On May 6, 2005 Eric Alterman wrote the following:
I was watching a panel on foreign policy called “Are We Making the World Safe for Democracy?” at the L.A. Times Festival of Books on C-SPAN and a questioner asked “My conservative friends can enumerate four or five basic principles of what it means to be a conservative, but what are the principles of the liberals? I would really like to find out what are the basic principles of the liberal worldview… My liberal friends are not able to elucidate them for me. I’m serious…. For my conservative friends we can rattle off four or five principles, if you could just rattle off four or five things that are basic.”
Nobody wanted to answer. David Rieff said, “I think it’s a provocation this question. If anyone could argue for the ability to rattle off, as you say, four or five principles I would take issue with the seriousness of those principles.” Reiff is right, but the political problem is real and central. Anyone want to try and answer? If you solve it, I’ll credit you in the next book, and you will have made the world a better place.
Key principles gauntlet has been thrown and duly picked up by the Bring It On bloggers, a group of 10 who routinely analyze all things left. While somewhat incredulous that the questioner could not get an answer to his query, (have you ever been surrounded by a group of Democrats who didn’t have an opinion?) six of us felt we could step up, enlighten, and Bring It On.
6 Bloggers Respond
There is a truly unique opportunity here for our party. These crossroads offer us a chance to renew American politics. We believe in the dignity of the individual. I think 3 key principles for liberals are Tolerance, Reform and Protection. Most issues can slide under these headers, and they are humanity embracing rather than humanity regulating principles.
Tolerance implies acceptance, a lack of judgment on others who are different. This does not imply a lack of respect for the law. It does indicate a lessening of hierarchy, i.e. class, race, haves/have nots. It is the base of seeing human society growing in a constant rate of improvement due to the offering of more opportunity to more people. It does not subscribe to the theory that protecting ones personal wealth by creating barriers to others betters society.
Reform means rooting out barriers that impede opportunity so growth continues. It means changing systems that are unfair. It means accountability to the people who suffer bias, and performance on the promise of equal opportunity.
Protection means caring for all within the community, searching out the needy and not turning our backs on their needs. We do this because we understand that we cannot grow and improve if we do not nurture.
Lastly, we need look no further than our founders for inspiration. What we seek is nothing less than the restoration of our public dignity. Dignity in how we see ourselves, our civic responsibilities and the role of our elected officials. As a party, we embrace Civic Virtues: Individual rights, Liberty, The public or common good, Self government, Equality, Diversity, Openness and free inquiry, Truth, and Patriotism
The Progressive Agenda is to improve our society in such a way to make Life worth living for everyone regardless of class, race or religion and to assure our Freedom and Liberty are protected.
When you say reform, there are several things to reform. Economic reform maybe what you mean. Conservatives would claim that they want to reform government.
I think that the overarching value is to reform society - in such a way to give more people access to opportunity.
In the US Democrats encompass the Green Party ideals of Environmental Protection and the Labor ideals of jobs at a fair wage as well as fundamental progressive ideals.
Getting society ready for a social change is just as important as the actual change itself. Many people react to change in a negative way. Advertising the reasons that things are in need of change makes liberal look like whiners. But the complaining is needed to expose the problem and the need for reform.
— Dr. Forbush
Liberal values are more than just catch phrases and easy slogans. Liberal values are not easily summed up with snappy one liners. Defining our values takes more effort because the real world is more complex than any conservative slogan. But here is my rough cut at it.
Our values are based upon the idea that everyone deserves the chance for a quality life. Not the guarantee of success, but the opportunity to succeed.
We believe a person should be judged on their ability, not their background
That the merit of the person is worth more than the parent of the person
That a strong America requires widespread prosperity, not the widening disparity of income we see in our society today.
That government serves the people.
That public servants are supposed to serve the interests of the public, not the serve the public to special interest.
That not all tax cuts are good, and not all tax hikes are bad because building a prosperous America means investing in the welfare and well being of all citizens.
Or in short, we believe in Liberty, Equality, Diversity, Prosperity
— The Cranky Liberal
To ask a party to sum up what they are all about is nothing more than a catch 22. No matter what broad spectrum you choose to define a party, you will always alienate someone in the long run because you can’t make everyone happy. There is an underlying reason that parties flip flop on issues over the ages, and that is because both parties chase the voter with the biggest pocket book. I would say that the true sense of democracy, and the Democratic party, lies in a government for the people and by the people. By this I mean you have to look past the pocket books, the special interests, the corporate welfare, (which by the way, they need us, just as much as we need them) and look at what tools the average Joe needs to protect his/her/their family, and in the end be a contributing factor to the success of this government for the people by the people.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the opportunities offered by this great nation of ours. You can’t have life without liberty and you can’t have liberty without life. Most of all, you can’t pursue happiness unless you have both. You see, it’s not guaranteed; it’s just yours to pursue. How you achieve it is up to you. The governments only job is to make sure those rights are not violated in your pursuit for life and liberty.
So without writing a novel of what defines the Democratic party and the liberal agenda I’m gonna stick with Life and Liberty. How we achieve those two things is called politics. The world is too big to lock yourself into four or five basic principles.
— The Bastard
My world view consists of tolerance and open-mindedness. One person’s right to swing his fist ends at the tip of another person’s nose. This doesn’t provide any good buzzwords or slogans that can be used for arguments. Try rousing millions of people with hot-button phrases about tolerance and having an open mind. Conservatives have the advantage in this department. They have a slogan for every occasion. They also react instantly to slogans and hot-button issues with no thought processes whatsoever -
just a jerk of the knee and a rush of adrenaline. For smooth manipulators, it’s a gold mine. Just yell out “gay marriage!” or “weapons of mass destruction!” and millions of drones snap to attention.
Liberal ideas don’t make good buzzwords or catch phrases. But liberals have an advantage: their ideas come from thinking things through; not from mindless reflexes. I can’t imagine any slogan or catch phrase that would have millions of liberals snapping to attention, ready to carry out the work of Great Leader.
– Tom Harper
People say I have liberal values. I think my values are basic human values. I try to treat everybody, as I want to be treated, with respect and dignity. I’m human and I make mistakes. But I own up to them. It’s impossible sometimes not to judge another person, so I bitch and scream in words that I will then delete. Sometimes I bitch to my friends. Then I’m over it.
The people I respect and like the most tend not to judge other people; I have learned from example not to judge either.
I live in a crowded city. We tend to be loud; we tend to be argumentative. We tolerate each others eccentricities, weird (to others) views, and speeches, because we know that if we’re tolerant we will find commonalities and ultimately an understanding. We don’t have to agree on everything or anything but we have to respect what other people think if we’re going to live together.
We listen to the arguments without closed ears; we learn from others and sometimes even change our opinion. When it comes to larger issues we read, talk, listen as much as we can, and might change our view five times before coming to a final decision. We’re not wishy-washy; but we know that if we don’t listen to others our mind will be closed, and that’s not right.
We believe in justice, and believe that the principles The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and The Bill of Rights spell out and infer, are principles worth fighting for. We’re a city that has more than 41 separate ethnic groups and dialects, every skin color and religion, yet somehow we manage to live together–and smile more than scream. Though we bitch and whine, we’re more likely to come together than to attack from behind.
Tolerance, respect, dignity, justice, liberty, and freedom aren’t just words to us. We all know people who have come from countries where those simple basic concepts don’t exist. Many new New Yorkers have come from such countries. We’re proud to be American. We don’t have to scream the word patriotic. More than most American civilians we have shown our patriotism.
New Yorkers are best in emergencies–and in the last three and a half years have prove twice, to the world and each other, that if we stick together we can make it through the darkest of days.
— Pia Talks
There you have it. Liberty, tolerance, and reform lead the way, but it’s a matter of overall preservation of dignity that defines this party. Dignity in both the personal sense of the word, encompassing principles that build up, provide equal footing for and encourage participation of the individual. Dignity in the public sense of the word, emphasizing the civic virtues that provide it. We know why we’re a different choice. Having somebody say we don’t is saying something that isn’t so, then saying it so many times that people think it IS so. Got half truths? Got misleading statements? Got a network to spread them?
Bring It On!
While Dr. Alterman did not publish us, I wanted to share these thoughts with you. The hearts of the Democratic Party are people just like these bloggers. Regardless of the dithering you see on the top of the party, the base is getting it together. This is precisely what we need. A house built on a solid base will stand, regardless of the wind, in spite of the hardship.
Our house is strong and that’s a good thing. We have thieves at the doors.
Bring It On Politics