A friend of mine recently posted a great summary of what being a liberal means, written by Larry Allen. It struck very close to home, as I was recently accused of being a socialist, just because I’m a registered Democrat. So I’d like to adapt Allen’s piece to detail my views. For the record, “Socialism” includes workers owning the means of production, and in general, an opposition to Capitalism. “Democratic Socialists” believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. That includes the traditional workers owning the means of production. Although both Socialists and Democratic Socialists might register and run as Democrats, that doesn’t mean that the Democratic Party as a whole — or even most Democrats — hold those views (just as White Nationalists and Antisemites might register as part of the Republican party, and even run for office as Republicans does not mean that all Republicans are White Nationalists or Antisemitic).* – See the bottom of the post for an even better discussion of this
So what do I believe. Here is Allen’s piece, adapted a bit:
- I believe a country should take care of its weakest members. A country cannot call itself civilized when its children, disabled, sick, and elderly are neglected. Period.
- I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Why? Because someone else’s inability to take care of their health can directly affect me and those I love, both in the diseases to which I am exposed, and the costs I pay for medical care. Somehow that’s interpreted as “I believe the Affordable Care Act is the end-all, be-all.” This is not the case. I’m fully aware that the ACA has problems, that a national healthcare system would require everyone to chip in, and that it’s impossible to create one that is devoid of flaws, but I have yet to hear an argument against it that makes “let people die because they can’t afford healthcare” a better alternative. I believe healthcare should be far cheaper than it is, and that everyone should have access to it. And no, I’m not opposed to paying higher taxes in the name of making that happen.
- I believe education should be affordable and accessible to everyone. It doesn’t necessarily have to be free (though it works in other countries so I’m mystified as to why it can’t work in the US), but at the end of the day, there is no excuse for students graduating college saddled with five- or six-figure debt, or to have debt service organizations that put money above the students. You want the future of America — you want to make America successful — it is through our students.
- I don’t believe your money should be taken from you and given to people who don’t want to work (which is a distinct group from those who can not work). I have literally never encountered anyone who believes this. Ever. However, I just have a massive moral problem with a society where a handful of people can possess the majority of the wealth while there are people literally starving to death, freezing to death, or dying because they can’t afford to go to the doctor. Further, I have a problem when those who have the ability to pay taxes go out of their way to avoid doing so through corporate structures, shell corporations, and other chicanery. The wealthy are a part of society, and they need to act that way. Fair wages, lower housing costs, universal healthcare, affordable education, and the wealthy actually paying their share would go a long way toward alleviating many of our problems. For those that believe this makes me a Socialist or Communist, I suggest you look up the definitions of those terms.
- I don’t throw around “I’m willing to pay higher taxes” lightly. If I’m suggesting something that involves paying more, well, it’s because I’m fine with paying my share as long as it’s actually going to something that I believe in. There are many things the government spends money on that I don’t agree with, such as giving tax breaks that increase corporate profits.
- I believe companies should be required to pay their employees a decent, livable wage. Somehow this is always interpreted as me wanting burger flippers to be able to afford a penthouse apartment and a Mercedes. What it actually means is that no one should have to work three full-time jobs just to keep their head above water. Restaurant servers should not have to rely on tips, multibillion-dollar companies should not have employees on food stamps, workers shouldn’t have to work themselves into the ground just to barely make ends meet, and minimum wage should be enough for someone to work 40 hours and live.
- I am not anti-Christian. I have no desire to stop Christians from being Christians, to close churches, to ban the Bible, to forbid prayer in school, etc. (BTW, prayer in school is NOT illegal; *compulsory* prayer in school is – and should be – illegal). All I ask is that Christians recognize *my* right to live according to *my* beliefs. When I get pissed off that a politician is trying to legislate Scripture into law, I’m not “offended by Christianity” — I’m offended that you’re trying to force me to live by your religion’s rules. You know how you get really upset at the thought of Muslims imposing Sharia law on you? That’s how I feel about Christians trying to impose biblical law on me. Be a Christian. Do your thing. Just don’t force it on me or mine.
- I don’t believe LGBT people should have more rights than you. I just believe they should have the *same* rights as you.
- I don’t believe illegal immigrants should come to America and have the world at their feet, especially since THIS ISN’T WHAT THEY DO (spoiler: undocumented immigrants are ineligible for all those programs they’re supposed to be abusing, and if they’re “stealing” your job it’s because your employer is hiring illegally). I’m not opposed to deporting people who are here illegally, but I believe there are far more humane ways to handle undocumented immigration than our current practices (i.e., detaining children, splitting up families, ending DACA, etc). I do believe there should be process of vetting immigrants and those claiming refugee status; I think there should be a path to citizenship for those that pass vetting. That’s different than an open door policy. Most importantly, I don’t fear the immigrant, because immigrants have brought so much to America.
- I don’t believe the government should regulate everything, but since greed is such a driving force in our country, we NEED regulations to prevent cut corners, environmental destruction, tainted food/water, unsafe materials in consumable goods or medical equipment, etc. It’s not that I want the government’s hands in everything — I just don’t trust people trying to make money to ensure that their products/practices/etc. are actually SAFE. Is the government devoid of shadiness? Of course not. But with those regulations in place, consumers have recourse if they’re harmed and companies are liable for medical bills, environmental cleanup, etc. Just kind of seems like common sense when the alternative to government regulation is letting companies bring their bottom line into the equation. Remember this: Every government regulation is there because some individual or company tried to play fast with what they could do, and someone or something got hurt or could be hurt. Regulations are in place because the people we trusted to not abuse the system abused the system.
- I believe there are some in our current administration that behave in a way that can be seen as fascist. This is because I have studied antisemitism, and the history of facism, and I see the similarities.
- I strongly believe in consistency: If a particular behavior is wrong, it is wrong no matter who is doing it, and no matter their party affiliation. If you would investigate Hillary for her use of a private server, investigate Trump for his use of private phones. If you would investigate a foreign government being involved in Hillary’s campaign, do it for Trump. Same level, same intensity. Wrong behavior is wrong.
- I believe the systemic racism and misogyny in our society is much worse than many people think, and desperately needs to be addressed. Which means those with privilege — white, straight, male, economic, etc. — need to start listening, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing, so we can start dismantling everything that’s causing people to be marginalized. We need to turn down the hate, and ensure everyone has equal advantage.
- I am not interested in coming after your blessed guns, nor is anyone serving in government. What I am interested in is sensible policies, including background checks, that just MIGHT save one person’s, perhaps a toddler’s, life by the hand of someone who should not have a gun. Think incremental risk reduction, as opposed to a complete solution.
- I believe in so-called political correctness. I prefer to think it’s social politeness. If I call you Chuck and you say you prefer to be called Charles I’ll call you Charles. It’s the polite thing to do. Not because everyone is a delicate snowflake, but because as Maya Angelou put it, when we know better, we do better. When someone tells you that a term or phrase is more accurate/less hurtful than the one you’re using, you now know better. So why not do better? How does it hurt you to NOT hurt another person? Further, how does it hurt you to examine your rhetoric — what you say and how you say it? Why do we need to speak in a way that intentionally hurts others, when we can be sensitive.
- I believe in funding sustainable energy, including offering education to people currently working in coal or oil so they can change jobs. Why? Simple. We know that coal and oil are limited resources, and some of the materials produced from them are critical to society, such as plastics. Therefore, it makes sense to conserve them for that use when sustainable fuels can be used for other purposes. Science also shows that the climate is changing (there’s no disputing that) — the only dispute is whether mankind is causing it. We need to prepare for that change, and even if there is the smallest chance we are accelerating it, we should do what we can to slow that down. Placing America first does no good if the Earth is uninhabitable.
- I believe that women should not be treated as a separate class of human. They should be paid the same as men who do the same work, should have the same rights as men and should be free from abuse. Why on earth shouldn’t they be?
- I believe that any living US citizen should be able to, encouraged to, and has the responsibility to vote. I have no problem with registration of voters to ensure that, with commensurate ID requirements, as long as the ability to get those IDs is not onerous for disadvantaged segments of society: the economically disadvantaged who have limited time off work, the single caregivers who can’t take significant time away from those they provide care to, the homeless and nomadic poor who might not have street addresses, the folks with limited mobility who do not have cars or easy transportation. Make it possible for those folks to get the required IDs if they are indeed US citizens, and I have no problems with IDs. Alas, the ID requirement these days is often being used instead of a poll tax to keep citizens from voting, just because segments feel those citizens might vote in a way they do not like.
This is a living document. Don’t be surprised if I add more, or clarify what is here.
* Over in another FB discussion, Sam Manning described the political philosophies this way, which I really liked:
Most people are confused about political definitions as indicated in the above. Communism is defined two ways, politically and economically. Don’t confuse Totalitarian Communist systems with softer systems that are democratic socialist systems and capitalistic. There are benign forms of socialism in Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. China is Totalitarian politically and Capitalistic simultaneously.
Normally, anarchists and radicals are linked to the left. A Liberal isn’t any of the above, they simply believe in change and that government can improve our chances.
Nazis are racist and believe in a state-industrial alliance. Fascism and Nazism are linked but Nazism is Hardline Fascism. Rigid Fascists states include Italy in WWII, Argentina under Peron, Paraguay under Stroesner, Spain under Franco, Chile under Pinochet.
Reactionaries are linked to the right and believe in paternalism and a landed aristocracy classically.
Conservatives are linked to the right but are not any of the above. They tend to support the status quo and emphasize the status quo.
Moderates cherry pick from both conservatives and liberals.
Progressives in both the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States support workers, fair elections, and free enterprise.
Americans tend towards moderation, compromise, and civil discourse traditionally. We do have eras where our rhetoric becomes bizarre. Still, we progress when we use evidence and sensible compromises to adjust our nation, slowly or more quickly, contingent on circumstances.