As liberals and progressives, it is time for us to define ourselves in and on our own terms. For far too long and without credible competent contestation, conservatives have defined and driven the narrative of what it means to be liberal and progressive. Let’s be frank and honest. Liberals are seen as aloof, immature, irresponsible, weak, tree hugging, morally bankrupt bleeding heart hippies and socialist commie bastards who are unpatriotic and want to destroy America with their secularist anti-Christian ungodly agenda. Does that about cover it?
And who defends us? Some two-bit apologist that squirms at the mere suggestion that they are liberal. All you have to do is accuse those of this ilk of being liberal then sit back and watch them haul ass, heading for the hills. They do not seek to aggressively defend or personify the cause of liberalism. Instead, their whole mission is to paint themselves as the “sensible moderate” and avoid being the “loony liberal left-winger.” You can easily figure out who they are by how they start off saying, “I don’t necessarily agree but I can understand why they would argue that. . .” or “I keep trying to convince those on the left that we should be more moderate on these issues.”
When you espouse a moderate position and negotiate with someone who espouses an extreme position, the strategic and tactical advantage goes to the extreme position. This is because the middle ground between extreme and moderate is not a “more moderate” position but a “less extreme” one.
If no one ever meets the blatant assault that is consistently waged by conservatives with an equally aggressive sustained defense, then people will naturally gravitate to what has been established as accepted truth. Even if, with closer examination, these “accepted truths” are not really truths at all, people will accept what has been fervently, passionately and persistently put forward without sufficient opposition. Many of the electorate do this because they do not want to be viewed as being outside of the “mainstream,” not to mention how it often seems to be the path of least resistance.
Bill Clinton once declared that people are more willing to follow someone who seem strong even if they are wrong rather than someone who appears weak even if they are right. For this reason, America has been convinced that it is center right. Being constantly engaged and bombarded with a barrage of conservative activism and punditry, Americans are told so often that they are center-right that they have come to believe this nonsense.
However, there are many liberal viewpoints that would resonate with American people if they were put into proper context and argued as passionately, as constant and vigorous as their conservative counterargument. The majority of America support the existence of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”, and gay marriage. Many Americans support universal healthcare when there is a public options included and eliminating tax cuts for the rich. These are not “center right” positions. They are left leaning LIBERAL positions.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that America, because of her diverse nature, is solidly at the center. But if she is going to lean (given, of course, the benefit of straight down the middle facts), her lean will, more often than not, be to the left where individual freedoms and dignity are celebrated and defended because this is the mantra for which she was theoretically created.
So let us not cede the mantle of patriotism to conservatives, for it was the conservatives that did not want to break with Great Britain. It was the principled liberals who challenged colonialism in order to usher in a new era of freedom and democracy. It was the liberal who stated that the only alternative to freedom is death (Patrick Henry). It was liberal ideology that caused one (Benjamin Franklin) to state that “He who would sacrifice essential liberty for safety deserves neither liberty nor safety.”
So, who really are the patriots when put to a historical legacy test? In America, liberals have occasionally taken stands that were sincere in principle yet not the most pragmatic in execution. Because of this history, many people inappropriately associate liberalism with the damage done rather than the original intent, while the malicious conservative positions of the time are glossed over and go unstated and unchallenged.
For instance, liberals are often linked with the civil unrest that was synonymous with the 1960″²s/70″²s and Vietnam. If the truth be told, the liberal stand was right, however, the practice of antagonizing those who fought as a result of patriotic and federal mandate was wrong. Those who wore the uniform were simply doing what the government ordered them to do. It was a grave and calamitous mistake to not separate legitimate grievances with foreign policy from the disastrous predicament that our troops were placed in.
Whereas pressure mobilized against government was both right and necessary, this effort was poisoned by the attacks levied against those whose very lives were being bartered at the behest of its government which is said to be governed of, by, and for the people. This should serve as admonishment to anyone who would directly go after the very men and women who have entrusted their lives to the defense and whims of our nation.
Our grievances should be squarely placed against those who have ordered their sacrifice in the name of the American people. To admit this mistake is not a disavowing of liberalism but an acknowledgement and a correcting of the record that the faults of misguided liberal zealousness, borne out of frustration and seemingly lack of political effectiveness, wrought on the innocent.
As liberals, we should be chomping at the bit to put our legacy of fighting for individual freedoms and defending human rights and civil liberties against that of conservatism. The conservative legacy, for all of what it claims to be, has a very thin resume when it comes to being on the right side of history. Think about it, the Tories (conservatives) did not want to break from England. During the Civil War and Reconstruction, Conservatives hated Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.
Conservatives did not want to abolish slavery nor give women the right to vote. Conservatives have never shown any moral will or fortitude when it came to battling segregation and the gross inhumane conditions and behaviors of the South. Conservatives hated Truman for integrating the armed forces. Conservatives were against union growth and did not play much of a role in introducing laws against child labor.
Conservatives don’t want universal healthcare. Conservatives have been against gay marriage. Conservatives were against the repeal of “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell.” Can you name one civil liberty that conservatives have ever adamantly espoused? Yes, you have some that will tell you how Republicans fought against slavery but what they won’t tell you is that Republicans were the LIBERALS of the day, many of whom were staunch abolitionists.
So, again, why are liberals perceived as down right incompetent and cowardly when it comes to defending the liberal legacy in America? How can we expect anyone to espouse the ideals that we claim to be our core principles when we so easily and readily barter them away in the heat of the moment? We have no more ground to concede to today’s near-maniacal conservative opposition. We can ill-afford to allow our adversaries to define who we are and push a subsequent false narrative.
It is time to do more than just defend. It is time to STAND UP AND FIGHT!