutting corporate taxes, and slashing regulations. Which is probably why more than two-thirds also agree that “I feel like the government doesn’t represent the America that I love.”
Still, the makings are there for what we called for earlier this year when we tweaked our mission. We need a “pro-public” movement that can effectively compete to govern in a way that puts public over private and creates public institutions that deliver on that promise.
If 2020 has revealed anything, it’s that public goods—like public health, water, and public safety—must be adequately funded and publicly controlled. And we need to make sure those public goods are available to all of us, whether we’re white, Black, or brown; whether we’re native or a newcomer.
These are dark times, for sure. But we’re less divided about the role of government in American life than corporate leaders and right-wing politicians would have you think.