The social justice majority

The current debate is flawed for another reason: It persistently exaggerates how divided we are. Of course there are vast cultural differences across our nation. It’s not just a cliche that the worldview of a white evangelical Christian in Mississippi is quite distant from the outlook of a secularist on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. African Americans, Latinos, Asians and whites can offer rather diverse interpretations of the meaning of our national story.

But on core questions involving social justice, we are far more united than our politics permit us to be. A survey released at the end of December by Hart Research, a Democratic polling firm, found that Americans supported extending unemployment insurance by a margin of 55 percent to 34 percent. Several recent surveys, including a Fox News poll, found that about two-thirds of Americans support an increase in the minimum wage.

This leads to two conclusions. The first is that most Americans broadly accept the New Deal consensus. We may disagree about this or that regulation or spending program. We may squabble over exactly how our approaches to policy should be updated for a new century. But there is far more agreement among the American people than there is among Washington lobbies, members of Congress or political commentators on the core proposition that government should help us through rough patches and guarantee a certain level of economic fairness.