You’ve heard the accusations, I know.
That those of us who post on, comment about or just read liberal blogs represent the far left wing of the Democratic Party, whose only intention is to “mobilize hate and anger.” That we are anti-Semitic America haters who only “want to injure those with whom they disagree.” That liberal blogs are no better than smear merchants who defame honest and loyal Americans because they are conservatives.
You may be wondering, as I am, how did a political belief in progress, tolerance and respect come to be so denigrated and despised? How did our demand for an end to economic and political inequality get twisted by the media into a vile, despicable and radical dogma of hatred? Most of all, how did those of us who form these online communities of liberals and progressives, Democrats and Greens, come to inspire such slanders and libels from the true political radicals on the right who are in charge of our media, our government and, on an ever increasing basis, our daily lives.
But then I go and speak to an old friend of mine, an old leftist if you will, and he reminds me that this fight has been ongoing for decades before I was born, and will no doubt go on for decades after I am only the remnants of ashes cast to the four winds in my beloved Colorado mountains.
I don’t have to say much; he always seems to know what I need to hear to fight off my despair. Sometimes, he inspires me, and gives me confidence that our ideals and values, the values of those the media bloviators impugn with their epithet “Far Left,” are truly more moral, more just, and more reverent than those propounded by the hypocrites and fearmongers on the Right.
Sometimes, what he has to say is a warning meant to encourage me to further activism against the creeping tyranny of one party Republican rule that now besets our Nation. At other times, he reminds me of what government can do for ordinary people when it is run by those who see public service as a trust, and not a giant cookie jar from which to dispense rewards to cronies and criminals.
Mostly, though, he gives me hope that our cause, the cause of the “far left” as we are portrayed, is not a lost cause, but a beacon shining toward a better future and a better America, one that truly lives up to the sacred texts that have defined our country, not only in our eyes, but in the eyes of the whole world.
Let me share with you a few of his insights that have inspired me of late.
On what we fight for:
The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:
Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.
Jobs for those who can work.
Security for those who need it.
The ending of special privilege for the few.
The preservation of civil liberties for all.
The enjoyment — The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.
These are the simple, the basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.
On who and what we fight against:
[O]ut of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital-all undreamed of by the fathers-the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.
There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small business men and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit. They were no more free than the worker or the farmer. Even honest and progressive-minded men of wealth, aware of their obligation to their generation, could never know just where they fitted into this dynastic scheme of things.
On the true enemies of peace:
[B]usiness and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
On why the intrusion of money and influence into politics by corporations and the wealthy is bad for America:
They [have] begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
On the impact on our Nation caused by the malfeasance and corruption which stems directly from the unilateral control of our Government by the Republican Party:
We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. […]
But here is the challenge to our democracy: In this nation I see tens of millions of its citizens-a substantial part of its whole population-who at this very moment are denied the greater part of what the very lowest standards of today call the necessities of life.
I see millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hangs over them day by day. […]
I see millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.
On the need for accountability and transparency in government, rather than secrecy and obfuscation by our political leadership:
Government is competent when all who compose it work as trustees for the whole people. It can make constant progress when it keeps abreast of all the facts. It can obtain justified support and legitimate criticism when the people receive true information of all that government does.
On conservative ideology:
The opposing or conservative school of thought, as a general proposition, does not recognize the need for Government itself to step in and take action to meet these new problems. It believes that individual initiative and private philanthropy will solve them — that we ought to repeal many of the things we have done and go back, for (instance) example, to the old gold standard, or stop all this business of old age pensions and unemployment insurance, or repeal the Securities and Exchange Act, or let monopolies thrive unchecked …
On politicians who deny civil liberties under the banner of false patriotism:
And I am concerned about the attitude of a candidate or his sponsors with respect to the rights of American citizens to assemble peaceably and to express publicly their views and opinions on important social and economic issues. There can be no constitutional democracy in any community which denies to the individual his freedom to speak and worship as he wishes. The American people will not be deceived by anyone who attempts to suppress individual liberty under the pretense of patriotism.
On what should be the basis for America’s foreign policy:
In the field of world policy I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor-the neighbor who resolutely respects himself and, because he does so, respects the rights of others-the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.
I know these statements may seem naive to some, or the pipe dream of some liberal fantasist. However, I believe that if only more Democratic candidates, and Democrats, in general, would openly espouse the principles he has stated so plainly, so eloquently and so succinctly, they would do much better come election time.
You see, my old leftist friend recognizes something that many in the Democratic Party have seemingly forgotten: that proudly stating the values which we profess and proclaiming our intent to fight for the average American, as opposed to the largest Corporations and wealthiest individuals, is a winning political strategy, as well representing a more moral and just path for our Nation’s future. Liberal, ideals, progressive ideals, are nothing to be ashamed of. Instead, our candidates should be shouting them from every platform at every opportunity. Indecision, vague rhetoric and subtle ambiguity convinces no one of anything, especially when it comes to politics.
My old leftist friend, by the way? He’s merely Franklin Delano Roosevelt, former President of the United States, and the words I’ve quoted above come from his collected speeches as President which you can find at the Miller Center for Public Affairs website. I encourage you to read, or listen to, all of them there when you have the time. A conversation with FDR, even one where he does all the talking, can be most enlightening.