Let me explain why I think of myself as a liberal. I know you’re probably thinking I must have had a lobotomy last night it’s the only explanation to how I totally changed my political opinion over night, but I think of myself as a classic liberal (with a little realist lumped in there) and probably always have. I’ve been liberal my whole life, as has my entire family. So, before you delete our blog’s bookmark, let me tell you what a liberal is. I’m a classic liberal, which is different than a Liberal or more accurately a progressive. America was founded by men who traced their intellectual heritage to such greats as Immanuel Kant and John Locke. America was founded on individual freedom and citizens’ right to determine their government. As Abraham Lincoln claimed at Gettysburg America established and maintained a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people…” These are liberal principles, these are the principles held dear by Republicans long after one of the party’s principle founders [Lincoln] has gone.
Now let me make some distinctions. I do not think today’s democrats can call themselves liberal any longer, at least not under the classic definition. I know this turns much of today’s labels on their head, but hear me out. America at its founding was a centrist nation. Both Federalists and Democratic-Republicans were center-right on the political scale. At the time Europe was run by monarchies or later in the French Revolution a populist almost fascist government. Federalists and Democrats both believed in self-determination and individual rights. Sure, Federalists wanted a strong-central government, while Jefferson and his Democratic-Republicans supported states’ rights and a decentralized government; but ultimately they both wanted a small government, controlled by the people. Americans lived the liberal dream. We had vast rights and our wealth and power grew as a result. Government mostly stayed out of our way and we, as a people, kept the government in check and didn’t take hand outs. We were independent and in control of our destiny. This is what set us apart from Europe.
As democracy grew in Europe it moved away from classical liberal philosophy. Government came to mean care-taker or equalizer. In Europe progressive took power and moved government further left. Liberals in Europe started to push for more government intervention (think Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Mussolini). For a long time America resisted this shift. We had out battles between Republicans and Democrats, but both parties stayed mostly in the center. This was the case even as Teddy Roosevelt (Teddy even started his own progressive party) and Woodrow Wilson pushed their progressive agenda. It wasn’t until FDR that American democrats started to truly move left. They started to see government less as by the people, but more to do good for the people. Suddenly government was to provide jobs for unemployed, provide pensions for elderly, give healthcare to the poor and ensure equal outcomes for groups. Government was no longer there to ensure security, promote peace or allow people to pursue happiness; it had a much bigger job to play. Democrats wanted to control the outcome of society, this led to ‘The New Deal,’ ‘The Great Society,’ and ‘War on Poverty.’ As a result government took on a role it never should have, individual rights become subservient to “noble goals.” We the people lose control of government, rather government controls us.
Now the shift of American “liberals” is quickening. Look around, the evidence is there. Democrats have voted in a national health plan, bought banks and car companies (in doing so they now control a huge amount of the economy), further “regulated’ investors and they are currently pushing to control what you “emit” (even if it’s your exhaled breath). Today’s Democrat party is RUNNING to the left. They are pushing for ever-expanding government spending and intrusion. America’s Democrats no longer deserve the title liberal. They don’t believe in personal responsibility, individual rights or small, controlled government. American liberals have joined their European counterparts and as such should claim their earlier name, progressives. Progressives came into popularity early in the twentieth century with policy goals not unlike what they push for today. The difference was then they went by their correct name, these days, progressives have infiltrated the Democrat party and are now trying to accomplish their goals under the guise of liberalism. True liberals value freedom and liberty; these principles demand a limited, fiscally-responsible government. Today’s Democrats are truly yesterday’s progressives. I refuse to place them in company with Madison, Jefferson and Lincoln by giving them such an honorable title as liberal. Democrats are progressives and I am an unapologetic classic liberal.