Ted Sorensen was an unapologetic voice of Liberalism in the Kennedy White House (and quite a contrast to the wife beating Sorensen who writes for Trump). As President Kennedy’s Chief Speech Writer, he helped the President to articulate the liberal vision of civil rights and reigning in the arm’s race during a time when those ideas ran against popular sentiment. I’ve written a lot over the years on the accomplishments of American Liberalism (as well as the failures). Liberal economic policy saved the Country from the Great Depression of the 30s and the Great Recession of 2008. It built the infrastructure that made America the largest economic engine in the world. American Liberals mobilized Americans to fight and win WWII, even as Conservatives argued for isolationism. Liberal economic policies created the American middle class. The GI Bill, Student Loan Programs, and investments in hard science research created a University system that made us the incubator of most Nobel Laureates in Science and Medicine during the past 60 years. We could go on, but there is one aspect of Liberalism that I feel is missing in our contemporary politics. Courage.
It took courage to raise taxes for essential infrastructure and jobs stimulation, even when desperately needed. It took courage to fight for civil rights in the 60s. Where is that courage now with the defining rights issue of the time – Immigration? This business with DACA seems so symptomatic of the anemic Liberalism of the last two decades. They lacked the courage to shut down government over CHIPS and DACA. The relatively few Liberal voices heard during the debate were from Dreamers and not Democrats. When did Liberals lose their backbone?
Some blame the decline of Liberalism to the concessions of LBJ to the military – Viet Nam in exchange for The Great Society. Some blame the political ineptitude of Jimmy Carter (a wonderful man who was too decent a human being to be a President). Liberals have been defensive and reactive since Reagan. He may, or may not have won the Cold War, but Reagan certainly did it with massive deficits and the consequent economic problems, breaking the back of Organized Labor, and setting into motion the continuous decline of the American Middle Class since. It also spawned the libelous attack on Liberalism by hate radio as being ineffective and bleeding hearts. Clinton certainly didn’t help with his strategy of “triangulation”, and Obama’s cerebral style lacked the willingness to defend Liberalism and his own accomplishments (he did save the Country from the Conservative’s Great Recession).
Unfortunately for us all, Citizen’s United has all but buried the possibility of the Liberal impulse of altruism as a political policy. The only way to get elected now is to solicit money from big donors and Hedge Fund guys are generally not interested in the common good. Only courageous Liberal voices will win over a society that is now trained to be hostile, if not skeptical of social and economic policy that promotes the common good over special interests. And there should be no doubt that only Liberal Policy can reverse income inequality, the brain drain of American science to Europe and freedom from the emerging Quasi-State religion.