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Not Our Finest Hour: Why Is Liberal America Falling So Far Short?

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Summary: We in Liberal America are now embattled. America has been in kindred battles before, and on those occasions to which we look to see our finest American ideals expressed and embodied, great American leaders have shown the way: “See the evil. Call it out. Press the battle.” But in this crisis, in this battle, Liberal America is falling far short of our nation’s finest ideals. Why is that?

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The American electorate is probably about to give more power to a party of traitors.

This statement, though shocking, can be verified by these steps (many of which are substantiated here):

  • The Republican Party (“the Party of No”) has chosen to prevent anything from being accomplished.
  • To choose across-the-board obstructionism is to knowingly hurt the nation.
  • The Republicans’ motivation for obstructionism is to regain power.
  • To sacrifice the good of the country to gain greater power over it is to betray the nation.
  • The dictionary definition of “traitor” is “a person who betrays a friend, country, principle….”
  • Most pollsters say that, in the upcoming elections, this “Party of No” will gain seats in the House and the Senate.

What’s wrong with America that a political party can act in such a disgraceful way and profit from it?  

Something must be amiss with those who will vote for so demonstrably traitorous a party.

But something is also wrong with the part of the American body politic that opposes the Republicans — i.e. Liberal America.

Compare how Liberal America is dealing with this destructive force with what Americans, through their greatest leaders, have done in their finest hours: the nation’s founding, the Civil War, and the World War against fascism.

In all three crises, the leaders we regard as heroes understood the evil they were up against, called it out, and fought for values they held sacred.

The Declaration of Independence spends most of its words decrying King George III’s “repeated injuries and usurpations” which they saw as working toward “the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.”  The document ended by declaring such a tyrant “unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” Just government, our Founders declared, requires “the consent of the governed.” They argued on the basis of the “self-evident” truth “that all men are created equal, [and] that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”

They understood that declaring these rights would require them to fight, which is why they conclude the document by mutually pledging “to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

We see the same willingness to fight for sacred values in Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln rose to the presidency on his opposition to slavery. He framed that opposition in terms of the same values on this basis of which our Founders declared independence: that “all men are created equal,” and that “no man is good enough to govern another man, without that other’s consent.”

Lincoln saw the conflict over slavery in fundamental moral terms: “Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man’s nature — opposition to it, in his love of justice. These principles are an eternal antagonism.” “If slavery is not wrong,” Lincoln said, “nothing is wrong.”

Lincoln did not want war. But to keep slavery from expanding — and to preserve the Union — he was ready to fight.

If Abraham Lincoln is ranked by historians as our greatest president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is ranked second. FDR presided over two great national crises: the Great Depression and World War II. Running for a second term, FDR called out “the forces of selfishness and of lust for power.” In his State of the Union speech after America’s entry into the Second World War, FDR characterized the conflict in terms that Lincoln and the Founders would have recognized: “We are fighting, as our fathers have fought, to uphold the doctrine that all men are equal in the sight of God.” The other side, he said, is fighting to to destroy “this deep belief and create a world… of tyranny and cruelty and serfdom.”

President Roosevelt shrank from neither battle: “I welcome their hatred” he said of anti-democratic forces at home. And against the forces of cruel fascism abroad, he brought the power of the United States to bear as quickly as public opinion and events would allow.

See the evil. Call it out. Press the battle. That’s what America’s heroes have done.

But that theme has been missing, or woefully weak, with President Obama and in Liberal America more generally, even though the same basic values are at stake today as in those earlier crises.

The forms of “the consent of the governed” remain. But never in U.S. history have so many been deceived about the true nature of the political force they are supporting. (Government based on misinformed consent is hardly just.)

The idea of equality remains, but the Republican Party has labored – the Citizens United decision being their most obvious success — to widen inequality of power in our supposedly democratic process. In countless ways, the political force that has arisen on the right has moved this nation toward tyranny and cruelty and serfdom.

Why has Liberal America in these times shown so little of the spirit of America’s heroic forebears?

That is a question that this “Press the Battle” series will explore here shortly.

  • ir003436

    Voters will listen to a candidate’s program and policy statements.  However, they vote for the candidate who reaches them on a personal level.

    We Democrats are program and policy people.  We don’t understand why working folks vote against their interests when they elect Republicans who cut taxes on the wealthy and make up for the lost revenue by reducing benefits for working people.

    The people who we think are voting against their interests are, in fact, voting for their interests — they vote for Republicans who make certain they can keep their guns, who save the lives of unborn children, and who protect them from Mooslims, from socialism, and from “those people.”

    I grew up in a rural county in SW Mississippi where my g-g-granddaddy and his brothers were big slaveholders.  Wilkinson County, MS, in the 1950’s was one step above slavery.   Most of the white people in the county were as poor as the black people.  Yet, the white folks voted for politicians who kept them poor because the politicians protected them from the n#####s who wanted to go to their schools and make off with white women.  

    As a college student in Alabama in the 1960’s, I traveled extensively in rural GA, AL, and MS, collecting information for a project that my weird sociology professor was conducting.  I had a LOT of conversations with dirt-poor black and white people.  This was in the midst of the civil rights marches, voter registration, and the like.  Anyone who examined the economic policies of Southern governors knew they favored the wealthy and corporations over the dirt farmers, yet, the dirt farmers elected them because — as one gent told me — “George Wallace will keep them n#####s out of our schools.”  Period.  End of discussion.  George Wallace was looking out for his interests.  

    It was that basic — their fear and hatred of blacks overrode every other consideration when it came time to vote.  It’s the same thing at work today.

    I’m not arguing that we Democrats should become liars and fear mongers as the GOTP is, but, we must learn to connect with people at a visceral level.

    Read “Deer Hunting With Jesus” and “The Unwinding.”