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Many Liberals Don’t Like the Idea of Battle, But the Alternative in America Today is Much Worse


This article is the first in a series, titled “Press the Battle,” whose purpose is to get our national conversation to focus on the central realities of the crisis in today’s America.

In America right now there’s a battle that needs to be fought and won in our political arena. It’s a battle over what kind of country, and what kind of planet, our children and grandchildren will live in.

Although some people like waging battle – some even insist on it – most liberals I’ve known are capable of living richer, more balanced and fulfilling lives. Most of us liberals would rather lead those better lives than focus on political combat.

But over the past decade or two, while we’ve been living our fuller, more rounded lives, we with the more humane set of values have been out-organized, out-fought, out-messaged by a relentless force that has taken over the right, and that has

    • Turned our politics into a kind of war,

    • hollowed out the middle class,

    • debased our public discourse,

    • brought out the worst in our decent conservative neighbors,

    • undermined the rule of law,

    • placed our descendants in greater peril of ecological     catastrophe,

    • embroiled us in needless wars,

    • besmirched America’s good name in the world,

    • driven our economy into a pit,

    • and magnified the ability of corporate power to steal our democracy.  

The response from Liberal America to this ugly destructive force on the right has been woefully inadequate to protect the nation.

The combination of a destructive force and weak response has created one of the most profound crises in American history. If our nation is going to stop its descent, and to regain the ability to deal constructively with the challenges we face, this dangerous political dynamic must be turned around.

It is from Liberal America that necessary change will have to come. The other side will change only when compelled. Therefore, our side will need to bring more passion and determination than we have yet shown to fight and win the political battle.

Sure, we’d rather live our healthier, more fulfilling lives. But history does not always give people the choices they prefer.

Throughout history, peoples have been forced to confront others who were bent upon expanding their own power. The undesirable choice has been either to fall under the domination of aggressors, or to match their power in order to defend what is held dear.  (This is a major theme of my book —  The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution  — explaining why the course of civilization has often been so tormented.)

We in America today do not have the option we’d prefer, of going on as before and have everything be all right.

In plain sight, those relentless forces that have taken over the Republican Party are working against pretty much everything we believe in: justice to protect the weak, respect for the truth in our democratic deliberations, compassion for our fellow citizens, and care for the integrity of the living systems on which we all depend for our survival.

That’s the nature of what we’re called to fight and defeat. The stakes could hardly be higher.

We’re not the first to be required by the luck of the historical draw to be called to a duty we’d not desired.

In the 1940s, my father’s generation had to set aside the lives they would have preferred to lead – lives richer and more humane than fighting their way across France or the islands of the Pacific – because it was necessary to defeat a destructive force that had arisen in Europe and Asia.

The present generation of Americans has a moral responsibility to sacrifice our ease and comfort to defend the same values by fighting here at home.

We should be thankful that ours is a different kind of battle from the one my father’s generation had to fight. They had to put their lives on the line, while we just need to set our preferred lives temporarily aside. They had to fight with the weapons of war, while we get to fight with the truth as our weapon.

It is our good fortune that we retain enough of our democracy that our battle will be decided not by seizing territory by force but by shaping the understanding of the American people.

I’ve got a plan for how we can strike a meaningful blow in that battle of words and ideas.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be presenting here a series of articles dealing with both sides of our political pathology. This series, with the name “Press the Battle,” will make the case – and make it stick – against the force that’s taken over the Republican Party, calling out its repugnant and destructive nature.

And, at the same time, this series will confront the sources of Liberal America’s weakness and try to light a fire in Liberal America, kindling the latent power of our moral and spiritual passions.

With this series, I will ask not just for your attention but also for your help. It is my hope that you will work with me to find ways of getting our national conversation to focus on the true nature of what’s gone wrong in America.

Changing our national conversation is necessary for setting things right. Is it not a kind of insanity for this nation to treat today’s Republican Party as if it were something almost normal, respectable, acceptable? That’s not how you treat something that’s trampling on all those values that made the nation great.

I, for one, am determined that my grandchildren will not ask me someday, “Why didn’t you trouble yourself to do something while America became a society that’s ruled by greed and the lust for power, that’s deceived by propaganda masquerading as news, that exploits rather than serves its people?”

I hope you share that determination.

Watch this space.

  • ir003436

    For some time I have been saying to my liberal, progressive, independent, and Democratic friends exactly what this diary says — that is — if a foreign power had done to the US what the GOP has done, we would have declared war on them a long time ago.

    I tell anyone who will listen that the GOP is evil, they are bent on destroying the middle class, accumulating all wealth and power in a few hands, repealing the 20th Century, and restoring us to the days of the robber barons and the peons.

    When I say this, I’m told to be quiet, the Republicans are not much different from the rest of us, and both parties do it.

    We Virginians have an opportunity to slam dunk the state Republicans but I see no evidence of anyone doing so.  I’m talking about their refusal to enact Medicaid expansion.

    The ACA did two things:  (1) Reduced federal payments to hospitals for treatment provided to people without insurance; and, (2) made Medicaid available to many more people.  The idea was simple:  If people have Medicaid, they’ll start going to doctors for checkups and minor issues before the minor issues build into something that requires a visit to the ER.

    In states that accepted Medicaid expansion, hospitals have seen their spending on uninsured patients drop by over 30 percent while the number or people showing up with insurance has increased by 10 – 20 percent.  In states like Virginia that have not accepted Medicaid expansion, hospitals are closing, laying off people, searching for revenue.

    We should be picketing, demonstrating, writing letters, sitting in at the offices of General Assembly members, all to call attention to the fact that Virginia Republicans are destroying our hospitals.  Every time a local hospital closes or lays off personnel, we should ensure our local HOD member and Senator get the blame.

    There are many more issues on which we should be beating our Republican representatives over the head day in, day out.  But we won’t.  Yet, we’ll stand by and let them thump on us 24/7.

  • Andy Schmookler

    (May I call you irO for short?)

    “When I say this, I’m told to be quiet…”

    I am hoping that there are many people who feel as you do, that this is what needs saying.

    Something extraordinary has been happening in America — and you’re right, this right-wing force is doing such damage to our nation that if it were a foreign power, this assault would be considered an act of war — and it needs to be called out.

    If enough people can join together, work together, to get this truth out prominently into the national conversation, perhaps some kind of “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment can be precipitated. Perhaps, when it comes to that denial you have encountered of “be quiet,” there is a tipping point to be reached.

    So to help make this happen, I hope that you, irO, and anyone who feels likewise, will spread this word around, and join the “Press the Battle” campaign.

    A new website for the campaign will be opening in the next few days. For now, anyone who is interested can email me directly at andybard@shentel.net