Most of us on the left began our political activism as liberals. I admit that I did. I wanted to reform a system that had tremendous inequities . . . in income, access to healthcare, access to quality education, access to affordable housing, continuous wars, etc.
I involved myself in protests, both in New York City and Washington, DC. As many liberals, I voted for the Democratic candidates, thinking that it was the Democrats who would save us from the savagery of the Republicans.
But alas, it was during the Bill Clinton’s years that I began to understand that what I had been observing and participating in was nothing more than political theater. The Republicans interestingly, were more honest . . . they told us that their constituency consisted of those with wealth and power, while the Democrats posed as a party of and for the people. Yet, they both competed for the financial backing of the same wealthy segment of our society.
What also became evident was that regardless of which party was in power, the rich got richer and the working men and women continued to struggle to make ends meet. If anything, the conditions for working people got worse over the years.
The Democrats did us more harm than good. They kept us focused on the electoral process, a process that convinced us that we live in a democracy and the next election will provide the opportunity to elect those who will work toward solving the problems facing the working class. That election never happened.
While we organized for the next election, our efforts, energy, and attention were withdrawn from the corrupt system that represented the ruling class, a system that would never serve the people. Any opportunity to rebel or revolt was, and still is, compromised and negated by the electoral process. We marched, we protested, but we never rebelled or resisted. We were patient and over and over again waited for the next election, a time when we could vote into office those who will really represent our interests. We are still waiting.
Liberals walk around in a constant state of ambivalence expressing their mantra, “On the one hand . . . , but on the other hand”. A perfect example is the issue of “free speech”. We have many examples where hateful, inciteful, dangerous speech is supported by many liberals because everyone should have the right to express his/her thoughts and opinions. This sounds good and democratic, allowing racists, anti-Semites, and fascists to step up to the podium and spew their hateful rhetoric.
However, “free speech” has some recognized restrictions. One does not have the right to yell “fire” in a theater because to do so presents a threat and danger to the safety of others. When we allow the racists and/or fascists to publicly express their hateful ideas and opinions, do we not offer him or her a forum that has the potential to create danger for various groups of people? Has anyone noticed the increase in racist violence since Donald Trump began expounding on Mexicans and Muslims during his candidacy? White supremacist groups have come out of the closet since Trump gave them legitimacy.
The issue of liberalism has been a constant problem to define. Who is a liberal? Bernie Sanders, not only accepted as a liberal but during his candidacy labeled a socialist, had many good ideas domestically, ideas that favored the well being of working people. But Bernie has a political history in which he has voted to fund the many wars the US has initiated, as well as voting in favor of funding Israel’s program of genocide against the Palestinian people. In other words, he has accepted the legitimacy of US imperialism.
Elizabeth Warren is another example of liberalism. Her rhetoric regarding domestic issues is refreshing. She has been willing to confront the wealthy and powerful in the US. But she, as with Bernie Sanders, has a record on foreign policy that puts in question her progressiveness. She has voted for funding US imperialistic wars and for funding Israel’s attacks on Gaza and the West Bank. Recently, Warren has stated that she supports Israel’s attacks on Palestinian hospitals and schools because Israel has the right to protect itself.
Both Bernie and Elizabeth are not the only members of Congress to support US imperialism, Saudi Arabia’s bombing and destruction of Yemen, and Israeli slaughter of Palestinians. I cannot remember one time when an elected official questioned any of the above actions by the US.
The term “leftist ” and “progressive” are constantly being tossed around without any understanding of what these terms imply. During her campaign, Hillary Clinton referred to herself as a progressive. When I heard her say this, it brought tears to my eyes . . . I don’t think she even makes it as a liberal, never mind progressive.
This is what I think . . . liberals accept capitalism and are working toward making it kinder and gentler, an oxymoron if I ever heard one. Liberals accept US imperialism but would like more strategic bombing that would avoid the large number of civilian casualties. Liberals are ready to protest, expressing their discontent with policies but not willing to resist or rebel by taking action to prevent the powers that be from conducting business as usual. Liberals remain true and loyal to the Democratic Party despite being continuously abandoned by them
As Larry Holmes of Worker’s World recently stated, “The Democratic Party is the graveyard movement.”
Dave Alpert has masters degrees in social work, educational administration, and psychology. He spent his career working with troubled inner city adolescents.