Thursday, September 11, 2008

Back to the Future Without Liberals & Progressives - A Cruel World

Some conservatives love to berate big government and argue simplistically that government should, without exception, always be "less involved." As discussed here previously, they get it only half-right: the Constitution mandates that government be less involved (ie, it must be tolerant) when it comes to respecting individual liberty; but, a humane government truly interested in providing for the health, safety and welfare of citizens should be involved in promoting programs to that end.

On the latter point, here's a keeper article: Bob Herbert's NYTimes column the other day entitled "Hold Your Heads Up," pointing out the advances made that would never have been possible without the efforts of LIBERAL governmental action. He encourages liberals to be proud of their accomplishments, and not to be cowed by the ridicule of conservatives who damn efforts to create a more humane society of equal opportunity even as they themselves avail themselves of the liberal society's many benefits.

"Why liberals don’t stand up to this garbage, I don’t know," Herbert says. "Without the extraordinary contribution of liberals — from the mightiest presidents to the most unheralded protesters and organizers — the United States would be a much, much worse place than it is today."

"There would be absolutely no chance that a Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin could make a credible run for the highest offices in the land. Conservatives would never have allowed it.

"Civil rights? Women’s rights? Liberals went to the mat for them time and again against ugly, vicious and sometimes murderous opposition. They should be forever proud.

"The liberals who didn’t have a clue gave us Social Security and unemployment insurance, both of which were contained in the original Social Security Act. Most conservatives despised the very idea of this assistance to struggling Americans. Republicans hated Social Security, but most were afraid to give full throat to their opposition in public at the height of the Depression.

"Liberals who didn’t have a clue gave us Medicare and Medicaid. Quick, how many of you (or your loved ones) are benefiting mightily from these programs, even as we speak. The idea that Republicans are proud of Ronald Reagan, who saw Medicare as “the advance wave of socialism,” while Democrats are ashamed of Lyndon Johnson, whose legislative genius made this wonderful, life-saving concept real, is insane."

By contrast, what would America look like today without such accomplishments of Liberal/Progressive government?

Herbert continues, "Without the many great and noble deeds of liberals over the past six or seven decades, America would hardly be recognizable to today’s young people. Liberals (including liberal Republicans, who have since been mostly drummed out of the party) ended legalized racial segregation and gender discrimination.

"Humiliation imposed by custom and enforced by government had been the order of the day for blacks and women before men and women of good will and liberal persuasion stepped up their long (and not yet ended) campaign to change things. Liberals gave this country Head Start and legal services and the food stamp program. They fought for cleaner air (there was a time when you could barely see Los Angeles) and cleaner water (there were rivers in America that actually caught fire).

"Liberals. Your food is safer because of them, and so are your children’s clothing and toys. Your workplace is safer. Your ability (or that of your children or grandchildren) to go to college is manifestly easier.

"It would take volumes to adequately cover the enhancements to the quality of American lives and the greatness of American society that have been wrought by people whose politics were unabashedly liberal. It is a track record that deserves to be celebrated, not ridiculed or scorned."

This all is reminiscent of the old Michael J. Fox movie, "Back to the Future," where Marty McFly is able to visit the future in his souped-up DeLorean and sees how things would be if a certain key event hadn't occurred at a certain earlier point in time (if his mom and dad hadn't met, I think) - and what he sees is a future of crass selfishness and lack of grace.

But for liberals and progressives in our past, America would be much less attractive and humane place today.