Liberals can run, and they can hide

A country music song entitled “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything” gives a clear window into the difference between liberals and conservatives today.

Ask a conservative what they believe, and they will give simple answers. Conservatives do not agree on all issues, but the basic tenets of conservatism are lower taxes, free trade, and an aggressive muscular foreign policy that means killing terrorists everywhere.

Liberal leaders simply do not offer a clear message. They claim they are “for families.” Does this mean conservatives are against families? Hardly. They offer meaningless slogans ranging from “A bridge to the 21st century” to “It takes a village” to “A stronger America.”

So why don’t liberal leaders simply offer a clear, coherent vision for the future? Because they cannot get elected to the White House by being themselves.

It is easy for liberals to get elected in Massachusetts, San Francisco, the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Malibu, and other places beyond hope. However, this is a moderate to conservative country. Liberalism does not play on a national scale. To counter this trend, democrats have fallen into 3 groups.

1) The Bill Clinton Group. Bill Clinton was the Seinfeld President. He was likable, because he was for whatever people wanted him to be for. To wake up in the morning, read the polls, see what 60% of Americans favor, and then be for that as well, is not complex. It is also not leadership. Bill Clinton understood that people would elect democrats as long as they were not perceived as liberals. During the campaign, he went duck hunting. He spoke of welfare reform, and a tough on crime approach. His refusal to run as a liberal left him unable to govern as one, thus angering the liberals when he got elected. His triangulation helped him win re-election, but at the expense of liberalism. He declared “the era of big government is over.”

Group 2 is the Hillary Clinton Group. These individuals are unabashed liberals. Hillary has tried to be a moderate senator, but her entire political career has been as an admirer of European statism. However, she would not consider running as a liberal because she has seen that America has not elected a true liberal in over 40 years. Walter Mondale and George McGovern lost 49 states. Michael Dukakis lost 40 states. John Kerry won some large states and some electoral votes, but lost 30 states, 60% of them.

So the choices are between individuals with no beliefs and individuals with the wrong beliefs. Being in the minority does not automatically make a person wrong. However, the overwhelming majority of Americans have rejected the liberal approach.

There is a 3rd option for democrats. They can run as unreconstructed liberals and fight for liberalism itself. The republican debacle of 1964 did not stop Barry Goldwater for sowing the seeds of what would become the republican revolution, from Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich, to George W. Bush.

A friend of mine said that he has resented the republicans since 1988 for making “liberal” a dirty word. Liberals get around this by calling themselves “progressives,” or other synonyms. By refusing to fight back on this point, they are in a sense agreeing with republicans. Silence is acquiescence. Conservatives say that liberals are arrogant, smug condescending effete Frenchified snobs, and liberals respond by saying they are not liberals. Why not fight the characterization altogether like Ronald Reagan did with conservatism? Reagan was able to govern because he ran as who he was, and did what he said he would. George W. Bush was told to govern from the center due to the closeness of the election. He rightly refused, keeping his word to be a conservative.

Barbra Streisand can stand up and claim she is proud to be a liberal, but she does not have the pressure of trying to get elected. Plus, given that most Americans find Hollywood celebrities to be at best useless and at worst a societal detriment, mainstream liberals are only hurt by Hollywood embracing the term.

Liberal politicians running for President need to stand up, proudly proclaim their liberalism, justify why they are right, and get people to agree with them. The problem with this strategy is that they will lose the election in a landslide because people right now do not agree with them. They will then go back to the triangulation strategy.

What liberals need is time. From 1932 to 1980, liberalism dominated the political scene. The rightward drift has only accelerated with 9/11. It does not mean Americans all vote republican. It just means they prefer conservatives to liberals at this point in history.
If the choices are lose badly with honor, or win deceptively and be unable to govern as desired, my choice would be to re-evaluate everything I believe in and see if I philosophically slipped off track somewhere between 1964 and today.

Liberals do not have to abandon everything they believe in, but they will have to abandon some positions.

1) Being Pro-death penalty is vital. The U.S. consensus favors this.

2) Support tax cuts to stimulate growth. JFK did.

3) Support a muscular foreign policy, including the Bush doctrine of preemptive war. Hatred for Bush should not overrule sound policy, especially since a democratic president would want such authority.

4) Most importantly–stop the hatred. Pleasant people win elections.When conservative bombthrowers speak, conservatives and liberals condemn them. When liberal bombthrowers speak, liberals embrace them. From Michael Moore to Howard Dean to George Soros, liberals fail to understand that disappointment with policies is not the same as a personal vendetta. Drop the wacko hyperbole. Being skeptical about Global warming is not on par with Holocaust denial. Normal people do not speak this way.

Bill Clinton had many people who disagreed with him, but they did not hate his guts. Even many democrats who are against the Iraq war want President Bush to succeed. They like him personally. They do not want to grind him into dust.

Liberals need to look in the mirror and see conservatives as human beings who disagree with them. Being conservative does not make one evil or stupid. Our actions help us fight back. Liberals can be portrayed as the angry Frenchies because they do act this way. Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden were/are the bad guys, not President Bush.

I am 100% committed to conservatism, but a stronger liberalism leads to a richer public debate, which benefits all citizens.

The democrats running for president should stop hiding, run as liberals, and hope that Americans forget that Rudy Giuliani or John McCain are heroes.

President McCain or Giuliani can then say they beat a worthy principled opponent.


One Response to “Liberals can run, and they can hide”

  1. Hauk says:

    Dude- are you still in LA? Coz if so, we need to get together so I can buy you a pint of Sam Adams- it’s great to read someone who gets it!

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