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Now that Democrats have seen the disasters they can have by repudiating their roots, it's time for Democratic politicians to run as liberals. For those who are scared to tell the voters they're liberals, I've drawn up the following speech.

Give this speech and no one will be able to attack you for being a liberal:

I am a liberal. I believe deeply that liberal policy must be made strong in America again. For many years we have been hearing the drumbeat of conservative ideology, deepening our righteousness and our sense of honor. Perhaps this redressed an imbalance that we felt in our political sphere. Maybe we forgot for a time some shared values that lent greatness to our culture.

The last two decades have seen the ascendancy of conservative, neo-conservative, and even ultra-conservative ideas. The conservative political philosophy contains many truths and we as a country have come to appreciate them.

Individualism. Hard work. Private enterprise. Free markets. Community. Family. Belief in a higher power. Patriotism.

We appreciate our conservative heritage. It has given us great things. But there is a reason why there are two ends to the political spectrum. Both have something to give. We cannot go on hearing only one side to this great story. There is more to a whole society than just one lifestyle or political philosophy. Ours is a rich culture, composed from many sources, built on the labors of many men and women. We are the children of diversity, heirs to a great wealth of traditions. We cannot ignore any one part of this heritage.

We have to bring balance back to our political philosophy. Like the conservative perspective, liberalism also holds great truths.

Freedom of thought and speech. Equality under the law. Presumption of innocence. Freedom of association. Tolerance of diversity. Equality of opportunity. Freedom from unfair economic influence. Respect for the individual. The right to travel and assemble. Freedom from military rule. The right to representation in government. Privacy. Fairness. Mercy.

In short, liberalism contains all the benefits of liberty. Liberalism is what puts the meaning in a life that would otherwise only consist of duty, drudgery and death. Far from being an evil subversion of the American dream, liberalism is the American Way. Liberals know the meaning of joie de vivre and savoir fare, and we are not afraid to use those words.

Liberalism encompasses a great love. This is the love that goes beyond immediacy and selfish interest to see the beauty of others and lift them up. It is the love of others and the love of life. All of our greatest teachers, including our greatest religious teachers, have brought us this message: that love goes beyond the law. In our laws we need to give love where our base instincts would withhold it.

I have no shame about being liberal. It is a mark of distinction. It means I have taken a stand on what I believe is right. It means I value love above all things and that I call on you to be a giver in this society.

And I will not suffer for it. I know what it means to be a liberal. It means to look a little harder for the other guy's point of view. It means having mercy when the chill wind of revenge passes through. It means having a heart for those in need. It means caring for others because they are human and because they deserve it and because it is right, not just to benefit myself in some way.

Anyone who knows what it means to be a liberal has no fear of walking out on the political stage in front of the whole country, in front of the whole world. Because every farm and every town and every city and every metropolis in this state in this country in this world is filled with liberals just like me, the people who really care, the people who really want to live, the people who really want this world to be a better place and are willing to work for it.

And finally, a liberal is not some shrinking coward who would sell his country for a gold coin. A liberal is a patriot. A liberal is someone who goes when called and serves when called. A liberal is someone who serves on a jury because they are proud of their country. A liberal is someone who goes to the ballot box because it gives them a way to express their freedom. A liberal is someone who reads the papers and watches the news and speaks out on the issues. A liberal is proud to be a citizen. And a liberal is someone who knows their country's history.

They know that we were born a liberal nation and we remain a liberal nation. And we have come to this time and this place a liberal light to the world.

Originally posted to Liberal Thinking on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 01:00 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Run - don't walk! - as a liberal (none)
    High-five, LT.

    Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.

    by JimTXDem on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 01:01:04 AM PST

  •  I like it... (none)
    ...but I think it's a lost cause.  I think the word "liberal" has already been demonized such that it is, for the near future, irrevocable.  I would prefer we let it go and start saying "progressive" instead.  On one hand it seems much less susceptible to spin, and, on the other, it has not yet been widely spun.  

    Replace "liberal" everywhere with "progressive", and I'm with you completely.  I find particularly strong the paragraph that begins "And I will not suffer for it."  It quite nicely draws attention to the disparity between followers of the word of Jesus, and those who try to follow the actions of Jesus.  I appreciate that because I happen to be one of those who does not believe in God but does wholeheartedly believe that the essence of Jesus' teachings is a very good way to live.  I wish so much that all those who so adamantly claim that they are Christian and vote based upon moral values would realize that while Jesus would likely not support any candidate, he would almost certaintly not support the GOP.

    •  Liberal is a good word (none)
      and until we can reclaim its original "enlightened" meaning, the right will bash our heads in with, whatever we call ouselves.

      Your second point is right on the money. I read this comment posted over at Kevin Drum

      I would like to suggest that we start attacking Republican Christianity in a way that defines us as morally superior and them as pathetic hypocrites. After all, Jesus urged his followers to not concern themselves with their wealth ("...sell all you have...") and to be wimps when confronting bullies. Republicans find themselves not wanting to follow such teachings because they sense that obeying them could end up threatening their privileged positions in society. So they've tended to focus their attention (and everyone else's) on moral "issues" that do not threaten their economic fortunes in any way, e.g., the abortion and homosexuality issues.

      It's time to put them on the defensive. The first thing we need to do is accuse them of wrongly suggesting that Jesus would be a Republican if he were a United States citizen today, instead of a Democrat. It is easy to point to specific teachings by Jesus that would clearly define him as a bleeding-heart liberal. Indeed, most Republicans would be quick to describe him as "far to the left" of the majority of Democrats. Did he not teach his followers to give freely of their possessions to others, and to respond to any attack by an enemy from another country with acts of loving kindness? Can there be any doubt that Arnold Schwarzenegger would call him a "Girly Man?"

      When they start to defend themselves, Democrats need to point out that it is only logical for us to conclude that Jesus told us which moral issues were the most important to him by the amount of time he spent commenting on them. Which did he emphasize the most? There is little doubt that he thought it was especially important that his followers be willing to deny themselves materially if that was what was required in order to obtain the benefit others. He repeated this theme constantly.

      We might then want to point out that neither abortion nor homosexuality were addressed by Jesus. Does this omission necessarily mean that he didn't think either of those practices were wrong? Of course not. But it does strongly suggest that Jesus did not perceive them to be as alarming as other imperfections he saw within human souls, the ones that he commented on most frequently.

      If Jesus did think that abortion and homosexuality were more serious "crimes" than failing to love your enemy, then why did he not mention them when he had the chance?

      If one examines closely the words that were attributed to Jesus by the authors of the Gospels, there is no evidence that he believed abortion and homosexuality were more offensive than the failure of rich men to deny themselves for the benefit of others. Democrats are clearly justified in believing that they have a stronger claim to a true identification with Jesus than Republicans do.

      We need to start publicly pressuring Republican Christians to agree with us that Jesus' specific teachings on moral issues should be taken more seriously than any advice on other moral topics that followers or predecessors might have expressed at other times (like Paul, the Old Testament).

      If Democrats start pushing these "talking points" regularly in the mainstream press, we could immediately put Republican Christians on the defensive. Whenever they try to defend themselves from the charge of hypocrisy, all Democrats need to do is ask them why it is that they aren't preaching those teachings of Jesus that condemn Republican policies? Why is it that they are concerning themselves with the motes they see in the eyes of others when they have beams in their own?

      Why does this make sense, politically? It works in the same way that the Swift Boat Veterans attacks did. The Republicans took a strength that John Kerry had and tried to tarnish it as best they could. We need to attack the strengths of the Republican Christians (their claim to moral superiority) and define them as sinners that good people would not want to identify with.

      If we do this in good faith, we will be able to bleed away some of the support that Republican Christians have enjoyed. Devout Christians will be able to see that it is possible for them to be both good Christians and Liberal Democrats at the same time. After all, Jesus was just such a man.

      James J. Kroeger

      Thomas Jefferson had his "Jefferson Bible" that contained only the sayings of Jesus and nothing else. We should dust off a copy and use it ourselves.

      •  Liberalism and the Bible (none)
        I agree with this in general. As I mention in Family Values.:

        The Bible admits of many readings and there is a liberal reading of the scriptures as surely as there is a fundamentalist one. When you step back and look at what the Bible says, it is clear that it is a very strong proponent of liberal values. What, after all, is the message of Christ? That message, (which even most fundamentalists will find spelled out in the concordance to their Bible) is the triumph of love over the law, the Fourth Covenant. In other words, the Bible itself tells you to take a liberal interpretation of the law. The Bible says you must interpret the law with love.

        I would just caution that it's going to be easy for most Republicans to say "we never claimed Jesus was a Republican." Then they may tell you all the reasons why they think he is.

        I think it is more effective to take them on issue-by-issue using the real message. When you come to  the issue, it is clear which side a Christian should be on. That's the real question, not which side Jesus would have been on. And if the test of being a Christian is that you come to these decisions asking yourself "What would be loving?" then in many cases the fundamentalists have missed the boat.

        I believe that what Jesus taught us above all was to step back and make a conscious decision about the issues, coming from a place of love. That is a great example, regardless of how you come down on the question of divinity. What that means is that you put aside all of the rules about what should be and look at the situation fresh. Then you make your choice based on love.

        Just reacting to things based on rules, no matter how well-meaning they might be, is dead. It is only when you let go of the rules and come from love that you have life. I believe this is what it means where it says "I am the way, the truth and the life." If you just react to the law you end up stoning people to death, but if you make a conscious choice based on love, you may decide to give them another chance.

        We need to take this teaching and apply it to politics, especially to our conception of the law. It is the antidote to tyranny. It is the way to keep things like abortion and homosexuality from becoming one-sided issues.

        The basic problem with the fundamentalist ideology, and therefore Republicanism based on it, is that it is a recipe for dead decision making--purely reactionary. When people see a dead ideology along side a live one, that's when they will dump these guys and start to think along more reasonable lines.

        That's right. It's a matter of enlightenment. Who knew?

        Liberal Thinking

        Think, liberally.

        by Liberal Thinking on Mon Nov 15, 2004 at 10:24:13 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Liberal vs. Progressive (none)
      I've heard this said before, that the word "liberal" is damaged goods. I have some sympathy for this, but I believe that it must be turned around.

      Here's why:

      The Democratic decline set in when they failed to defend the "L" word. They took away our mojo. Liberalism represents our core set of values. Until we are able to go out and say proudly that we are liberals we will never be able to defeat the Republicans, or even hold our own against them.

      By taking away the word liberal, the conservatives have changed the whole ground on which we are fighting all of our battles. Every election we have to slog through the mud while they sit in their ivory towers and rain missiles down on us.

      We need to reclaim the moral high ground. We can do that by pulling the rug out from under them. They have been disparaging us as morally bankrupt. But what if it turned out that liberalism has high moral values, too? Ones that the Republicans have been hiding from you? What if it isn't a question of right versus wrong, but that there is much more to what's right than they've been telling you, American Voters?

      Then suddenly the playing field is reversed. Everything that the Republicans told you runs against them. When they talk about values it means that you as a voter think about liberal values. It reminds you that you like having freedom to go where you want and do what you want. It reminds you that you like having a well-paying job, not just a menial task that someone with money deigns to give you. Suddenly it means that all talk of values means liberal values.

      And if we go build up "progressive" as our new citadel, what's really to stop them from tarring it? It's just more work. Not only that, but it admits defeat and sets us up to be defeated again.

      This has to come ultimately from the top of the ticket, because when the Presidential candidate stands up and says "I am a liberal" he or she will set the context for everyone else in the party to run. Until then, every Senate, House, Governor and local candidate is running at a disadvantage, because they are all running uphill against "tax-and-spend liberal". As soon as we reclaim "liberal", that title becomes meaningless or perhaps a badge of honor.

      So, my whole position here is that Democrats need to embrace liberalism, reclaim the word, get back their soul and start winning elections. I think they can do it. If people are willing to embrace words like "Black" and "Gay" and even "Redneck", then they can embrace "Liberal".

      Liberal Thinking

      Think, liberally.

      by Liberal Thinking on Mon Nov 15, 2004 at 10:45:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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