Friday, September 11, 2015

Liberal Values are American Values

I believe that liberal values are American values. Here's why:

For starters, liberals fought for America's independence, freed the slaves, and gave women the right to vote.

The Mt. Rushmore Presidents--Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt--were each considered radical liberals in their day. 

Below are major American achievements that liberals fought for, and conservatives opposed:

  • Independence from Great Britain: Conservatives, who then were called Tories, were against the War of Independence.
  • Separation of Church and State: This great achievement was eventually embodied in the First Amendment of the Constitution's Bill of Rights.  It was opposed by conservatives who wanted to preserve the special status of established churches in Virginia (the Episcopal Church) and Massachusetts (the Congregational Church).
  • Freedom of the Press: Conservatives distrusted a free press.  This provision, which was fought for by liberals, also made its way into the Constitution's Bill of Rights.
  • The Abolition of Slavery:  At the outset of the Civil War, abolitionists were regarded by conservatives as dangerous extremists.  Most were persecuted and many were killed.  Some religious denominations split over the issue.  Today's Southern Baptist Convention owes its origin to conservative Southern ministers who believed that the Bible approves of slavery.  The Republican Party--which for decades was run by liberals--was formed to prevent the spread of slavery into the western territories and states.
  • The Pure Food and Drug Act:  A liberal extremist by the name of Upton Sinclair wrote a book called The Jungle which described slaughterhouse practices so vividly that a reluctant, conservative Congress was shamed into creating a federal agency with the responsibility to test all foods and drugs destined for human consumption.
  • Women's Suffrage:  Generations of women lectured, wrote, lobbied, marched, and practiced civil disobedience in order to get the right to vote.  They were called liberal extremists, and worse.  Only a few early liberals lived to see final victory in 1920.
  • Equal Rights For Women:  The Equal Rights Amendment, which has been introduced in every session of Congress since 1923, was passed by Congress in 1972 but failed to be ratified by the necessary number of states.  Conservatives successfully kept it from becoming law. The dangerous wording of the Amendment is as follows: "Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex."
  • Birth Control:  In the 1870s conservatives in Congress passed the Comstock Law which made it illegal to disseminate information about birth control practices.  In 1938, in a case involving liberal extremist Margaret Sanger, Justice August Hand lifted the federal ban on birth control.
  • Child Labor:  Liberal extremists called "muckrakers" exposed horrible abuses of hundreds of thousands of child laborers. In 1916 Woodrow Wilson pushed the Keating-Owen Act through Congress which banned articles made by children from interstate commerce.  The Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.  Not until  the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 did any meaningful child labor legislation succeed.
  • The Repeal of ProhibitionThe 18th Amendment, which prohibited the sale and use of alcoholic beverages, was opposed by liberals. It was  repealed in 1933.
  • Social Security: Before FDR introduced Social Security in 1934, most elderly Americans lived in poverty, yet it was fought by conservatives as a socialistic scheme. Without it today, most elderly Americans would still live in poverty.
  • The Tennessee Valley Authority:  This creation of the Roosevelt era brought cheap electric power to rural areas of the economically devastated Depression-era South.  Private firms had passed on doing it themselves because it was too big and not lucrative enough, but TVA was branded as Communistic.
  • The United Nations: The UN is a favorite whipping boy of conservatives.  Conservatives in another generation killed the League of Nations, which if properly implemented, might have prevented WWII.  Undoubtedly the UN is flawed and often ineffectual, but the world would be a more dangerous place if there were no forum for all the nations of earth, rich and poor, dangerous and peaceful, to talk, talk, talk before they fight, fight, fight.
  • Desegregation of America's Armed Forces:  President Harry S Truman, by executive order, ended Jim Crow practices in the U.S. military.  His civil rights initiatives split the Democratic Party.  Strom Thurmond, a staunch Southern conservative who later became a Republican Senator from South Carolina, ran for President as a Dixiecrat, and carried four Southern states.
  • Civil Rights: Over the fierce opposition of conservatives, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed which made racial discrimination in public places such as restaurants, hotels, and theaters illegal, and guaranteed voting rights. President Lyndon Johnson, who had supported segregation while he was a Texas Senator, was branded as a traitor by conservatives.
  • The Environmental Movement:  John Muir, Benjamin Harrison, and Teddy Roosevelt led in the creation of national parks and the preservation of wilderness areas over the opposition of conservative forces led by mining and timber companies and developers.

To be fair, it is true that conservatives have founded and generously supported hospitals, orphanages, museums, schools and colleges, historic preservation, and a wide range of philanthropies. They have created parks and beautified cities.

But conservatives have been on the wrong side of a shockingly long list of major developments that have made American a better place to live--as the above list should make clear. (There are hundreds more that can be added.)

This is because, historically, conservatives generally have been naysayers, defenders of the status quo.

Sometimes conservatives do get it right. But that shouldn't surprise anyone. If you say No to everything, you're bound to be right every once in a while. 

The next time you hear someone saying that liberals are a threat to America, tell them to take a history lesson.

Harry Truman used to say, "The only new thing in the world is the history you don't know."

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