Saturday, February 29, 2020

I Am That Liberal You Think You Know

I’m a Liberal Democrat, capital L, capital D. I’ve been a Liberal Democrat my entire adult life. I’ve never been ashamed of being either one. Why would I be? We Liberal Democrats have a long history of public service in the best sense of the words. We’ve been the caretakers while the Republicans have traditionally fought against any thought of taking care of all citizens. Emphasis on ALL citizens.

We work at being inclusive while the Republicans pride themselves on their exclusivity. While we’re trying to build a country they’re building a club.

So here’s a radical thought: Let the Liberals do it. Give us a chance to show how it could be done.

 Liberals, you like to remind us, are the classic political nerds, not good for anything but maybe wedgies or noogies. Quaint na├»ve little do-gooders lost in a world of ruthless cruelty without weapons adequate enough to bruise a flea.

 In the 1980s, around about the time the actor Ronald Reagan, friendly Midwestern Liberal turned hard-hearted California conservative, was enshrined as The Teflon POTUS, the word went out that Liberals — those ridiculous “for the people” gadflies — were ruining the country by helping too many undeserving and impoverished leeches, by welcoming foreigners, by insisting that workers be represented by hard-nosed unions, by pushing the toxic notion that health care shouldn’t be for-profit, and by tightening, enforcing, or inventing regulations that were or would be anathema to the gold-plated entities they targeted.

It wasn’t hard to convince the many millions that health, wealth, and happiness could only come from a government without teeth, from the benevolence of ridiculously powerful corporations, and, if all else failed, from that venerable standby, Old Testament God.

 All that stood in the way were those insufferable Liberals.

 Liberals became such pariahs an entire bloc jumped ship and took on a new name: Progressives. (I would describe them for you here, but I admit I don’t know the difference. So far they’ve been relatively friendly. Don’t look to me to rock that boat.)

 But what we Liberals are known for are hearts that gush blood whenever injustice rears its massive, ugly head. We see a bleeding heart as a badge of honor. The same with tears. We cry when things move us, and we don’t hide from our emotions. Our anger stems from compassion, our outrage roars at cruelty. We wear our hearts on our sleeves and it’s not meant as a fashion statement.

 Liberals have a long history of getting things done. We pulled the entire country out of a great depression by hiring our citizens to do meaningful busy-work, by using our charitable might, by giving dignity and hope back to a country mired in poverty and hopelessness.

 We built the unions and gave workers a voice. We put an end to child labor. We fought to give every adult citizen the right to vote, no matter their gender or color. We helped the poor and the elderly by creating Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. We passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Clean Air act, and the Clean Water Act. We ended a recession that nearly destroyed the middle class.

 We did all that and more against the wishes — and the might — of fat cats and right wingers who sorely wanted what we’re heading for today: a country ruled by non-contributing despots whose only interests are power, greed, and self-preservation.

 We are not that country and we never will be. The Trump phenomenon is an anomaly, destined as a vivid warning in our history books, a long chapter on how close we came to letting our democracy die. We’re still a majority of the good and, thankfully, most of us aren’t ashamed to show it. It’s our time now and there’s much to do. They’re out there waiting for us and they have heavy weapons. 

The truth-tellers are under barrage and the liars appear to be winning. Not in any honest way — that’s not their MO — but they’ve built a formidable army with thugs in both the House and the Senate, corrupt judges with life-long positions and no former experience, rules and laws that favor the wealthy and crush the poor, shady dealings with foreign dictators, and, if all else fails, voting machines spewing out questionable tallies.

We can’t afford to get it wrong this time. We are a country on the brink and this is no time to dismiss anyone working to change this mess. Do we need labels to tell us apart? Not as much as we might think. It’s enough that we’re on the same team. Not everyone on the team comes from the same background, but everyone should have the same goal. To win.

Come November, 2020, we have to win. There is no other acceptable outcome. So I’ll be That Liberal and you be…you. But let’s work at winning together. It's only our entire country that's at stake.

(A version of this appears at Medium)

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