One thing I have always found difficult to understand, is why it is that a fact obvious to most people always seems to miss a few, and almost always the people who need that comprehension the most. Denial is a common human failing, but even so it is baffling to see people deliberately ignore the source of their difficulties, and the key to their correction. In American politics, the Liberal mindset is doing their level best to impersonate lemmings as their party implodes from the force of Logic pummeling against their platform. And yet, even now the Liberal mind seeks ways not to correct their errors, but to justify them. This is bad news, because America has always been best run under the balanced influence of both Conservatism and Liberalism, and always with Reason at the helm. If one of those ends is lost from the government, the resulting imbalance is going to prove unpredictable, and eventually result in regrettable events.
Paul Starr wrote an interesting piece in the “The American Prospect”, which he calls “The Liberal Project Now”. I read the piece hoping to see an honest discussion of what has gone wrong with American Liberalism. While that was not what happened the article is an interesting look into the Liberal mindset.
Predictably, Starr begins with the vague and invalid accusation that the Republican Majority represents “a shift in partisan control of the federal government”. Taken literally, those words are true, but they were even more true when FDR and LBJ enjoyed overwhelming majorities, with effectively no balance from the Right, leading to serious errors which are only now being properly addressed.
Starr starts down the emotional and invalid path, when he claims that Conservatives are “devoted to dismantling the constitutional and fiscal underpinning of liberal government”, which in truth amounts to petty whining that a Republican majority means to govern with the mandate they received, just as happens anywhere when a political party is given the authority to do its job as it sees fit. I found this quote by Starr especially telling: “When historians and social scientists in the ‘50s said American politics reflected an ideological consensus that was liberal at its foundations, it was the absence of any socialist challenge that they mainly had in mind.” What that statement actually told me, is that academics concluded that FDR’s control of the federal government was so complete, that even the election of Eisenhower as President and a Republican Congress could not immediately turn the nation from its Leftist agenda and course; the Liberals victory had been so complete for a generation, that alternatives were not seriously considered.
Starr is not completely blind to the fall from power by Liberals, but he misses the root causes. Even as he admits that Liberals have only recently “faced the possibility of being totally excluded, not just from power but from any influence or access.” Now really, I am as big a fan of Dubya as anyone, but even I stop short of saying he has telepathic mind control, which is essentially what would be necessary for the Conservatives to have so wedged the door against Liberals. The truth is better news for Liberals, and much worse. The good news for Liberals, is that Conservatives do not have nearly the total power that Starr pretends here; the bad news is that Americans have rejected the worst of the Liberal agenda, and the stubborn refusal of Liberal Leadership to see that most Americans will not tolerate extreme Liberalism any more. A Pew poll in 2004 revealed that fewer Americans than ever before consider themselves ‘Liberal’ (as a percentage of the voting population), while Conservatives are on a long rise in not only support, but voter identification. It’s no accident that Florida and Texas, once both considered Liberal states, are increasingly Conservative, and it’s no fluke that the Governor of California is a Republican.
Starr says the job of the Liberal Leadership is “to make liberal government bolder, and to get its leaders to take political risks”. Sorry Mr. Starr, but that was what the Liberals tried in 2002 and 2004, and it just does not work. A truly bold liberal would be willing to take a long hard look at why your policies are rejected, not only by the President and government in office, but by a majority of Americans. “Liberals certainly need to defend liberal accomplishments and oppose conservative measures” demands Starr, but that simply is not wise. There are no liberal accomplishments of note, only a petulant denial of real needs and crises, and a refusal to face the fact that the only plans of action are coming from Conservatives. As for opposing Conservatives, why oppose a plan simply because a Conservative presents it? Unless and until Liberals accept reasonable measures offered by Conservatives, and unless and until Liberals can offer realistic and functional alternatives from their own platform, they will be hurting their own future to play the spite card as they have been doing these past five years.
Starr trips over a useful element is rebuilding Liberalism as a political option, when he writes “Rebuilding a Democratic majority will require a broad and inclusive politics and the acceptance of ideological diversity within the party”. Starr neglects to consider the recent history, though; The GOP accepts Pro-Choice Republicans as legitimate and equal to anyone in the party, while the Democrats shut down any Pro-Life members in their party. The GOP accepts party members who worried about the War in Iraq, while the Democrats refused to stand behind the President just a few weeks after 9/11. The Conservatives walk the walk, and the Liberals whine. Starr proves he doesn’t understand the nation’s barometer when he claims there is reason to believe that Americans would value a party “committed to the constitutional principles in force since the late 1930s”, which is Liberal code for the court-packing tactics of FDR, and the subsequent court activism which created two new branches of heavy taxation in violation of any Constitutional mandate, to say nothing of a progressive tax system so cumbersome and punitive, that a majority of Americans has supported the disbanding of the IRS for more than forty years. Starr yearns for a Socialist America, never realizing that ideology died with Stalin.