Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Principles of Liberals

On May 6, 2005 Eric Alterman wrote:

I was watching a panel on foreign policy called "Are We Making the World Safe for Democracy?" at the L.A. Times Festival of Books on C-SPAN and a questioner asked “My conservative friends can enumerate four or five basic principles of what it means to be a conservative, but what are the principles of the liberals? I would really like to find out what are the basic principles of the liberal worldview… My liberal friends are not able to elucidate them for me. I’m serious…. For my conservative friends we can rattle off four or five principles, if you could just rattle off four or five things that are basic.”

Nobody wanted to answer. David Rieff said, “I think it’s a provocation this question. If anyone could argue for the ability to rattle off, as you say, four or five principles I would take issue with the seriousness of those principles.” Reiff is right, but the political problem is real and central. Anyone want to try and answer? If you solve it, I’ll credit you in the next book, and you will have made the world a better place.

Our Response???

Dear Eric;

Key principles gauntlet has been thrown and duly picked up by the Bring It On bloggers, a group of 10 who routinely analyze all things left. While somewhat incredulous that the questioner could not get an answer to his query, (have you ever been surrounded by a group of Democrats who didn't have an opinion?) six of us felt we could step up, enlighten, and Bring It On.

6 Bloggers Respond

There is a truly unique opportunity here for our party. These crossroads offer us a chance to renew American politics. We believe in the dignity of the individual. I think 3 key principles for liberals are Tolerance, Reform and Protection. Most issues can slide under these headers, and they are humanity embracing rather than humanity regulating principles.

Tolerance implies acceptance, a lack of judgment on others who are different. This does not imply a lack of respect for the law. It does indicate a lessening of hierarchy, i.e. class, race, haves/have nots. It is the base of seeing human society growing in a constant rate of improvement due to the offering of more opportunity to more people. It does not subscribe to the theory that protecting ones personal wealth by creating barriers to others betters society.

Reform means rooting out barriers that impede opportunity so growth continues. It means changing systems that are unfair. It means accountability to the people who suffer bias, and performance on the promise of equal opportunity.

Protection means caring for all within the community, searching out the needy and not turning our backs on their needs. We do this because we understand that we cannot grow and improve if we do not nurture.

Lastly, we need look no further than our founders for inspiration. What we seek is nothing less than the restoration of our public dignity. Dignity in how we see ourselves, our civic responsibilities and the role of our elected officials. As a party, we embrace Civic Virtues: Individual rights, Liberty, The public or common good, Self government, Equality, Diversity, Openness and free inquiry, Truth, and Patriotism -- Jet

The Progressive Agenda is to improve our society in such a way to make Life worth living for everyone regardless of class, race or religion and to assure our Freedom and Liberty are protected.

When you say reform, there are several things to reform. Economic reform maybe what you mean. Conservatives would claim that they want to reform government.I think that the overarching value is to reform society - in such a way to give more people access to opportunity.In the US Democrats encompass the Green Party ideals of Environmental Protection and the Labor ideals of jobs at a fair wage as well as fundamental progressive ideals.Getting society ready for a social change is just as important as the actual change itself. Many people react to change in a negative way. Advertising the reasons that things are in need of change makes liberal look like whiners. But the complaining is needed to expose the problem and the need for reform. -- Dr. Forbush

Liberal values are more than just catch phrases and easy slogans. Liberal values are not easily summed up with snappy one liners. Defining our values takes more effort because the real world is more complex than any conservative slogan. But here is my rough cut at it.Our values are based upon the idea that everyone deserves the chance for a quality life. Not the guarantee of success, but the opportunity to succeed.

We believe a person should be judged on their ability, not their background.
That the merit of the person is worth more than the parent of the person.
That a strong America requires widespread prosperity, not the widening disparity of income we see in our society today.
That government serves the people.
That public servants are supposed to serve the interests of the public, not the serve the public to special interest.
That not all tax cuts are good, and not all tax hikes are bad because building a prosperous America means investing in the welfare and well being of all citizens.

Or in short, we believe in Liberty, Equality, Diversity, Prosperity -- The Cranky Liberal

To ask a party to sum up what they are all about is nothing more than a catch 22. No matter what broad spectrum you choose to define a party, you will always alienate someone in the long run because you can't make everyone happy. There is an underlying reason that parties flip flop on issues over the ages, and that is because both parties chase the voter with the biggest pocket book. I would say that the true sense of democracy, and the Democratic party, lies in a government for the people and by the people. By this I mean you have to look past the pocket books, the special interests, the corporate welfare, (which by the way, they need us, just as much as we need them) and look at what tools the average Joe needs to protect his/her/their family, and in the end be a contributing factor to the success of this government for the people by the people.

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the opportunities offered by this great nation of ours. You can't have life without liberty and you can't have liberty without life. Most of all, you can't pursue happiness unless you have both. You see, it's not guaranteed; it's just yours to pursue. How you achieve it is up to you. The governments only job is to make sure those rights are not violated in your pursuit for life and liberty.

So without writing a novel of what defines the Democratic party and the liberal agenda I'm gonna stick with Life and Liberty. How we achieve those two things is called politics. The world is too big to lock yourself into four or five basic principles. --
The Bastard

My world view consists of tolerance and open-mindedness. One person's right to swing his fist ends at the tip of another person's nose. This doesn't provide any good buzzwords or slogans that can be used for arguments. Try rousing millions of people with hot-button phrases about tolerance and having an open mind. Conservatives have the advantage in this department. They have a slogan for every occasion. They also react instantly to slogans and hot-button issues with no thought processes whatsoever - just a jerk of the knee and a rush of adrenaline. For smooth manipulators, it's a gold mine. Just yell out "gay marriage!" or "weapons of mass destruction!" and millions of drones snap to attention.Liberal ideas don't make good buzzwords or catch phrases. But liberals have an advantage: their ideas come from thinking things through; not from mindless reflexes. I can't imagine any slogan or catch phrase that would have millions of liberals snapping to attention, ready to carry out the work of Great Leader. -- Tom Harper

People say I have liberal values. I think my values are basic human values. I try to treat everybody as I want to be treated, with respect and dignity. I'm human and I make mistakes. But I own up to them. It's impossible sometimes not to judge another person, so I bitch and scream in words that I will then delete. Sometimes I bitch to my friends. Then I'm over it.

The people I respect and like the most tend not to judge other people; I have learned from example not to judge either.

I live in a crowded city. We tend to be loud; we tend to be argumentative. We tolerate each others eccentricities, weird (to others) views, and speeches, because we know that if we're tolerant we will find commonalities and ultimately an understanding. We don't have to agree on everything or anything but we have to respect what other people think if we're going to live together.

We listen to the arguments without closed ears; we learn from others and sometimes even change our opinion. When it comes to larger issues we read, talk, listen as much as we can, and might change our view five times before coming to a final decision. We're not wishy-washy; but we know that if we don't listen to others our mind will be closed, and that's not right.

We believe in justice, and believe that the principles The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights spell out and infer, are principles worth fighting for. We're a city that has more than 41 separate ethnic groups and dialects, every skin color and religion, yet somehow we manage to live together--and smile more than scream. Though we bitch and whine, we're more likely to come together than to attack from behind.

Tolerance, respect, dignity, justice, liberty, and freedom aren't just words to us. We all know people who have come from countries where those simple basic concepts don't exist. Many new New Yorkers have come from such countries. We're proud to be American. We don't have to scream the word patriotic. More than most American civilians we have shown our patriotism.

New Yorkers are best in emergencies--and in the last three and a half years have prove twice, to the world and each other, that if we stick together we can make it through the darkest of days. --
Pia Talks

There you have it. Liberty, tolerance, and reform lead the way, but it's a matter of overall preservation of dignity that defines this party. Dignity in both the personal sense of the word, encompassing principles that build up, provide equal footing for and encourage participation of the individual. Dignity in the public sense of the word, emphasizing the civic virtues that provide it. We know why we're a different choice. Having somebody say we don't is saying something that isn't so, then saying it so many times that people think it IS so. Got half truths? Got misleading statements? Got a network to spread them?

Bring It On!

While Dr. Alterman did not publish us, I wanted to share these thoughts with you. The hearts of the Democratic Party are people just like these bloggers. Regardless of the dithering you see on the top of the party, the base is getting it together. This is precisely what we need. A house built on a solid base will stand, regardless of the wind, in spite of the hardship.

Our house is strong and that's a good thing. We have thieves at the doors.


At May 11, 2005 5:31 PM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Jet, sorry it took so long for me to respond but your post really made me THINK (as most of your posts do). But this one was different. It made me think HARD when you brought up the point that the right-wingers had all the catchy and slick one-liners they can quote off of talk radio and they hold what appears to be a great argument.

I think we think too deeply sometimes, for our own good. We tend not to reach out very well to the "common man" the Democrat Party not only once represented, but was COMPRISED of. Somehow, we've gotten a bit too "snobbish", I think.

In response to this post, I actually took it upon myself to make it a main subject at my own blog. I'm sure I failed miserably but I took this post to be a challenge to come up with one-liners to back liberalism and I gave it my best shot.

Needless to say, you've written another fantastic post. I wish I had HALF the talent you do, my friend!

God Bless ya... and blog ON!

At May 13, 2005 5:54 AM, Blogger frstlymil said...

I am in awe. Wonderful, wonderful post - and great food for much thought - though as GTL stated - perhaps we DO overthink and shoot ourselves in the foot in the process of actually meaning to do the right thing. Was this post published anyware other than here and Bring it On....cause it needs to be widely distributed!!!!!

At May 13, 2005 11:32 AM, Blogger Jet said...

This was cross posted in many places (including most of the 6 author's personal blogs), but you can also find it here:

If nothing else, this was a great excercise. These types of conversations need to happen. If we want a base sensitive party, the base needs to be speaking up.

Thanks for reading and thinking with us today.

At May 13, 2005 5:46 PM, Blogger ~Betsy said...

And THANK YOU once again for showing us the way, Jet. You always give us so much to think about. It's rewarding stopping by your blog. Fabulous way to spend a Friday night!

At May 14, 2005 10:34 AM, Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

I used to think I could summarize my principles but I have found over time that I cannot; they are too many and too varied. I know you read my site so maybe, as time passes, you can see where my values hold strong. Cheers and good post!

At May 14, 2005 1:09 PM, Blogger prying1 said...

Gun Totin' sez: - the right-wingers had all the catchy and slick one-liners they can quote off of talk radio and they hold what appears to be a great argument. -

Are you SURE that these right-wingers are not just saying what is in their heart and what they truly believe?

Is it possible that the talk radio only authenticates what they know to be true before it is broadcast and therefore only confirms what is in their hearts?

Lets take ABORTION for example.

Is it possible that right-wingers feel that life is important and comes from the Living God and therefore should be protected even in the womb as opposed to shredding tiny human bodies and dumping them in landfills?

At May 14, 2005 1:15 PM, Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

The problem, prying, is not the regular people who believe in protecting life but rather the politicians. They use the issue to gain votes and financial backing. That is not believe in life but a betrayal of God's trust.

At May 14, 2005 5:39 PM, Blogger prying1 said...

OKdem - Sounds high falutin' and wonderful but in the meantime little bodies of ex-humans are tossed in the garbage like so much trash while liberals moan and cry about their rights and self centered choices. Politicians are not the ones ripping the children from their mothers bodies. Most right wingers (regular people) that I know would prefer to give these children a chance at life by encouraging the mothers to choose life.

And this does not address the fact that right-wingers can rattle off the string of "Slick one liners" because what they say is in their hearts not in their wind filled open minds.

At May 14, 2005 10:52 PM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Prying1, I am against abortion and am pro life. Now will you join me in abolishing the death penalty?

At May 15, 2005 6:32 AM, Blogger Jet said...

Or perhaps we could open a dialogue on caring for the 17.4% of the children, IN THIS COUNTRY, that live in poverty. The right to life is not simply birth. If, as a nation, we believe that you must be born but cater also to the belief that 1 in five must grow up hungry, then we are guilty of hypocrisy.

Jesus commands we raise up the poor. We choose not to fund that. The percentage of child deaths in this country ranks us 23rd out of 25 nations. We insist on life, but choose not to extend help. It's must easier to denigrate these families NOT as needful, but as abusers of the system of care in place to help them.

To paraphrase, as you care for the most needful, so you care for the Lord. This mindset of insisting on birth and feeling your financial and personal obligations end there is a farce. A farce, apparently, that sells very well in zingy one-liners, to the right.

At May 15, 2005 1:33 PM, Blogger Argent said...

I have never been so inspired. I just discovered your blog and I think it's amazing. Fantastic work.

At May 15, 2005 7:12 PM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Congratulations argent....

Jet is an amazing writer and she inspires me as well. She's so much gentler and kinder than I but no less energized. She actually THINKS before she starts typing, unlike myself. We need more "Jets" in this world. Blog ON... all of y'all.

At May 16, 2005 4:15 AM, Blogger Jet said...

Thank you, Argent. It's very rewarding to feel you are connecting as a writer. Hope to see you again!

GTL, you are way too nice. I think there's plenty of room in the discourse for all the voices. Your rough and tumble styling is pretty refreshing.

At May 16, 2005 6:23 AM, Blogger frstlymil said...

Prying1, NO ONE is pro-abortion. Get it right. Liberals simply understand that having safe and available medical care for these situations is imperative and that NO situation is so black and white as you would like to paint it- There must remain a safe option in dire circumstances. And if you are indeed pro life - will you also speak out against the slaughter of innocent children going on in Iraq? By our own soldiers? Are toddlers and children playing in the street "enemy combatants?" Is their slaughter justified because we might get some oil out of the deal? Or because they might belong to a different religion than you? Or because they made it out of the birth canal, and we don't care about children that are actually born? Will you speak out in favor of preserving their lives?

At June 01, 2005 12:55 PM, Blogger Guppyman said...

I was refered to this site after i asked a question on my own blog about what ideas the left in this country have to move forward. After reading this post, and all the comments after, I still have the same question. Does the left actually have any ideas to move forward with anything? How do they expect to gain voters at this point? Feel free to visit me and answer any of these you can... if they are posts like this one though... I'll probably remaiin just as confused.


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