Sunday, November 9, 2008

What is a Mighty Liberal?

A Mighty Liberal is what I think most Americans are when red flag terms are removed from the discussion, and idealistic principles from any place on the political spectrum are likewise removed and nuts and bolts, real life, day to day events come forward. It's not lofty stuff but when it is laid bare it ends up looking a lot like how I think most people behave, what they aspire to, and what they want.

I believe the US was designed by the founders to be liberal in its orientation. Despite efforts of conservatives of various stripes to alter that course throughout our history, I think the conservatives consistently overreach and inspire renewal by the natural liberal tendencies which are central to a people who in one form or another are constantly on the move and like it that way. For the past 8 years we have allowed ourselves to get stuck in the mud of our political distractions and are now about to start washing ourselves off and move forward again. Contrary to some recent writing and some Sunday punditry, I reject the notion that this country is fundamentally center-right in orientation. I believe we are fundamentally center-left. We've just been so far to the right for the past 8 years that nearly any course correction back towards the middle will seem more leftist than it is and returning to a center-left orientation downright radical.

Obama's election earlier this week is about a lot more than putting a man of color into the White House. I would argue that of all possible things, although race is the most immediately obvious thing about him and the most celebrated at the moment, it's surely the least important thing about him as he starts to put together his administration and prepares to engage on the biggest job laid before an elected official probably since World War II.

Why fundamentally center-left? The folks who made the difference in this election, post-baby boomers, generally don't give a rip about issues of race. They stand on the shoulders of parents and grandparents who lived through the last brutally open fights on the issue and believe it's now time to really put it behind us. It should be an issue moved primarily to the stories told by our elders and history books to be learned about and remembered. Sure there are still a lot of folks over the age of 50 in this country and they still and ought to have plenty to say about things but on this one, their kids have made their first major statement as full-fledged and involved citizens of this country. Get over it and let's move forward. A lesson taught by the kids to their parents.

So liberality then, what is it? Classically and as intended by the founders it's about opening. Opening the mind, opening the spirit, opening the playing field. Liberation. Freedom. The capacity for anyone to engage in the process of being. No result is guaranteed by engaging in the process for any individual but everyone gets a shot. The idea behind it is that by doing so honestly and openly, together we will seek quality -- some might say be blessed with it -- to the benefit of all in some way. From the beginning living up to the notion of liberality has been a difficult fight, generally against those who call themselves conservative and who I think feel like they don't have to engage in any process which might question their behavior, their means of acquiring property, or what they do with it once they have it. Liberality in America is also centrally entwined with the concept of personal property ownership, a concept I believe in as strongly as the founders did, so I hope to avoid the standard tag that we saw recently regarding knee-jerk labels of socialism, Marxism, or communism. If that's your critique of anything I might post, you're barking up the wrong tree here.

Simply summed up, American liberalism relates to opening things up. Everyone has an equal chance to engage in the process of and exercising the ownership and use of property. Property includes stuff, includes places, includes rights, includes thoughts. A Mighty Liberal works hard to be a part of that process and works hard to make sure everyone else can to the best of their abilities (which is no guarantee that the abilities are all that good), and to the best of their character (same) with the consequences that go along.


Barbara said...

Center left sounds like a nice place to be. The shift has started and the community infrastructure is in place to get there. Do you think this realistically enough to make center left sustainable? Or will it just continue to be a pendulum swinging left to right, left to right...?

ba said...

Will probably be the topic of a future posting.