John Glenn, one of America’s heroes of the 20th Century, died last Thursday at age 95. Glenn was a highly decorated Marine Corps fighter pilot in both World War II and the Korean War, rising to the level of Colonel. Then, as immortalized in the book and movie “The Right Stuff,” Glenn was chosen as one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts, where he became the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. Glenn went on to serve four terms as a U.S. Senator from Ohio, and he even returned to space at age 77, the oldest person ever to do so. In between, Glenn ran for president in the 1984 Democratic Party primaries.
What do all of John Glenn’s heroic accomplishments have in common? They were all done as part of the U.S. Government.
Just as Donald Trump makes one Cabinet pick after another of anti-government ideologues, John Glenn’s service to America is a great reminder of what we call “Good Government.” Conservatives, from Ronald Reagan to the folks at Fox News and Breitbart.com, have cultivated the myth that government is evil. Donald Trump, just like Reagan before him, is picking idologues to head government agencies which those people seek to attack and dismantle. These Trump picks include, for instance, Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, when DeVos has been an enemy of public education and favors the conservative method of vouchers & privatization, and Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma Attorney General who spends his time suing the EPA to deny climate change, as EPA Administrator.
What the anti-government folks fail to mention, however, is that the choice isn’t more government versus freedom. It’s Good Government versus corporations. If we don’t have government providing sensible rules and regulations (either from Congress or other officials subject to the will of the people via elections), whether in the areas of health, safety, air and water quality or financial fairness, then we have unaccountable corporations run amok. We tried that method in 1929 and 2008 under conservative Republican rule, and the results were disastrous for America. Moreover, historic U.S. victories such as World War II and landing the first man on the Moon, of which John Glenn played an important early part, are the ultimate example of the government directing and coordinating large-scale activities that could not be undertaken by corporations alone. At the same time, corporations are heavily involved in these activities, and they earn lucrative contracts involving huge numbers of jobs. It’s not an either-or situation.
It is also important to note that Hillary Clinton, an advocate of Good Government, won the 2016 election by over 2.7 million popular votes. Additionally, given the new revelations coming in about Russian interference in the election, which may have taken the electoral vote away from Clinton, it’s fair to say that Donald Trump’s anti-government vision is not the prevailing view in the United States.
Rather, whether it’s Social Security, Medicare (including even a “Medicare-for-all” federally funded healthcare plan), clean energy, marriage equality or defending the U.S. against its enemies, an area where John Glenn excelled, Americans believe in the power of Good Government.
Photo by 1950sUnlimited, used under Creative Commons license. https://is.gd/ixaeo8