Our Creed and Our Stakes–Part I

This is the first part of an essay I’ve been hashing out, concerning what I think we stand for as liberals and what the stakes are for us and for the country.

An off-topic note: I’ll be off the grid for the next few days. I’m travelling to Kuwait as part of the long redeployment process. I’ll be back in a few days. Wish me luck.

One of the biggest problems–and it is a problem–we face as liberals is our inability to boil our arguments down to a nice, short summary…or sound bite. When I’ve spoken to other liberals about this, the response usually has been that “sound bites harm debate”, or something along those lines.

Nonsense. I just got done reading Carville & Begala’s new book, Buck Up, Suck Up…and Come Back When You Foul Up, and their retort to that line of thinking is to have one quote John 3:16. Do it.

Okay, how long did that take? 20 seconds? 30? Yet, in that half-minute, you’ve managed to state the fundamental tenets of Christianity. If God can give you a religion’s pillars in 30 seconds, surely we liberals can describe what animates us in a minute.

So here’s my take on it. I think we stand for these three things:

Freedom for all.

Opportunity for all.

Responsibility from all.

I believe that liberalism, in its best moments, stands for the freedom for all Americans to rise as high as their God-given talents take them; the opportunity for Americans to achieve greatness, in whatever they choose to do; and demands responsibility from Americans to each other, so that all Americans have the same chance to achieve the American dream.

Some of our greatest moments as a nation have come when we keep these principles foremost; likewise, some of our worst moments have come when we’ve forgotten them, whether it’s in the wild rage of war, or the vicious pursuit of temporary riches.

So why am I speaking of these principles?

Because, in the heat of a primary battle, we are running the real risk of forgetting that this year, more than most, we must stand together. If we don’t, if we sacrifice victory on the altar of purity, we will slaughter any chance our children and theirs have at realizing the American dream.

Is that the price we want to pay for assuaging our pride? To some, that price doesn’t seem so great; they would chop off their heads to spite their nose. I think the price we’ve paid is already too high.

Last night, John Forbes Kerry became the overwhelming favorite to become our Presidential nominee this fall. John Edwards may yet challenge for the prize; but in order to do so, he will have to win outside the South, something he’s had difficulty doing, other than in Iowa.

And what has been the reaction of Howard Dean and his devout acolytes?

Dean gave an interview in which he said that Kerry and Bush were alike. “It seems like there’s a little bit of George Bush in John Kerry,” says Dean. And he doesn’t stop there. “Maybe they shared a little bit more than brotherhood at Skull and Bones, I don’t know.” Coming from a man who helped make the lives of gays better, that sort of innuendo is not only graceless, it’s disgraceful.

And what’s his evidence for Kerry being a Bush clone? Again, he brings up Kerry’s vote on the war and his vote for No Child Left Behind.

Well, I wish we could all have been as divinely inspired as St. Howard on these two subjects.

He and his sinless disciples would do well to remember that among the rest of us sinful mortals, no less a liberal lion than Ted Kennedy endorsed No Child Left Behind; and that when it came to Iraq, given the amount of thinking that had been done by virtually everyone about that sad, cruel land over the years, on both sides, no one expected the President to handle that situation so fecklessly.

In their fervid ardor for the doctor, they mistake the man for the cause. Liberalism is bigger than any man. Dean will fade away; we need to make certain that the passion he gave channel to does not. We need to harness that desire for a better America and continue to give it voice, so that someday, perhaps in our lifetime, perhaps not, our long struggle for those whose care has been our concern can at last be crowned with victory.

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