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View Diary: Why Not a Liberal? (46 comments)

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  •  An argument for liberal versus progressive. (3+ / 0-)
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    arlam, Liberal Thinking, Corwin Weber

    For most of the time I've been politically aware, I've preferred to identify myself as a progressive because its connotations are so happy: Teddy Roosevelt, prairie populists and courageous unionizers who were all underdogs in the gilded age and the decades after. For me, it was a way of being a leftie and avoiding association with all those hapless milquetoast losers in serial Presidential elections from my youth. You know, the guys who all had Bob Shrum tell them what to do.

    Moreover, in an English department and then a law school I read an infinite number of well-meaning and well-considered criticisms of liberalism, variously defined, from the left. Critical legal studies, communitarianism, constructivism, post-structuralism, have all had some trenchant things to say about the short-comings of liberalism. I still think many of them are true.

    But then all the qualifications and asterisks that hung on to my thinking about the word "liberal" came crashing down the first time I saw the Abu Ghraib photos. Literally, one of the first things that hit me after I stopped crying was that this is the natural consequence of a world that has been educated out of its liberalism.

    Liberalism--thought of as big-picture political philosophy rather than merely as leftward predilection--implies a state that works towards some notion of the wellbeing of everyone in the society rather than some, a state more interested in facilitating our pursuit of our own desires than arbiting what our desires should be, a state of fairness and justice and not necessarily of holiness.

    And now, standing in the muck of all that has been done to us and to this world by these rank maniacs, isn't now what the world needs more than anything else a little bit of liberalism? Goodbye to debating whether to ban Muslim girls from wearing veils in school. Goodbye to proscribing gays and lesbians from adopting children. Goodbye to warrantless wiretaps and indefinite detentions on the suspicion of the President. And for the love of God, goodbye Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales. Hello fairness. And hello, freedom (the real thing--not the mirage they sell on Fox News).

    So, when we describe ourselves on the left as liberals we include ourselves in this whole wonderful tradition of Locke and Jefferson. This is our moment, and its time to clasp hold of the word tightly.

    •  Nuance Lost (1+ / 0-)
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      andydoubtless

      Yes. I've seen a lot of criticism of liberalism, and I know that every political philosophy, on its own, is going to be open to cogent criticism. It's too bad that some of these criticisms have been used to weaken the left in general.

      The important thing to me is what the person is like, not exactly what they call themselves. For the presidential candidate, I think it's a little different, because there using the specific word "liberal" has a huge benefit. They could label themselves "progressive" and the right-wing would have to work on that word for many years to get the same effect. For a Democratic candidate to use the word "liberal" deliverately is a huge shot over the bow of the Republicans and their conservative backers. It says, "We are no longer afraid of your boggieman." After that, it's going to slink back to its cabinet, never to be heard from again.

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