Politico reported yesterday that if Mitt Romney runs for president again he will make poverty one of the three pillars of his campaign (the middle class and foreign policy being the other two.) Ohio’s re-elected Republican Governor John Kasich said that in his second term he would renew his call to help “people in the shadows”. Jeb Bush is talking about income inequality and those who believe “the American dream is now out of their reach.”
The media will view all of this as political positioning. Democrats will reflexively find fault. Many of my anti-hunger colleagues will be cynical and dismissive. But this is a moment in time too important to treat casually or caustically.
If the first responsibility of anti-poverty and anti-hunger advocates is to the poor and struggling Americans we exist to serve, then we have a responsibility to seize this moment and treat it anew.
We should be reaching out to national Republican leaders and sharing with them what their statehouse colleagues like Governor Sandoval in Nevada or Governor Snyder in Michigan have done to promote increased school breakfast participation. We should be generous in sharing advice and policy ideas for programs that work. Most of all we should be listening with open hearts and open minds to see if there is an authentic opportunity to work together.
While we know there will be deep disagreements about the best means to the end, the fact that there is an emerging consensus to treat poverty and inequality as a national priority is a huge step forward. If a new door is opening, even if only a crack, who knows what kind of breeze might blow through?
We may someday soon look back on this as nothing more than lip service. But even lip service about poverty has been all too lacking. At least for this week, Governors Romney, Kasich and Bush are giving voice to something other than politics-as-usual. Let’s makes sure that we do too.