JoT re
Ryan re JoT re Rev re "Liberals"


Thanks again for your intelligent commentary. It's nice to have my rants questioned by a conservative instead of by a fellow liberal.

Free Trade

In bringing up international trade, you apparently have one example of a way in which we are more conservative today than we were 100 years ago. In 1901, international trade was burdened by tariffs. The nation didn't have a fedaral income tax, and the main source of income for the federal government was tariffs. By 2000, tariffs were largely gone, and major free-trade agreements were in place. Even the protectionist liberals today don't advocate returning to the days of tariffs on all imports.

Just as there is still active resistance to some major gains of the liberals (welfare, reproductive rights, immigrants' rights, gay rights, etc.), there is active resistance to free trade. Just look at the flap over outsourcing jobs. But the outsourcing issue is instructive in its short-sightedness. People worried about outsourcing talk as though it's any different from buying goods manufactured overseas. It's not. Mainstream politicians that decry outsourcing don't follow through to the logical conclusion and decry imports. Even the liberals don't call for a return to the days of general tariffs.

I'm not sure that even this issue, however, is a clean victory for conservative ideals. Were tariffs "liberal," or were they just the only way for the federal government to raise money before there was an income tax? Is international trade less regulated today, or does the ban on trafficking in endangered animals show that liberal ideals affect even the conservative arena of "free" trade?

Regardless of my reservations, however, I'll go ahead and revise my thesis. Almost every social or political victory in the last hundred years of our republic has been a liberal victory, but not every last one.

States' Rights

The issue of states' rights doesn't stand out as a victory for conservatives in the 20th century. The federal government is more powerful, relative to the state, now than 100 years ago. How can that be a victory for states' rights? I guess you could say that the conservatives successfully retained some autonomy for the states in the face of the advance of the federal power. I just don't count that as a "success."

Furthermore, "states' rights" is a bogus issue. Conservatives say that they support states' rights, but that's because the federal government has been more liberal than the states. "States' rights" have usually meant "the States' right to oppress minorities." When the states get more liberal than the feds, however, the conservatives forget about states' rights. See Ashcroft and the issues of medical marijuana and euthanasia.

Gun Control

As far as gun rights are concerned, our laws are more liberal now than they were a century ago. Does it count as a success for conservatives to have retained some gun rights in the face of advancing gun control? Not in my book. Maybe in yours.

My Thesis

You said:

'And the liberal constituency certainly hasn't "always" won.'

Careful, now. My thesis isn't that liberals have always won. The liberals lost on national health care and the Equal Rights Amendment. My thesis was that all victories have been liberal victories. And I'm revising that to "almost all victories."

Future of the Democrats and Republicans

You say that the parties will resolve their inner contradictions and become more internally consistent. I say they'll keep dividing the US voting public just about in half, adopting and abandoning unrelated or even incongruous policy statements in an attempt to get candidates elected.

Liberal Soft Spots

You said:

If you are a "liberal" how do you feel about the Democratic party's continued resistance to charter schools, support for NAFTA, a litmus test for judicial appointments and the support for the continuation of racial preferences in education?

I know you asked these questions in order to prove a point, but I'll answer them.

Resistance to charter schools: This stance is a straightforward political stance. Unions support the democrats. Teachers' unions really support the Democrats. Teachers' unions oppose charter schools because they threaten public school teachers' jobs. So the Democrats oppose vouchers. If the teachers' unions were enthusiastic about vouchers, the Democrats would push them. It would be nice if political parties didn't have to do political favors for their supporters, but that's the way it is. Better to be beholden to teachers' unions than to big oil.

Support of NAFTA: I'm a liberal the way NAME, author of The Lexus and the Olive Tree, is a liberal or Clinton is a liberal. I support NAFTA just as they do. Democrat politicians often oppose NAFTA for political reasons, but it's better to be beholden to labor unions than to the Christian Right.

Litmus test: Not sure which litmus test you're talking about. Do you mean the fact that Democrats oppose potential federal judges that are pro-life? I'm not sure there's anything untoward about that. If some potential federal judge opposed Brown vs. the Board of Education, I'd want Senators to vote them down.

Racial preferences: I don't think "race" is a good idea even when you use it to try to give benefits to minorities. But Democrat politicians need to support preferences in order to reward blacks for their support. Better to be beholden to minorities than to the NRA.

May 2004


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