Sunday, February 27, 2005

 

Can liberalism survive? Not Like This.

USNews.com's John Leo is the next in line to declare liberalism dead - or at least terminal. His thesis is not new and parallels several of my posts on this blog. Below, I summarize my thoughts on the reason for liberalism's impening doom. From Leo's article:

Worse, the cultural liberalism that emerged from the convulsions of the 1960s drove the liberal faith out of the mainstream. Its fundamental value is that society should have no fundamental values, except for a pervasive relativism that sees all values as equal. Part of the package was a militant secularism, pitched against religion, the chief source of fundamental values. Complaints about "imposing" values were also popular then, aimed at teachers and parents who worked to socialize children.

Modern liberalism, says Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel, has emptied the national narrative of its civic resources, putting religion outside the public square and creating a value-neutral "procedural republic." One of the old heroes of liberalism, John Dewey, said in 1897 that the practical problem of modern society is the maintenance of the spiritual values of civilization. Not much room in liberal thought for that now, or for what another liberal icon, Walter Lippmann, called the "public philosophy." The failure to perceive the importance of community has seriously wounded liberalism and undermined its core principles. So has the strong tendency to convert moral and social questions into issues of individual rights, usually constructed and then massaged by judges to place them beyond the reach of majorities and the normal democratic process.

Liberals have been slow to grasp the mainstream reaction to the no-values culture, chalking it up to Karl Rove, sinister fundamentalists, racism, or the stupidity of the American voter. Since November 2, the withering contempt of liberals for ordinary Americans has been astonishing. Voting for Bush gave "quite average Americans a chance to feel superior," said Andrew Hacker, a prominent liberal professor at Queens College. We are seeing the bitterness of elites who wish to lead, confronted by multitudes who do not wish to follow. Liberals might one day conclude that while most Americans value autonomy, they do not want a procedural republic in which patriotism, religion, socialization, and traditional values are politically declared out of bounds. Many Americans notice that liberalism nowadays lacks a vocabulary of right and wrong, declines to discuss virtue except in snickering terms, and seems increasingly hostile to prevailing moral sentiments.


Leo points to some of the major recent downfalls of liberalism. I believe there are three major factors. First is that the liberals have been unable to present any new ideas in years. Kerry, in the last campaign, used as his main theme "I'll do what Bush did, only better." Question after question in the debates and on national news shows, all the Massachusetts liberal could do was complain about the way things were going and never get close to proposing ways of fixing or changing the policies or laws he was whining about.

Second is that the use of moral relativism has abdicated the liberals from standing on a moral ground. That is, unless that ground is "we hate Bush and everything he does." Can you imagine a group of liberals against freeing a nation from a dictator who dehumanized women to the point where they were barely worth killing, tortured and kept children in prisons, allowed the population in general to starve and performed mass executions on a whim? When did the liberals' fight for human rights become completely blinded by their petty politics? I'm not sure when it started but it continued with Clinton and gained a huge head of steam with the 2000 election with prominent liberals and Democrats accusing Bush of fixing the election. (See my previous post on how the liberals have tried to demonize Bush using Saddam tactics.)

Finally, the liberal's have managed to position themselves such that any mention of religion is tantamount to a felony. This goes to the paragraph above, if you refuse to have a moral base on which to stand, you certainly cannot allow religion into your world. Religion has been a cornerstone of US domestic policy since the beginning. In addition, studies have shown that one of the largest liberal strongholds - the African-American voter -is intensely religious and church-going. Another problem with shutting out religion from their party is that they have lost the ability to be the party of compassion. If you have no moral base and have made religion taboo, then where do you draw your strength to be compassionate? Certainly, Bush has lead the Conservative take-back of compassion. While Bush and the Republican congress are trying to enact education, social security and heath care reform to help all Americans (compassion), the Liberals are simply responding by whining that Bush and the Republicans are doing it wrong (no plan of their own).

The liberals could easily bring their party back to America. They must first get away from their rhetoric of hate. They must find their compassionate roots again. This will entail a firm moral stance on issues while allowing religion to help guide their compassion. Finally, they must find a way in which to disagree with middle America by appealing to their goodness, not by insulting their intelligence. Will this happen? Unlikely. Why? Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Al Sharpton, Joe Biden ...




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