Understanding the Liberal Philosophy

Deborah Venable


During the months of my extended sabbatical, many things have occurred but nothing has changed except to get worse.  Government spending driven by both major political parties has increased.  Infringing regulation and legislation has been passed, and ridiculous judicial findings have continued to strengthen the shackles on individual freedom and justice.  That’s the negative view.  On the positive side, there seems to have been a new awakening to certain problems that need immediate attention by freedom loving Americans rooted in our great heritage. 


The illegal alien issue has heated up in recent months and forced the attention of many more politicians than previously had allowed themselves to address it.  The recent “ports deal” controversy had politicians jumping through all sorts of hoops to satisfactorily address ridiculously worded polls on National Security – and so soon on the heels of the “wire tapping” controversy too!  More interest has been trained on the abortion issue in light of new Supreme Court appointments and an interesting twist to the “deadbeat dad” phenomenon – not to mention the cases involving death to unborn children from criminal attack.  Closer scrutiny has been aimed, finally, at what goes on in classrooms and college campuses, both “instructionally” and extracurricular between teachers and students. 


Liberally and conservatively speaking, the country is in chaos.  (More on some of these issues in later articles.)  


If one decides to undertake a study of various philosophies as they apply to political thought, one must expect to encounter a general confusion on definitions, history, religious inferences, freedom and government.  Most do not wish to be so confused, hence they will make up their own definitions and apply them to the personal identity they wish to portray.  This more than adequately explains the shift toward the label of “moderate.”  A moderate philosophy does not truly exist, however, but moderates are generally seen as “safer” to embrace as political representatives.  Then there are the various mixtures of “moderate in this but liberal in that,” or “conservative in this but moderate or liberal in that,” and so on.  Most distinctions are drawn between economic and social issues.  Everyone seems comfortable with being described as either liberal, conservative, or moderate in these two basic areas, whether or not the philosophies are carried forth from one area to the other.  People are sometimes opposed to labeling themselves in any direction, left or right, because they feel the need to clarify their personal beliefs with the aforementioned made up definitions.  Moderates have no need to clarify or justify anything because that label aptly fits any philosophy “in moderation.”     


Oddly enough, the very thing that has received more than its share of criticism – America’s two party system – has been the mainstay in preserving any semblance of political freedom in this country up to now.  As the defining line has faded between the two parties and blended into “alternative parties” and even into each other, frustration has forced some seemingly oxymoronish labels on us, including but not confined to “liberal republican” and “conservative democrat.”  “Moderate” more aptly describes both, but remember, I said that a moderate philosophy does not truly exist.  Therefore, any philosophy is better than none at all if we are to understand philosophy in its true sense. 


The dictionary definition of philosophy describes a “pursuit of wisdom” and a “search for truth through logical reasoning rather than factual observation.”  A moderate must ignore both wisdom and truth along with reasoning and facts.  This is not the type person that will stand on a line and defend a value, rather he is more likely to remain non-committed to all values. 


I cannot admire anyone who has a problem defining a personal philosophy, or who tries to combine two opposing philosophies with a new brand of moderate thought.  I believe that the great majority of our current “representative” politicians fall into this category – even if they wear a standard label.  I also believe that modern liberalism has done this to us. 


Let us pursue an exercise to prove my point:


The following excerpt from a speech given in 1960 prior to the election is a good example of the attempt to define liberalism in various ways.  With his obvious charisma and passionate speaking ability, John F. Kennedy was forging a new path toward what would become a confusion of the liberal philosophy.



“What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal." But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."


But first, I would like to say what I understand the word "Liberal" to mean and explain in the process why I consider myself to be a "Liberal," and what it means in the presidential election of 1960.”  JFK


(He continued in this excerpt)

“I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man's ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.”  JFK


These concerns for individual liberty could well have been uttered by a modern conservative republican in today’s political climate trying to sort out infringements on that liberty that have come in large part from modern liberalism. 


(He further explored his “liberal” ideals with this excerpt) 

“I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.”  JFK


Now, modern liberals could definitely use a reality check on what Kennedy said about government in those few telling lines.  Follow that up with the last statement of that excerpt where he states that a concrete means of achieving the ends is required.  By the way, anybody hear anything of the sort and all spelled out coming from the modern liberal playbook?


(Next excerpt)

“Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies.  And the only basic issue in the 1960 campaign is whether our government will fall in a conservative rut and die there, or whether we will move ahead in the liberal spirit of daring, of breaking new ground, of doing in our generation what Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson did in their time of influence and responsibility.”  JFK


So, while Kennedy was blazing a trail, it is obvious that he had no idea where the trail would lead.  The object of his passion was individual freedom, but the modern liberal has proceeded to bastardize his good intentions.  This brand of liberalism would certainly satisfy many tilted much further to right these days, but he referred to the “conservative rut” as death, did he not?  So he was illustrating the negative way of dealing with conservative establishment.  Simply denounce anything with a conservative label – even while putting forth conservative values.       


(And he continues with this excerpt)

“Our liberalism has its roots in our diverse origins. Most of us are descended from that segment of the American population which was once called an immigrant minority. Today, along with our children and grandchildren, we do not feel minor. We feel proud of our origins and we are not second to any group in our sense of national purpose. For many years New York represented the new frontier to all those who came from the ends of the earth to find new opportunity and new freedom, generations of men and women who fled from the despotism of the czars, the horrors of the Nazis, the tyranny of hunger, who came here to the new frontier in the State of New York. These men and women, a living cross section of American history, indeed, a cross section of the entire world's history of pain and hope, made of this city not only a new world of opportunity, but a new world of the spirit as well.”  JFK


Many words could replace the word “liberalism” in that first sentence and still be accurate.  Remember, Kennedy is still defining his version of liberalism as this speech continues.



“Many of these same immigrant families produced the pioneers and builders of the American labor movement. They are the men who sweated in our shops, who struggled to create a union, and who were driven by longing for education for their children and for the children's development. They went to night schools; they built their own future, their union's future, and their country's future, brick by brick, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, and now in their children's time, suburb by suburb.


Tonight we salute George Meany as a symbol of that struggle and as a reminder that the fight to eliminate poverty and human exploitation is a fight that goes on in our day. But in 1960 the cause of liberalism cannot content itself with carrying on the fight for human justice and economic liberalism here at home. For here and around the world the fear of war hangs over us every morning and every night. It lies, expressed or silent, in the minds of every American. We cannot banish it by repeating that we are economically first or that we are militarily first, for saying so doesn't make it so. More will be needed than goodwill missions or talking back to Soviet politicians or increasing the tempo of the arms race. More will be needed than good intentions, for we know where that paving leads.”  JFK


And here is where it gets pretty muddy for the modern liberal philosophy.  Kennedy was acutely aware of what he was saying and what it meant.  Modern liberals find themselves boxed into corners if they try to take such a stand on issues of labor, war, or foreign relations.  Their “platform” has rotted in the jungle of insincerity.  They, instead, choose all too often to point the finger back at America – the America that liberalism has had such a dynamic role in forming – to explain why labors go un-rewarded, wars go out of control, and foreign relations deteriorate to a hatred of the freedom that America once so proudly stood for and tried to share with the world.   


(And then Kennedy had a quote in this excerpt that is more than fitting in modern times.)

“In Winston Churchill's words, "We cannot escape our dangers by recoiling from them. We dare not pretend such dangers do not exist." JFK


What modern liberal could utter such a quote with a straight face and with deliberate meaning?  Isn’t this the admonishment we hear coming from conservatives today?  Hasn’t our republican president said virtually the same thing over and over in defense of his own actions?


(Kennedy went on to explain the “liberal task” as he saw it in this next excerpt.)

“The reason that Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson had influence abroad, and the United States in their time had it, was because they moved this country here at home, because they stood for something here in the United States, for expanding the benefits of our society to our own people, and the people around the world looked to us as a symbol of hope.


I think it is our task to re-create the same atmosphere in our own time. Our national elections have often proved to be the turning point in the course of our country. I am proposing that 1960 be another turning point in the history of the great Republic.

Some pundits are saying it's 1928 all over again. I say it's 1932 all over again. I say this is the great opportunity that we will have in our time to move our people and this country and the people of the free world beyond the new frontiers of the 1960s.”  JFK


Now this could really be confusing because, correct me if I’m wrong, but this sounds more like a conservative leaning.  “Re-creating the same atmosphere in our own time” could be taken right out of the liberal definition of conservatism.  All this instructional wisdom that we are supposed to gain from history and “moving people of the free world beyond new frontiers” sounds like what we are trying to accomplish with the “exportation of liberty” theories of modern conservatives, does it not?   


(In this final excerpt, Kennedy makes his game-winning pitch for the presidency.)

“And tonight we salute Adlai Stevenson as an eloquent spokesman for the effort to achieve an intelligent foreign policy. Our opponents would like the people to believe that in a time of danger it would be hazardous to change the administration that has brought us to this time of danger. I think it would be hazardous not to change. I think it would be hazardous to continue four more years of stagnation and indifference here at home and abroad, of starving the underpinnings of our national power, including not only our defense but our image abroad as a friend.


This is an important election -- in many ways as important as any this century -- and I think that the Democratic Party and the Liberal Party here in New York, and those who believe in progress all over the United States, should be associated with us in this great effort.”  JFK


He knew how important it was to accentuate a need for change in order to win enough support for his candidacy.  Isn’t this what members of all parties do to convince the most people?  The only difference for Kennedy was that he did have some policies that he believed in strongly enough to implement change.  That remains a mystery with the modern liberal thought.  Nothing is definitive in their promise of change.  They say they have a plan – a better way for everything, but we have yet to hear it. 


So, John F. Kennedy may not have been the first modern liberal, but he was definitely a trailblazer toward what would become a convoluted interpretation of liberalism.  The contradictions in this liberal philosophy are obvious.  For instance, in this one speech, Kennedy both described in glowing terms the main plank of conservatism – that of learning from history and cherishing tradition – and referred to conservatism as a “rut” for our government to fall in and die.  That is just one example. 


Modern liberal philosophy constantly comes to the defense of civil liberties, in word if not deed, without really understanding the concept.  The civil rights of one group of people cannot be traded for those of another and support the concept of civil rights and liberties – yet this is exactly how liberals attend to “defense of civil liberties.”  When a group identity is forced on individuals, the resulting problem is discrimination.  This is basic stuff, but the liberal philosophy would have us believe that discrimination and all resulting social problems can be wiped out by making more discriminatory laws, which naturally force even more group identities.  When social problems continue to boil over into our courtrooms, even judges cannot right the wrongs without causing more harm than good – because all too often judgments are still made based on group identity and not our Constitutionally guaranteed individual rights. 


So here is another exercise to understand modern liberal philosophy.  Let me preface it by saying that the term “liberals” used here refers to those individuals who have freely chosen the label to defend their beliefs.


The following is a statement of my personal beliefs about the “group” that embraces modern liberalism.  I believe enough evidence exists to substantiate these opinions as facts.


If an original thought occurred to a liberal it would literally scare him or her to death!  There is no originality in liberalism, and there actually exists a fear of individualism and freedom among those with a liberal mindset.  They are pack animals of the worst kind and they have no compunction against turning on each other if they get half a chance.  Liberal philosophy does not allow one to function without consensus and group direction. 


This country was not built on liberal philosophy and it does not survive because of it.  Furthermore, it will not survive if the philosophy persists through a majority of the next two generations. 


I also see more and more evidence that the liberal philosophy is being debated more with moderation than with conservatism.  In other words, the philosophical musings in this country are fuzzy at best and dangerously inept at discerning truth.  We can certainly cite the old scapegoats of the education system and the mainstream media as being the staunchest liberal apologists, but that just won’t go very far in addressing this very real problem.  Not until enough individuals who are not afraid of being incorrectly labeled with derogatory venom stand up and use their heads and their hearts to find the America we lost.  In the words of JFK, “I think it is our task to re-create the same atmosphere in our own time.”  Now to re-create that atmosphere, we must remember a time before political correctness – when individuals stood up for themselves and did not allow such usurpations of our rights that we have now. 


As for problems with the government, the liberal philosophy must not take such control of all branches as it did for so long in the last century.  Apathy must not keep the conservative voter away from the polls.  With lip service to economic considerations, security, and the War On Terror, the scrambling representatives of both parties are showing their true colors in this an election year.  Remember – there are 435 jobs at stake in the U.S. House Of Representatives alone this year.  Add to that one third of the Senate and countless state jobs, and the government could look quite different this time next year.  In fact, in my own state of Alabama, there is a push by some to vote out all incumbents!  Wouldn’t that be a hoot! 


Okay, so back to understanding the liberal philosophy:  it is quite simple, they believe in advancing a utopia of world dominance over America.  They do not understand the concepts of peace through strength, freedom through victory, or power through the individual.  They have always operated under the conviction that a few should supply the many and that power would be dished out according to superior diplomacy with the masses.  Not one of them could tell you on which side his bread is buttered.  Special interests warm the hearts and fill the pockets of the modern politician, with no thought given to conflict of interest or dissolution of the American dream.  Even many who proclaim to be conservative have not the good sense to stay out of the raffle of freedoms for favors to win the public vote. 


The biggest agenda item in the liberal playbook this year is to back whatever the president is against, attack what he supports, and sell the idea that nothing good has come from this administration.  When pressed to take this agenda to the American people in an honest debate and offer real alternatives, liberals can only resort to “pack” rhetoric and in some cases they will turn on each other.  If not for so much resulting damage from their actions, they would be amusing to watch. 


As for the controversy over the war we have deployed our young service men and women to fight, I am sick to death that the modern liberal philosophy has attempted and succeeded to infiltrate an operation that will never benefit from such tenets.  We cannot win a politically correct war.  Our warriors – and that is what they are – must not wonder if their actions against our enemies might land them in prison for offending the enemies’ sensibilities.  We are visiting untold damage on our troops, our freedom, (for which they are fighting), and our future by continuing to haggle about whether or not we should do what we are already doing.  We tried NOT doing anything and that lead to direct attacks on our own soil. 


If you are a liberal and you believe in this war, then you are on the wrong side.  If you are a conservative and you do not believe in this war, then you are misnamed.  And if you are a moderate and do not know what you believe, study and learn.  The age-old technique for learning is to study the past and imagine the future.  Get on with it and quit listening to the ravings of the modern liberal.  They do not even appreciate their own roots.



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