Of course I'm liberal, I believe in liberty.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Liberals are Outside of the Mainstream

Conservatives often claim liberals are out-of-touch with mainstream American values. Nonsense, right? Well, this may seem strange coming from a liberal, but I think this assessment is at least partially correct; Liberals are outside of the mainstream, pretty much by definition. Liberalism is all about expanding who belongs in the mainstream and listening to new ideas outside of the mainstream. But here's the irony, once liberals win on any given front, it's no longer liberal. Consider:
  • Over two hundred years ago liberals thought the common man could rule himself, that we don't need kings or an aristocratic class. Today conservatives celebrate the 4th of July with the rest of us, usually waving the flag with a bit more ferocity.

  • Liberals once thought that no man should own another while conservatives fought hard to preserve slavery, claiming their belief was based in scripture. The resultant war a hundred and fifty years ago is still the bloodiest event in U.S. history. Today, freedom for all is a conservative value in which no one disagrees.

  • One hundred years ago liberals thought women should have the right to vote; conservatives angrily waved their Bibles and condemned such notions. Today we have conservative women in congress, running states and serving on the Supreme Court.

  • Fifty years ago liberals thought one could not be equal and separate at the same time and fought for the civil rights of blacks in this country. Today, conservative blacks lead our State Department and are in the Supreme Court. No conservative admits to being a racist any more and most, quite honestly, no longer are.

  • Twenty-five years ago liberals thought our school girls deserved just as much opportunity to participate in sports as boys did, to great protest by conservatives. Today conservatives cheer on the women's soccer team without a second thought.

  • Today liberals believe all couples living in a loving, commit relationship deserve the same respect and rights as every other couple. Conservatives disagree, claiming their belief is based in scripture.

In every example above liberals were outside of the mainstream and had to fight very hard, often in bloody confrontation, to win over those less willing to open their minds to welcome someone new into the mainstream. But every time liberals were right and today even the most conservative will admit it. Today, in each case (other than the last) the idea is no longer liberal.

I've learned over the years that a true liberal who will fight for the liberty of someone they don't know, like or understand is very rare, almost as rare as a true fiscal conservative unwilling to spend someone else's money in his own district. Usually liberals win by allying themselves with the group (or groups) they are trying to help. But as Republicans are beginning to realize, like most whites, most blacks aren't actually liberal. Nor are most women.

So we liberals need to be careful. It is easy to read the blogs, talk to friends, listen to Air America and walk away thinking we are in the mainstream, but we aren't. However, this doesn't mean we need to be out-of-touch with the mainstream, nor can we afford to be. The time for bloody confrontations have long past, what is needed today is patience, understanding and a whole lot of persuasion.