Babe the Blue Ox here.
Paul has not left the cabin in four days, working his way through a whole standard pallet of Kentucky whiskey. Every few minutes, I hear the clank of another empty flying out the window onto a pile that is now bigger than one of my cow-pies.
Okay, while Paul is out of it for a while, here’s the deal. Yes, the election was stolen. But it was stolen fair and square. You can’t cheat an honest man, and who lets an election get stolen? A wussy does, is what the Babe has to say about that. John Kerry, Al Gore, Michael Dukakis, Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Ed Muskie, what do they all have in common? Um, they’re wusses? Uh huh.
The Democrats have one big problem. The word Conservative is just a whole lot of a better word than the word Liberal. Conservative is what you want your football team to be in the Superbowl–that is, unless they’re Losing in the 3rd quarter, or unless they are one of those one-hit-wonder teams that rely on a flashy offense of the kind that never win Superbowls. Conservative is what you want to be with your money. Conservative is what you want to be with your “powers” and your “energies” for “when it really matters.” Conservative is what you want to be as a Liberal with one of your key concerns, i.e. the environment, because you are a Conservationist.
Liberal is not what you want anybody to be with your daughter. When you say that somebody uses a word, or a spice, or their drinking, or anything else “Liberally,” you’re making fun of ’em. Somebody who is Liberal with his money is good to have as a friend, but is definitely not someone whose business you would invest in.
The British Liberal Party of 200 years ago began as a radical opposition movement against the old entrenched powers. Back then the alarming connotations of Liberality as a policy of state (“Sure take whatever you want. I’m feelin’ loose.”), were not a problem because they were meant as a provocation. These were the guys who wanted to break up the old system of rigid state control, whether the Tory or Whig version. The Liberal idea was freedom, that is to stop fighting the forces of change, let it loose with free trade, free religious expression, and expansion of the voting franchise.
The Liberals went from radicalism to decades of political domination at the very height of British glory and empire. They held on to power so long because the crazy Liberal idea worked just as they thought it would: it created wealth without completely destroying society. In their early years of rule they could rely on the nearly unanimous support of the newly emerging class of people who were the direct beneficiaries of this wealth, that is everybody who made real money off of the industrial revolution, from capitalists to engineers to merchants to ad-men.
It’s significant that the Liberals hit the rocks when they tried to expand their set of Enlightenment ideals from the individual-oriented principles of free trade and free expression to the universalist principles of national self-determination and protection of human welfare. Half of their base of support deserted them when it came to Home Rule for Ireland and poor-relief at home. The Liberal, or anti-Tory, cause was lost until the emergence of the Industrial Worker power base and the Labour Party. It’s significant also that while Whigs yielded to Liberals and Liberals to Labour, a Tory remained a Tory. The impulse to say no to change, to try to turn back time, is a basic and primitive impulse that needs no name change or even any explanation.
Things went a little differently in the U.S. For one thing, before the Liberal party even existed in England, the U.S. was established with a Constitution and Bill of Rights that made it the most Liberal nation that had ever existed. And so our political struggles broke out along different lines, with a series of changing sets of party oppositions that were aligned not so much to the classic Liberal/Conservative opposition as to regional or class conflicts, such as between the South and North or between industrial and agricultural regions.
The result is a very twisted and complex genealogy of U.S. political parties. For example, the Democratic party was originally founded on states’ rights and opposition to taxes, causes eventually taken up by Republicans just as they took up the principle of Racism when the Democrats abandoned it. Meanwhile, the Republican Party of Lincoln was in some respects the counterpart of the Liberals in England, and remained so until Teddy Roosevelt defected from the party in 1912.
The Liberal, progressive, or anti-conservative cause has shifted its objectives over time. Liberalism meant free-trade in early 19th century England when the existing autocracy needed to be broken to permit industry to develop, but it meant trust-busting around the turn of the century when industrial wealth had gained too much power. Liberalism at first ignored the worker, but then took up his cause after it won him the franchise and after public education and new media technologies made it possible for the masses to participate in politics. Idealistic humanitarian, environmental, and civil rights issues have always been a part of Liberalism, but have always been contentious, having periodically torn its voting bases to shreds since the Liberals fell into decline in England some 120 years ago.
To be a Liberal means to have an answer to the complaint that “things were better off the way they used to be.” The problem is nobody really believes this; everybody actually believes on an emotional level that things were better before. The enormous advantage, on the other hand, is that thing are going to change whether or not we want them to, and thus all Conservatives will always be wrong. And so far, nostalgia aside, all of this change, at least in America, has been for the better. The key is to realize what needs to happen and to make it happen, like, for example, Lincoln, both Roosevelts, and Johnson did.