The Politics of Poverty

Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America's policy experts

In 2020, Dignity for All means everyone deserves a seat at the table

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dignity for all elections Maria Rodriguez and her daughter Noemi, 11, at home in Honduras. Photo: Eleanor Farmer

We can solve America’s gravest challenges if we commit to seeing and reaching beyond our borders.

Every day, we see the fate of people around the world affected by how their governments respond to an essential set of questions. Who matters? Whose voice is heard and whose is dismissed? Who is part of the nation and who is the “other?”

The answers matter because they influence the human pursuit of a dignified life: from satisfying basic needs of food, water, and shelter, to more universal aspirations like the chance to earn a living wage, enjoy a sense of community, and live on a clean and healthy planet.

Our American story has long been a struggle over who deserves the fruits and privileges of such an endeavor. But some of our most formative moments—the abolition of slavery, the establishment of universal suffrage, the promotion of racial equality, and the recognition of LGBTQ rights—all pushed the circle of “us” outward.

As we approach the US presidential election in 2020, the durability of that trajectory—however slow and winding—has been thrust into question. But our ability to solve America’s gravest challenges—from climate change and economic inequality to gender inequality and the global refugee crisis—hinges upon its very survival.

Why dignity for all matters

What alarms us about the time we live in is not simply that the US is bitterly divided. Such divisions go back to our founding and have been a feature—not a bug—of our democracy.

It is that we have returned to a shameful debate over who deserves to be seen and treated with respect, notwithstanding the inherent dignity of all human beings. That, perhaps more than any one issue, is what is at stake in the coming elections.

With that in mind, we have a proposition for the next President: Dignity for All. That means that no matter where or how you live in this world—no matter your gender, your nationality, your ethnicity, or your wealth—we all deserve to be treated equally, with dignity and compassion.

We all matter—and we all need to be at the table to solve what ails us.

Our vision for change

America’s policies and rhetoric should reflect that essential truth. Oxfam’s Dignity for All policy platform lays out 21 commitments for presidential candidates to make under five main pillars of our comprehensive vision to solve America’s greatest challenges.

  • The climate solutions we offer address impacts on all of us, but mostly the poorest and most vulnerable. Failing to address climate change is a direct threat to their lives and rights.
  • Our gender equality actions push back against the global assault on the rights of women and gender-diverse people.
  • Our proposals on inequality and inclusion ensure that wealth and power are fairly distributed instead of concentrated in the hands of a few privileged individuals and corporations.
  • We are standing up for migrants and refugees. As much as any other group, their dignity has been repeatedly denied by US government policy.
  • And finally, we will confront policies and rhetoric built on the premise that American progress must come at the expense of families and communities abroad. Whether on human rights, trade, or global efforts to fight poverty and disease, we expect the next President, whoever they are, to understand that a better, safer world is possible by working collaboratively with others. Americans are better off when we work with others to build it.

Expanding the circle of “us”

These problems are only getting bigger, but they are challenges we can solve if we commit to seeing and reaching beyond our borders. These commitments are the foundation of our Dignity for All campaign, but they represent a jumping-off point, not a conclusion.

We know that over the course of the presidential campaign, other key issues will arise in these areas that are critical to progress toward our agenda. We are confident that we can rise to the moment. America’s greatest challenges are the same ones people face all around the world—challenges that we see communities overcome little by little every day.

They do it in ways that should be familiar to us, reaching across boundaries to reinforce what we have in common, expanding the circle of “us,” rejecting attempts to divide us, and proudly proclaiming Dignity for All.

Read our policy platform.

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