Lies Liberals Tell (Confessions of a Born-Again Liberal)
Copyright 2017,2018,2019 Joseph Urban
Part 1 of a 7 part series.
The elevation of Donald Trump to the position of most powerful human being on the planet Earth should make all of us re-examine our most basic beliefs about mankind. Of course, Donald Trump did not win the majority of votes. (Latest count shows him losing by almost 3,000,000 votes) So his philosophy and beliefs do not reflect the values of most Americans. Nevertheless, he was able to garner enough votes in enough states to win the electoral college majority. So, while he is a “minority” president, the mere fact that he was even close in the popular vote this election gives us pause and causes us to reconsider where we stand as liberals. Furthermore, the fact that he exercises immense power with little or no regard to the desires of the majority must make us more than a little worried.
As a lifelong liberal I have had a number of core beliefs challenged by this development. Perhaps liberals have been lying to themselves about America and what it stands for. Perhaps we need to dispose of illusions and lies we have been telling ourselves. In this short 7 part series I will discuss some of the beliefs, which have turned out to be lies, that liberals have held for years. Things we thought were true. We have been dead wrong.
I am not suggesting that we abandon these ideas and beliefs. But we need to accept the reality that significant minorities of our population do not hold the same core beliefs that we do. We can no longer take for granted that most Americans share these core values and beliefs. In order to go forward in a practical way, we need to accept the reality that we have been, in large part, lying to ourselves about a significant number of citizens of The United States.
Lies are organized into the following categories.
- Mean Well
- Inevitability of Progress
- It Can’t Happen Here
Lie # 1: We are all in this together in society.
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Those are the first words of the US Constitution. “We”. Not “I”. We . We will establish a government that supports society. Remember that after the Revolutionary War the 13 colonies formed a union. The Articles of Confederation knit together the colonies in a loose union based on the interests of individual states. The United States , in the sense that we know it today, was not an easy sell. (See the Federalist Papers for a thorough discussion of the issues).
To form a more perfect union. The founding fathers discovered that a loose union would not last. It would either break apart into sectionalism or completely dissolve as each state demanded sovereignty and independence. The result would be a weakened group of states. Easy prey for European nations seeking dominance. The weakness would be an invitation to chaos and interference by foreign powers.
The solution was to develop a document that guaranteed some unity among the diverse parts of states along the eastern seaboard. The Preamble to the Constitution establishes the philosophical framework for that unity. An attempt to pull together the north and south, the rural and urban, the large states and small ones, into a cohesive society. Only by uniting the divergent elements into a new society could unity be secured.
So, we have, at the very beginnings of the United States, the fundamental understanding that “society” was the key to success. And how do we attempt to build this new society? By establishing the purposes of government. Clearly, these purposes were to unite , not divide. The divisions were already there. Clear. The need was to superimpose on those divisions a system that would lead to national unity.
Establishing justice. A liberal idea, that justice is the key to any acceptance of a new system. People should be treated fairly and justly. For society to function people need to accept that they will be treated fairly. To do otherwise leads to dissolution or revolution. After all, the Revolutionary War was fought because a large segment of the population felt that British tax laws were unjust.
Promote the general welfare. The idea that government should be active, not passive, in developing plans and assistance to benefit society. Government has been established to facilitate what is good for people and society in general. So we see in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution a laundry list of practical steps Congress should take to promote the general welfare. Among them are such things as coining money and regulating trade. Building roads for the public. Establishing post offices. Doing whatever is needed to promote science and “useful arts” by securing patent rights. To raise money and pay debts as needed for the military and general welfare.
We see an active national government. One that does not sit back. One that actively pursues, through taxation and other legal remedies, the general welfare of society. A government involved in people’s lives in order to help make those lives better and fuller. A government, by its very nature, designed to benefit its citizens individually and collectively .
This basic concept, that the US Constitution is established, in part, to provide for a just and good society, was at the core of the Constitution. It has also been a core belief of liberalism. Because, the fact is, the designers of the Constitution were extremely liberal for their time. While they were still acting in ways that we would consider reactionary today, but that the overall sense of the document is certainly liberal at its core. A new type of government. Designed to assist the people and develop society, as opposed to the old way of thinking that government should serve the elites at the expense of the peasantry.
Don’t all Americans agree with this fundamental truth? This is the first liberal lie we tell ourselves.
American liberals tend to accept the idea that the proper role of government is to assist and support society. That includes society’s weakest members as well as the most fortunate ones.
However, the emergence of the “new right” under Ronald Reagan and continuing through the Bushes and Trump puts that belief to the test. John F Kennedy, in his inaugural address said: …”Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country…” (society). Ronald Reagan replied in his first inaugural address: “…government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem”.
Reagan and those who follow his philosophy turn the Preamble to the US Constitution on its head. Government, they believe, is not supposed to “promote the general welfare” Quite the opposite. Government should promote the elites and let society devolve into a dog-eat-dog world. Greed is good. Regulation is evil. Society exists only as a battleground of self-interest and self-promotion, not as a cooperative venture where all of us have a stake and where all people can participate fully. Some must lose big time so others can win big time.
Liberals need to recognize that the seductive “me-first” ideology has taken hold of a very significant portion of people in America. They have been propagandized into accepting the notion, which is at odds with the Preamble, that they should reject idea of the “common good”. That the “common good” is seen as equivalent to communism or Marxism. This distorted notion of the role of government has taken hold and forms the basis for the “new right”. They incorrectly assume that any “public good” must inevitably lead to some kind of communistic equality. They are blind to the Constitutional mandate to promote the general welfare.
So, liberals need to recognize that millions of Americans no longer hold to the founding fathers’ core belief. Of course, to liberals the contradiction is glaring.
For example, the states that consistently vote for the “less government”, new right, largely Republican candidates are the very states that benefit most from the federal treasury. These “welfare states” take much more from the federal government than they send to Washington, DC in taxes. While they condescendingly refer to others as “takers” they themselves have not paid their own way in years, if ever.
Nevertheless, liberals need to deal with the reality. Millions of Americans no longer support a key tenet of the Constitution, that government has a significant role in maintaining a just society and is responsible for promoting a good society.