The current conflict between the Left and the Right in America has gone from ideological debates over the meaning of a missing comma in the Second Amendment and who has the right to bear which arms, to a life and death struggle in our city streets. What we need now is a marketing campaign, not a struggle with guns, or using automobiles as terrorist implements of death and destruction. And the outlines of this campaign are straightforward:
1. The Right, especially the Alt-Right, has claimed for itself the cloak of “Original Intent.” This can be as benign as arguing that the Founders never intended the Constitution to protect as many rights as it now does, to arguing that the Founding Fathers intended America to remain a country of, by, and for Christian White Males like themselves.
2. They’re wrong, of course. But “Old Original” is a powerfully attractive slogan. Who would want to drink factory processed beer when you can get old original lager? Who would want factory bread when you can get old original fresh baked cracked wheat or old original San Francisco sourdough? Who would want to live in a university-elitist reprocessed American Republic when you can live in the old original America, under the old original Constitution?
3. But there are even more powerful advertising slogans available, and the Center-Left, Center, and Center- Right collectively have a much more legitimate claim to the best of those slogans. “New and Improved” absolutely crushes “Old Original” on the net! Of course. Who among us would want old original surgery, when we have the advantage of X-rays and MRIs for pre-surgery diagnostics, anesthetics for the operation, and antibiotics for post-op recovery? Who among us would elect for old original cancer treatment when we have the prospect of personalized immunotherapy? And who among us, really, would want to live in the old original America, when under the new and improved America we have a well-functioning social security system, we have a well-functioning legal system, we have FEMA to deal with emergencies and natural disasters, we have the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health, and we are the strongest and richest nation in the history of the planet? In my current home city of Philadelphia, Old Original Bookbinder’s restaurant has long vanished, to be replaced by a new generation of super chefs and restaurant entrepreneurs. Old Original Bookbinder’s is long gone, and its historic building is now operated as the Olde Bar by Jose Garces, one of city’s hottest young restaurateurs.
We will explore each of these three points in more detail, below.
1. The Alt-Right Has Claimed the Mantle of Old Original America
This requires very little amplification. Visit any of their websites.
2. They are Demonstrably Wrong
Yes, America began as a nation dominated by white Europeans, principally dominated by male Anglican, Calvinist, and Quaker Christians who originated in Britain. America was the first nation founded on the principle of freedom and equality. Yes, the Founding Fathers were all fathers, not mothers; it was a male dominated society. Yes, the Founding Fathers created a society where all whites were equal under the law. But the Founding Fathers’ role models for civil society looked a lot like themselves; in the decades before Commodore Perry’s Black Ships forcibly opened up Japan to the West, Europeans really could not point to a powerful, successful dynamic society that was not dominated by European Christians. The Founding Fathers’ genius was that they consciously and deliberately wrote both a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution that were based explicitly on the inalienable right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, and freedom of thought.
America was founded with principles that explicitly embraced freedom, and implicitly embraced freedom for far more people than the Christian British white males who drafted America’s defining documents. When Thomas Jefferson was tasked with drafting a bill ensuring religious tolerance in Virginia he refused, and instead drafted a bill ensuring religious freedom. This may sound like a small semantic distinction, but it is in fact an enormous difference. Jefferson’s bill was based on the principle that all religious beliefs were equivalent under the law; indeed, his bill provided not only freedom of religion but freedom from religion. The Virginia Statute For Religious Freedom is the forerunner of the First Amendment, guaranteeing religious freedom to all Americans. America was the first nation on earth whose Founding Fathers protected the rights of adherents of all religions, including the rights of Jews, Muslims, and atheists. The Founding Fathers’ intensions are difficult to assess with certainty, but they clearly did not believe that they were creating a nation for White Christian Europeans.
3. The Best Way for The Rest of Us to Defeat The Alt-Right is not to try to Teach Them History, But to Claim the Mantle of “New and Improved!”
The intellectual leaders of the Alt-Right clearly have no interest in rational discourse. Sean Hannity has no use for facts as the rest of us see them. Steve Bannon is not returning to Breitbart to oversee bipartisan discourse in a fair and impartial news medium. He is returning to lead Alt-Right Jihad:
“I’ve got my hands back on my weapons. I built a f***ing machine at Breitbart. And now I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do.”
He wants to return to his distorted view of the old original America and to advance his view at the expense of all of us who don’t belong here under his view. The rest of us need to find an articulate way to stress the obvious facts that the new and improved America is, clearly, a better place for all of us. It is a better place when we all treat each other with a modicum of civility, and modicum of compassion.
Anyone who doubts this should contemplate the fate of Houston if the rest of the nation were to decide that Hurricane Harvey was “Fake News” and a conspiracy, a “total hoax”, like the conspiracy theorists who argue that the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre was a total hoax. How would Texas fare now if President Trump argued in favor of old original small government, self-reliance, and private giving, instead of issuing a federal disaster declaration, making Houston and other coastal counties eligible for federal assistance? How would Houston fare now if Republican members of Congress, including both of Texas’s senators, attempt to impede disaster relief, as they did after Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy?
As a nation, we’re better than that.
And that is the message. Most of us want to live in the new and improved America, and not the old original one. The vast Centrist majority needs to win the marketing campaign against the Alt-Right.
 Yes, there is need for significant improvement. The hardships endured by American’s poor, like water crises that afflicted the impoverished residents of Flint Michigan, attest to that. The crises of abuse of police power in Ferguson and elsewhere attest to that. Voter suppression laws that persist throughout the United States even now attest to that. But none of these problems are likely to improve under the Alt-Right.