Liberalism, once held as a term of reverence has now became the most famous pejorative of our times. In the presidential election of 1988, Vice-President George Herbert Walker Bush bludgeoned then Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis with the label for the entire campaigned season. Mr. Dukakis was so woozy by the exercise that he remained mute for weeks only to emerge from his groundhog den to say that he was a liberal in the same sense that slain President John Kennedy was a liberal. That was a good try but the governor’s timing was that of an amateur – in essence, unpresidential. Mr. Dukakis garnered little sympathy at the time since he was a card carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union – the dreaded ACLU.
Today, the radical right Tea Party is hawking a bumper sticker that reads:
LIBERALISM is a mental disorder. Considering the venerable history of the term Liberalism, it is sad day that the Tea Party resorts to this type of lazy rhetoric.
Members of the Tea Party should know that Liberalism is from the Age of Enlightenment and from John Locke’s 1690 “Second Treatise of Civil Government”. Liberalism rejected tyranny in the form of hereditary privilege, state religion, absolute monarchy, and the Divine Right of Kings. Locke when on to promote a “natural right” to life, liberty and property. Locke was the foundation of political thought for our own founding fathers, i.e. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton, just to name a few. The American “Liberals” bested Locke by tweaking natural right to God given rights.
The founding fathers would have agreed with Liberalism at that time since it also encompassed limiting governmental power. Listen to this quote from Benjamin Martin of the movie The Patriot: “Would you tell me please, Mr. Howard, why should I trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away? An elected legislature can trample a man’s rights as easily as a king can.” This fear of government has existed since our nation’s beginning – it was a fear among liberals and not of liberals.
So how did liberalism fall into disgrace? If began with well-meaning people who took a sharp left turn and began what would be termed Social Liberalism. They despaired over the plight of the poor immigrants in the United States of the 1880s and wanted to improve their lives and the lives of their children.
To these new liberals, the old tactic of limited government involvement in the lives of the common person seemed like a sick joke. There were three basic eras in the development of social liberalism: 1. the progressives of Theodore Roosevelt’s time. 2. The “New Deal” of TR’s fifth cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 3. The formation and implementation of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”, and finally 4. the unraveling of the moral corset of society starting with the 1965 Supreme Court Case of Griswold vs. Connecticut in which Estelle Griswold of Planned Parenthood of Connecticut and Dr. C. Lee Buxton of Yale deliberatively opened a birth control clinic in New Haven, CT in order to test the Connecticut Statute than banned birth control in marriage. By thwarting the moral precepts of Connecticut the court opened up a new era in which important moral standards where brushed to one side most notably in 1973’s Roe vs. Wade which made the fetus an extension of a women’s body until viability is reach at 28 weeks. The League of Women Voters has advocated keeping Roe intact for the last 41 years. This is one reason why the League is reviled by thoughtful conservatives.
This assault on morality of duly elected state legislatures reached an apex with the current challenge to change the definition of marriage to include same sex unions. Patriotism is under attack as being too moralistic. Recently CBS sports refused to run a real-estate commercial in which the owner of the firm’s granddaughter recited the pledge of allegiance. This is why today’s liberalism is correctly seen as a monstrosity.
Liberalism went off the rails during the progressive movement of the 1890s when equal opportunity was twisted into equal results.
In fact, the Declaration of Independence is America’s greatest resource for this issue, as it is in other great issues. Lyndon Johnson’s error thus reproduces all the stages of Progressivism—an attack on individual liberty, the need for bureaucracy, and a redefinition of freedom, making it a good conferred by society. The following Critique is from the Heritage Foundation.
“Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates. This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but EQUALITY AS A FACT and EQUALITY AS A RESULT…Perhaps most important—its influence radiating to every part of life—is the breakdown of the Negro family structure. For this, most of all, white America must accept responsibility (really?). It flows from centuries of oppression and persecution of the Negro man. It flows from the long years of degradation and discrimination, which have attacked his dignity and assaulted his ability to produce for his family (LBJ fails to note the stability of the black family at that time – his actions led to the dissolution of the black family) This, too, is not pleasant to look upon. But it must be faced by those whose serious intent is to improve the life of all Americans…The family is the cornerstone of our society. More than any other force it shapes the attitude, the hopes, the ambitions, and the values of the child. And when the family collapses it is the children that are usually damaged. When it happens on a massive scale the community itself is crippled.” LBJ, Commencement Address at Howard University from June 4, 1965. It is one of the most patronizing speeches delivered by a sitting U.S. President. He was pandering to the worst instincts of human emotions – jealousy is a crippling condition that engenders only anger and resentment. Instead of shoring up the black family, Johnson’s massive Great Society weaken the underpinnings of the black family to the point that today 72% of black babies are born out of wedlock.
We need to reclaim the term liberalism as it was originally defined. Al Sharpton is not a liberal but rather a socialist, a race-hustler, or a simple idiot. The same seems to be true for Nancy Pelosi and for our president. A more historical term Jacobinism might be more effective to highlight the radicalism of today’s liberals especially there lack of tolerance for debate and free thought. Maximilien de Robespierre is the most famous Jacobin but Jacobins live on in our mist. Even if the word is tempered it can still be observed to convey that Mr. President and Mrs. Pelosi you are both ACTING LIKE Jacobins, there’ll both get the message.
On August 28, 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. ended his ”I have a Dream Speech when he proposed the absolute necessary of liberty and freedom. Listen to his magnificent words that still ring with clarity: “…when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” Dr. King got it just right, liberty and the protection of Almighty God gives us the best of America – something that today’s liberals, that is today’s Jacobins seem to ignore on a daily basis. Let’s remind them.
Geoffrey G. Fisher is a federally designated Highly Qualified state-certified history teacher living in southwest Florida. He holds a BA in History from the University of Connecticut and a MA in Public Policy from Trinity College in Hartford, CT. In addition to teaching he is a former elected official and speechwriter. Mr. Fisher now writes the political blog: THE THINKING CAP at www.theamericanthinkingcap.blogspot.com He is also a weekly columnist for the Political e-Magazine: THE PATRIOTUPDATE.COM