Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Trouble With Liberals

I was watching FreeSpeechTV this morning.

(Side note: If you don’t get FreeSpeechTV on your television provider, switch to DISH Network, stat. You’re missing out on some amazing programming.)

In the course of a “commercial break” – FSTV does not accept sponsor ads or government assistance in order to stay completely independent. It is wholly supported by viewers like me – I saw in rapid succession public service announcements for marriage equality, a greener earth, and aid to the homeless.

And it started me thinking: those are all noble and worthy causes, which means they’re all pretty much doomed to failure if something doesn’t change in the reality-based community.

In one way, Republicans got it correct. They managed to squeeze under their so-called “big tent” libertarian social conservatives, Bible thumpers and economic royalists, none of whom has a whole lot in common with the others. Yes, there’s some crossover, but the poor white church goer has a lot less in common with the Wall Street banker than he does with the guy down the road on Medicaid and food stamps.

This coalition has held strong for thirty years, only recently beginning to show cracks. It’s been glued together by the electoral successes it has purchased (or stolen), particularly at the grass-roots level, from school boards to county seats, city councils and state legislators.

Liberals tend not to have that particular depth of resource. There is an advantage to inviting the Wall Streeters to your table, I suppose. That meme, of liberals being behind in fundraising, may be changing, tho.

So how do we herd cats here? How do we get people who are passionate about marriage equality on-board with the green movement and assistance to the homeless?

Republicans had a thematic bind to their message. William F Buckley said it best decades ago: the job of conservatism was to “stand athwart the world, yelling ‘Stop!’” the entire conservative wing of the Republican party bought into that, free marketeers worried about “socialism” to the religious right worried about “moral decay”. It was an easy image for them to fall in line with.

Back in liberalism’s heyday, the 60s and 70s, we had some easy pickings to get in line behind. We watched the TeeVee and saw black men and women being terrorized in their own homes, an endless war with countless dead and dying, and the promise of a trip to the moon on the word of a slain President. We saw a war on poverty.

We saw people give a damn. We didn’t need an overarching philosophy. We just did it.

The ground is fertile for a renewal of the liberal America we grew up with. Already, the diversity of the American population threatens to drown old white men in a rainbow sea. Young people are getting involved and they tend to be for progressive policies.

Perhaps all we need to do is to wait. But there’s a danger in that waiting gives conservatism time to re-tool their message, and present it in a palatable persona like a Chris Christie.

We may not have as much time as we’d like.