“…if by a liberal they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, their civil liberties-if that is what they mean by a “liberal,” then I am proud to be a liberal.”
— John F. Kennedy
The spirit of liberalism is the spirit of America. This country was founded on liberal ideals. Nevertheless, American liberalism has gone through a hibernation period for sometime since the emergence of Ronald Reagan brand of conservatism. He made it his passion to discredit the letter L.
A generation of young people grew up with the idea that liberalism was something evil and crazy. Rhetorical arguments against liberalism were made popular in the media spin and it played well to the mindset of a generation of Americans like Biblical scripture. Off course, the Conservatives of America thought that discrediting liberals is the panacea for solving all the problems of America.
As a consequence, we saw the emergence of America which was not supposed to be. In last few decades the conservative values and in last eight years neocons added fuel to fire – it made America economically weaker, politically divisive, and diplomatically cornered.
The word liberal came from the Latin word liber which literally means free: which has other meanings like generous, abundant, tolerant, broad minded, and one who favors reform and progress. English philosopher John Locke is considered as the originator of the term liberalism in a sense that we understand it now. Locke argued that the people created governments by freely consenting to those governments and that governments should serve citizens, not hold them in subjection.
American revolution was inspired by liberal ideals. Proclamation of Independence and the Constitutions are the bright starts in pronouncing the depth and strength of liberal ideas. English philosopher T. H. Green advocated Modern liberalism, which argues in favor of interventionist government where government takes a role in regulating economic and social interaction.
In America, the modern liberalism was pronounced in many of the New Deal policies of the Roosevelt era. Off course, Kennedy and Johnson continued the tradition.
America is currently in a big mess – not seen since the Great Depression. Now we badly need the spirit of modern liberalism in the likeness of New Deal under the Obama’s leadership. The incoming administration needs to balance between efficiency and equity. We need New “New Deal” policies.
We need to avoid policies which make poor poorer and rich richer – free market for the rich and closed market for the rest. Trickle down economics is the anti- thesis to liberalism. Bottom Up economics brings well beings for the common people.
Barack Obama’s historic victory is a game changing event to make sure – the letter L is the dignified first letter of a dignified idea. Yes, the wind is in favor of liberalism and it should be.
Captain Obama needs to sail the ship prudently and pragmatically – and yes, with a liberal soul. As author and academician John Mcgowan has rightly said, “Democracy ain’t worth a damn if it’s not liberal. And liberalism isn’t worth much if it isn’t democratic.