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What Do Liberals Really Want?
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Trey sent me a link to this commentary by Jon Carroll, noting that I'd brought the issue up a while back.

He asks the question: What do liberals really want? Let's look at some of what he says. He starts off:

Let us agree that the words "liberal" and "conservative" have lost all meaning. They certainly don't mean what they used to mean; even as vague shorthand for a set of beliefs, they have been hopelessly damaged.

But as evidence, he points to Bush's rising deficit spending, along with a backhanded reference to the Patriot Act:

Remember when conservatives supported sound fiscal policies and limited government? The current administration, which is theoretically "conservative," is plunging the country into unprecedented debt and operating the largest secret police force the nation has ever known. If that's conservative, then so was the Soviet Union.

If massive budget deficits damage the label of "conservative", then it lost its meaning during the Reagan era. And where the hell is this "largest secret police force the nation has ever known"? They expanded surveillance powers after 9/11, greater than what they had been in the last decade or two, but still far less powerful than in the middle of the 20th century. Is it possible to discuss expanding the power of intelligence agencies in sensible ways without invoking boogeymen?

But then Carroll starts to try to make the distinction between liberals and conservatives:

What fair generalizations can we make about the current division between conservatives -- represented by the Bush administration and its supporters -- and liberals? How about this: Liberals support the idea that individuals are more important than corporations, that as long as there are welfare programs for corporations there should be welfare programs for individuals, that we all have a right to be safe in our homes from government and corporate spies and that corporations that break the law should be punished with the same degree of severity as individuals who break the law.

Oh, well hell...that clears things up. Because I'm sure most conservatives think that corporations are more important than individuals, that welfare should be abolished, that "corporate spies" (what the hell is he referring to here anyway?) should be allowed to install cameras in our bedrooms, and that corporations should go unpunished for malfeasance.

Give me a break.

There are perhaps a handful of conservatives that hold extreme right-wing views, just as there are on the left. But the vast majority don't think that corporations are more important than individuals. Most people should have the reasonable view that corporations are not reflexively bad entities. That they employ large amounts of people, provide much of products and services that we take for granted, and form a crucial part of our economy and society.

There are lots of different corporations, too. Some act responsibly and humanely, while others obviously don't. But I get the feeling talking to some liberals, that they'd just as soon do away with any business larger than a mom-and-pop store, all while wearing Nikes, driving SUVs, and sipping grande Starbuck's lattes.

Carroll then goes on to argue that liberals were instrumental in virtually every positive social reform in the past couple hundred years. In many cases he's right. But it's interesting that he brings this up:

It was liberals who pressed for intervention against Hitler and who fought for "preparedness."

Why exactly was it that liberals "pressed for intervention against Hitler"? On what grounds? And why wouldn't similar arguments be made for intervention in Iraq? Both were genocidal, power-hungry despots who had repeatedly attacked and invaded neighboring countries. Why weren't liberals arguing for containment back then?

But here's the lesson Carroll says liberals need to learn:

Here's what liberals really blew badly: They failed to understand the changing nature of the media. They failed to understand the power of the Big Lie. They have been caught with their pants down for a decade now; they have lost control of the debate.

Huh? What the hell is he talking about here? Liberals failed to understand the changing nature of the media? What, you've lost your way because you don't have a liberal Rush Limbaugh?

I don't think the problem with liberalism in America right now has squat to do with the media. I think it has to do with core values. I think he's right that liberalism has historically meant caring for the rights of all people, of progressively advancing society to a point of true equal opportunity.

Where I think the Left has lost its way is in its inability to map those values to the international community, in light of an emerging global environment. Liberals are the ones arguing against globalization. Liberals are the ones arguing for isolationism. Liberals are the ones whose primary response to an inhumane attack by radical fascist Islamic terrorists was "What did we do wrong?"

I think the Left has lost its way, because it no longer knows what it values. The message is incoherent and hypocritical.

And the reason I'm so hard on the Left is because I identify with the core values and rights they supposedly hold in higher esteem than conservatives. I would love to be able to vote for a Democrat this election, but the muddled mish-mash of Bush-bashers lined up on the left only makes me shake my head.

So what do liberals really want? Hell if I know. Carroll does a good job of telling us what they used to want, but if he thinks the answer to "fixing it" is simply a stronger media presence, he's a fool. It goes much deeper than that. Liberals have to quit identifying themselves by what they aren't, by simply reviling Bush. Liberals have to decide whether the things they fought for in the past are worth fighting for now and in the future. So far, from what I can tell, they haven't.

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