Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What Being a Liberal Means to Me

The pundits are proclaiming the death of Liberalism and the triumph of the anti-intellectual Tea Partiers.   First let’s dismiss all that simplistic talk and get to what the 2010 mid-term election really told us.  Those elections told us that political parties have lost their meaning and their appeal to the voters.  Voters today respond to the candidates brand and not to the parties’.  How, otherwise do we explain the victory of anyone when the approval ratings of the two major parties are at historic lows.  In three-way races the major parties even managed to run third (Alaska Senate, R.I. Governor, and Florida Senate). 
Voters want concise answers to problems, and maybe not even answers just belief that the candidate they are voting for cares about the problem.  People want leaders who lead and they respect  firm action more than nuanced ideas.

I am a Liberal and a Democrat.  I always have been and nothing occurring these days has given me reason to change. But, unless Liberals change their way of relating to voters, and their actions when they win, this country will remain a nation prone to the right wing, which it has been since 1968.

The first thing Liberals have to do is to stop running away from the word LIBERAL.  Franklin Roosevelt rarely made a speech without using the L-word; now Democrats and Progressives do.  Little wonder that Liberal comes in third after Conservative and Moderate in most polls because we have allowed the denigration of a word proudly used by Jefferson, Lincoln and FDR.  We have allowed a generation of voters who grew up during the Reagan years to be clueless as to what the word and its’ values mean.   Liberals  have to reclaim those values and repeat them clearly and with the clarity of a bumper strip not a college lecture.

We Liberals need to be outspoken in our opposition to the Afghan war. – not only on fiscal grounds but on moral grounds.  We can lead the world by the example of our ideas (we do) not the force of our arms.  And we can fight terrorism without the incredibly expensive military budget that we needed to face down Communism.

We need to be assertive in our belief that the best thing we can do to create jobs is to invest in our country by rebuildng our infrastructure -our roads and facilities; and increase our middle class citizens’ access to higher education.  Liberals should find ways to alleviate the plight of our graduate students who face years of debt (so they can’t afford to buy homes if they could get the mortgages that the banks don’t give because they are too busy foreclosing on existing ones)    Liberals have never been the apologists for banks. When the current incarnation of the national Democratic Party began in 1832 we abolished the Bank of the US and under Wilson and FDR we reined them in - now we bail them out and let them not lend to small businesses.  So Liberals have two options: crack down on the banks or have the federal gov’t lend directly to small businesses.

Liberals shouldn’t be negotiating with themselves and business men to come up with complicated ideas like cap and trade so big business can make money for its’ CEO’s when firm and tough regulations can do the job.

And when Liberals get elected they need to take a page from the right wing book.  Use terms people can relate to.  Leaving Afghanistan is Putting America First.  Repealing DADT is Letting Every Patriot Serve.  We shouldn’t leave cute double speak to Rove and Bush.

Liberals need to be proud of their history, simplify their message and their agenda, stand up for government programs that work and improve the quality of life of our people.

I’m a Liberal.  That doesn’t mean I don’t share some conservative views on issues; perhaps even some that conservatives don’t hold true. Liberals should be open to all ideas, dismissing none because of the proponent.



  1. Dear Cliff, I'm thrilled to see your great blog! It is a pleasure to read clear Liberal common sense when people seem to be making up, distorting, or simply forgetting history. It's all news to my students, so I have a lot of work to do. After I enjoyed Philip Hensher's funny book The Northern Clemency about growing up in Thatcher's England and the coal strike, I read his The Mulberry Empire, thought it was fiction then realized it was very accurate retelling of the British defeat in Afghanistan. I recommend both books to you. Dorothy S. Pam

  2. Good to hear from you -- glad you enjoy my blog.