Fuck Yes, We are Liberals!

Say it with pride!

Mirth has a substantive post up on how we define ourselves as political creatures.  Grab a drink and have a sit down, it’s something to digest and linger over, which is what I intend to do here.

Essentially the question is, as liberals, who can we reach out to and join forces with to become more effective?

Possibility the first:  Liberal religious organizations.
This is an excellent idea!  Historically religious organizations have played major roles in some of the most important struggles humanity has passed through.  This has happened on both sides of the battle, from the oppressive Church of the dark ages to the fundamentalists of today on one side, and the non violent movements for equality and peace oriented faith groups on the other.  Religion has two prominent aspects:  social control and spiritual connection.  The controlling aspect naturally gives rise to the fundamentalists.  But there is also a beautiful spiritual side that creates a common ground of authentic holiness.  Where one truly strives to see all beings as equally deserving of compassion.  This is the heart of progressive politics, and it is also the heart of progressive religious practice.  That’s quite the starting point.

Possibility the second:  Disaffected conservatives.
Interesting, but in many cases not so great as one might imagine.  The last thing the Dems need is someone else pulling them further towards the ineffective center!  Rather, we should carefully reach out to disaffected conservatives to bring them over to a more progressive worldview.

Possibility the third:  Libertarians.
This is a tricky one.  There is so much variance from one libertarian to another…  There are the idealistic capitalists, the guilty executives, social libertarians, and so on.  I think again we need to be careful to bring people over to us.  Although on the whole libertarians do share one seemingly universal characteristic:  They are a lot of fun to debate with.

Strangely it is the fourth possibility that provides the most murk.  The Democratic party.  Our party.

They’ve become a party of Progressives:

It’s always written “Liberals and Progressives.” They aren’t the same. The word Progressive sneaked into my vocabulary without me thinking what it meant. It sounded good. Who doesn’t want to be progressive? But it hasn’t seemed right to me and I have all along suspected that it’s DLC/Centrist-speak for “Liberal is now a dirty word so let’s all gather in the bland middle ’cause I want to get elected” and a little research tells me I’m probably right, beginning with this buncha nothing and continuing to this buncha nothing:

The first key to understanding progressivism is that it’s not the same as liberalism, as many might assume. “Progressivism is an orientation towards politics,” Halpin said in an interview with Campus Progress. “It’s not a long-standing ideology like liberalism, but an historically-grounded concept … that accepts the world as dynamic.” Progressivism is not an ideology at all, but an attitude towards the world of politics that is far less black-and-white than conservatism or liberalism, breaking free from the false and divisive dichotomy of liberal vs. conservative that has dominated American politics for too long.

Said simply, American liberalism is an ideology grounded in traditionally liberal American values: individual freedom, democratic government, freedom of thought and belief, and equal opportunity. Government intervention is generally seen as the solution to society’s problem.

Progressivism, on the other hand, is far more flexible than any one ideology. Traditionally, conservatives see the world, especially human nature, as predictable and static. Liberals are often burdened with endless optimism – a belief that all problems can be solved through implementing utopian visions (especially through government intervention).

Progressives aren’t simply liberals; progressives see the world for what it is, accept it as ever-changing and dynamic, and choose the best course of action in line with decidedly American values.


Reading that made me think of busted dot-comers who decided they didn’t have to offer a service or product while skateboarding from office to office and they could still make lotsa $ to buy Beamers and way hip houses and kewl stuff while being all dynamic and having, y’know, flexible and non-b&w attitudes.

What I think needs to happen is this.  Liberals need to take the word and make it a crack of thunder above the heads of progressives.  If queers can make that moniker fabulous, we can make liberal stand for more than compassion and reason.  We can make it stand for strength and victory.  We can bring it back to Bobby Kennedy liberalism, and forward to a new and wiser liberalism that stands up and fights.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at Mirth’s closing questions:

What do you think about us collectively taking action against hate organizations and how might we best do that?

This is an excellent idea.  The SPLC’s blog is a great place to start.  Also Orcinus has, quite simply, some of the best reporting on hate groups you’ll find anywhere.

The best way to tackle hate organizations is to draw attention to them.  Burn them in the light.  The next step is to bring attention to the roots and tentacles they sneak into mainstream discourse.  When your 1o’clock talking head makes an argument on immigration that’s right out of a KKK playbook, call it out.  Counter it.

We need to work hard to provide positive counters to every bit of hateful discourse being pushed onto the American people.

Is it a good idea to connect outside our political community or is that selling out? Can we be Liberals and still work with Conservatives?

We can work with without becoming.  As long as we do that it is an excellent idea.  Sometimes we’ll oppose legislation for wildly varying reasons, but we can work together to defeat it.  We can also clearly define where we do agree and work as one body politic to see our shared goals become a shared reality.  Issues that spring to mind nearly immediately are items like abolishing the electoral college, voter verification, and net neutrality.  Issues where a majority of conservatives, libertarians, and liberals agree and want to move forward.

How do you label your political idealogy and what does it mean to you?

I’ll end on this.  I see myself as a liberal.  I have moments where a classically conservative notion appeals, and I’m definitely a social libertarian, but on the whole my political ideology is about realizing compassion.  I believe that in helping everyone forward, we all move forward.  Another way to put it is the class of life only moves as quickly as its slowest student.

It means I keep my mind open, and when I see a better argument, I adjust accordingly.  It means when I see smoke and mirrors, I bust through without reservation.  To be a liberal is to be firmly committed to making the world a better place to live.

That means winning.  Slowly but surely, I think we are starting to do just that.  It will be slow.  It will be hard.  We don’t expect the Republicans to just give up power.  We shouldn’t expect the “progressives” and centrists to just give up power either.  It will be a struggle.  But we are up to the task.  We will win.


2 Responses

  1. Thanks for the shout.
    I so like reading ordered writing that takes basic points and advances them, which you have done.
    You’ll notice there were few if any outright declarations of Liberal. This Rovian tactic has worked, even ‘tho ‘liberal’ indicates progressivism without the need of new terminology. (Another tactic going along very successfully is the Right’s championing of Hillary and I suspect they are right that her nomination will deliver the final blow to a left-oriented Dem party).
    Yes of course we must retain our values if we connect with dissatisfied conservatives. I’m not for reaching across the aisle. Opposite the Conventional Wisdom, this is not the time for compromise. Instead, we should convince them that Liberal means a quality of life for all.
    I’m not as optimistic as you. I don’t think we are up to the task nor is the consumer, self-involved generation just behind us.
    This does not mean we Liberals give up.

  2. Mirth,
    Always glad to.
    I’m starting to get rather concerned about Hillary, and will likely post about it soon. She’s being “sold” as the next president.
    Heh. The conventional wisdom is always for “compromise” since that always moves the debate farther to the right than what most Americans want.

    I wouldn’t call what I have optimism. I’d call it a hard nosed realism. We can either fight, or give in. To truly fight is to embrace our strength and flex it. So I think we need to speak more positively about our chances for change to bring about that change. “We are doomed” isn’t galvanizing after a year goes by with no change in status.

    I am so completely with you on the need to make the term Liberal about ensuring quality of life for everyone.

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