Bernie Sanders yells at those damn kids to get off his lawn, while Hillary Clinton smiles thinking about her next check from Wall Street.
Hey, you, the person reading this. Do you know what it means to be a liberal? Depending on your own political persuasion, being liberal might make you a firm believer in liberty, equal opportunity, and the right to pursue an economic system that distributes the benefits of capitalism more broadly across the citizenry. Or, being a liberal might make you a Stalinist, Marxist, atheist, pantheist, freedom-hating, abortion-craving, tree-fondling, Chick-fil-A scorning, queer-o-sexual menace to Jesus and the Constitution that He wrote.
Either way, liberalism inspires passionate opinions in American society.
Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People (1830) has long symbolized both the triumphs and failures of modern liberal thought.
If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I’m a political liberal. I make no apologies for this stance, and have spent plenty of time on this blog critiquing conservatism as a political theory. Simply put, I think that an examination of modern history supplies sufficient evidence to prove that liberalism, despite its many flaws, remains the best hope for individual freedom and small “r” republicanism in the modern world.
Liberalism, therefore, must be preserved and vigorously defended against the relentless conservative onslaught that, for decades, has sought to delegitimize it in the eyes of the American public. On many fronts, the Right has succeeded in doing just that, often with the unknowing aid of wishy-washy lefties who are quick to descend into hyperbolic pits of despair in moments when their ideas and policies falter. But this doesn’t mean that liberals shouldn’t critique their ideas in order to make them better and to justify why such ideas are superior to those of the Right in terms of extending freedom in America and across the globe.
Poster advertising a “Save the Union” meeting, Frederick, Maryland, September, 1860.
The situation was unprecedented in scope. The conservative party in America, its hardcore base mostly relegated to the South, had just suffered a devastating electoral defeat in which a lawyer and political progressive from Illinois won the U.S. presidency along mostly sectional lines, carrying primarily northern and west coast states. In response to the stinging rebuke of their policies by the majority of the American people, the conservative party decided that rather than accept the outcome of the presidential election, they would instead try to prevent the victorious party from governing by denying their very political legitimacy. In so doing, the conservative party in America waged war against democracy itself.
United States Infantry square off against Chicago workers in the Stock Yards, by Fredric Remington, from Harper’s Weekly Magazine
Well, its Labor Day 2013, a national holiday in both the U.S. and Canada bolstered by an idea — that the national economy thrives when we recognize workers’ contributions to creating an economic system based on broadly shared prosperity — that seems more and more hopelessly symbolic in the New Gilded Age. In the contemporary U.S., American income inequality has reached pre-Great Depression-era levels, private sector unionization is now a pale shadow of its former strength thanks to 30-plus years of concerted right wing ideological and policy assaults, and public sector unions seem destined for collapse for the very same reason.