Musings of a Liberal Malcontent

Here are a few definitions and comparisons to help you understand my view and what I mean when I use these terms.

"What is liberalism?"

Liberalism is the pursuit of fairness and equality as enforced and regulated by smart, efficient and responsible government. It is the preservation and pursuit of upward mobility, of equal rights, of clean air. The opportunity for you to improve your lot in life through fair means - without being marginalized or victimized by conservatives as you try. If the environment is threatened, liberalism protects against damage to human and non-human life and potential. Why? Because fairness and equality are not served if you don't have a place to live. If people are targeted because of inherent traits, liberalism works to eliminate that. Why? Because fairness and equality are not served if you are marginalized by your skin color or gender. If your health is threatened because medical care is treated like a privilege, liberalism works to make it a right. Why? Because fairness and equality are not served if you're dead. When you have more talent, experience or education in a traditional workforce, liberalism supports your opportunity to move up in your field. If you have a great idea for a product no one's thought of before, liberalism believes you are entitled to see that idea realized and, potentially if it's a success, become wealthy from it. Politically, liberalism puts lawmakers in office who believe in this philosophy and will protect it.

"How is liberalism different from socialism?"

Liberalism is only possible through reform of capitalism, the fairest economic system (in principle) we've come up with yet. Socialism believes capitalism - people ranked by economy - is inherently corrupt and cannot be reformed to avoid systemic unhappiness. So the answer is to do away with rank in the cold pursuit of statistical equality. For example, if you are an office worker making $50,000 a year in a socialist society, that means your CEO is also making $50K, and the cleaning worker who empties the wastepaper baskets of both the office worker and the CEO also makes $50K. Everything is equal, so no matter what your job or in what field you work, everyone across all of society makes $50K. While that supports equality, it eliminates fairness. It removes the potential for upward mobility and, with it, squashes motivation, innovation and creativity: cornerstones of a healthy, progressive, evolving society. That product of yours that no one's thought of before? Why would you feel like developing it if you wouldn't be properly compensated for its success? If you brought it before a group in power and told them about it in detail, you might be met with great enthusiasm! But when it came to profit you'd be told, "nope, you're going to produce it for the betterment of society. From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. And here's your $50,000."

"What, exactly, is a conservative?"

A conservative is someone who will instinctively do anything to conserve or expand their margins in life. That's basically it. They see the world in quantities and are oriented, by their very nature, to conserve or expand what they've got even at the orchestrated expense of others - be it in economics, education, race, gender or anywhere people can gain or lose. In their view, life is a foot race and any attempt to regulate that away is fantasy. Therefore they feel justified in doing whatever they need to win no matter what or how. Regular people believe the next person coming up should have the same opportunity they did, but conservatives jealously guard against such a notion. They open the door for themselves however they need, and then quickly close the door behind them. Where liberals want to reform capitalism, conservatives abuse it for their own gain while covering up the abuse with praise for the system they're simultaneously violating and claiming as their own.

"How is liberalism different from conservatism?"

Well, as defined, conservatives instinctively want to conserve or expand their margins over others. Clearly liberalism will not let them do that. To them it's a dog-eat-dog world, to the victors go the spoils. So on the surface they automatically distrust liberalism because it sounds like nonsense to them ("that's not how the world works"). But below the surface, they're actively against it because it's diametrically opposed to their view of government (as well as life) and how they weaponize government to ensure others cannot achieve fairness and equality. Reagan's famous, "government is the problem, not the solution," was basically the modern conservative battle cry. Why is government the problem? Because government means oversight, and oversight means you can't get away with doing whatever you want to expand your margins over those below you. Indeed every last Republican policy you can find either blatantly or indirectly attempts to take away opportunity using this philosophy. Be it economics, race, gender, religion, you name it. And much of Republican governance since Reagan has been successful because Democrats haven't countered with a philosophy of their own. Many Democrats are still shaken today by this realignment.

"So what does that make the Democratic Party in all this?"

Our best hope. A third party is almost nonsense in the best of times and total nonsense in this era, as partisanship is too strong to do anything but reward the party that doesn't splinter. So change must come from reshaping the Democratic party (to date still majority moderate and highly incentivized by special interests) from within. That can only happen with a grassroots movement, a tidal wave, that primaries and replaces lawmakers who are insufficiently liberal. A tidal wave, not just one or two primary victories like we've seen recently, can only come from presenting voters with a convincing, unified-party-with-something-to-offer argument. And such an argument can only come from hashing out philosophy. Instead of, say, issue harvesting. Strategizing on how to agree on liberal philosophy, and then spread it, is the purpose of this website.

"What's issue harvesting?"

Issue harvesting is the endless debate of a given issue to one-up others when their ideology is out of line with your own, even if just slightly. The goal is to achieve a meaningless verbal or moral victory by showing off your deep knowledge and framing yourself in the "right" position. Besides being petty, it's extremely harmful because it always - ALWAYS - replaces the potential for a conversation on philosophy. We saw this during the 2020 Democratic presidential debates with candidates representing every wing of the party: liberals, socialists, moderates, center-right conservatives. And without fail, they'd argue their views through the lens of an issue. They'd dive deep on facts the vast majority of general election voters, and probably many primary voters, wouldn't care about. Never once did a moderator ask a question like, "how do you see the role of government?" And never once did candidates take the initiative to answer the question for themselves. Not only is issue harvesting an excuse to avoid talking philosophy, apparently it's now the easiest way to navigate party politics where only shades of an opinion are ever wrong. In that regard maybe it's not at fault. But a party that issue-harvests is focused on education of the issue, not on political development of the issue. Nor development of a philosophy that leads to and justifies positions. Indeed Democrats don't really develop their politics at all. They educate on issues and hope enough like-minded people agree to further fortify the vague, broad impression of what the party is supposed to stand for. They don't actually present arguments for why they should be in power. And the reason they don't is because they can't. There is no standardized, party-wide philosphy to which voters subscribe, and which voters can rely on whenever a new issue arises; therefore there is nothing to sell. What's needed is a philosophy that nurtures instinctive unity across the entire party and lives above the issues.