Sunday, December 12, 2004

Redefining Liberalism

Two recent articles by Peter Beinart in The New Republic argued that "the struggle against Islamist totalitarianism should define contemporary liberalism." The issue is that the continuing loss of liberal power and influence in the U.S. is a direct result of liberals' weak response to the need to engage and defeat Islamist terrorism. In the first article, he wrote:

Today, three years after September 11 brought the United States face-to-face with a new totalitarian threat, liberalism has still not "been fundamentally reshaped" by the experience. On the right, a "historical re-education" has indeed occurred--replacing the isolationism of the Gingrich Congress with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's near-theological faith in the transformative capacity of U.S. military might. But American liberalism, as defined by its activist organizations, remains largely what it was in the 1990s--a collection of domestic interests and concerns. On health care, gay rights, and the environment, there is a positive vision, articulated with passion. But there is little liberal passion to win the struggle against Al Qaeda--even though totalitarian Islam has killed thousands of Americans and aims to kill millions; and even though, if it gained power, its efforts to force every aspect of life into conformity with a barbaric interpretation of Islam would reign terror upon women, religious minorities, and anyone in the Muslim world with a thirst for modernity or freedom.

In the second article, responding to a critique of the first, he wrote:

The fight for national security is the fight for liberal values, not merely in the Muslim world, where fanaticism has already blighted countless lives, but also at home, where threats to American safety almost inevitably spawn threats to American freedom. Totalitarian Islam has already damaged both, and unless defeated, the damage could be exponentially worse. What more do liberals need to know before they make this fight their own?

George Will takes up Beinart's argument in the Washington Post today. He writes:

Beinart is bravely trying to do for liberalism what another magazine editor -- the National Review's William Buckley -- did for conservatism by excommunicating the Birchers from the conservative movement. But Buckley's task was easier than Beinart's will be because the Birchers were never remotely as central to the Republican base as the [Michael] Moore-MoveOn faction is to the Democratic base.

Even hardcore Republican conservatives have to understand that a viable Democratic Party, serving as a voice for liberal thought, is essential to the American model of democracy. It provides a necessary counterpoise to conservatives and ensures that all Americans, except perhaps the most extreme, have a political home. Our two-party system has produced remarkable stability and explains the enduring miracle of America. We should all hope the Democratic Party understands this and gets back on track.


Blogger Gindy said...

Again, right on the money. Liberalism doesn't seem to have the same definition as when I was younger. The Democrat party is without a doubt not the same party. Both seem to be gravitating towards European socialism (I don't think it is too extreme to say so). Zell Miller seems to be the only Democrat I can relate to.

By the way, your last paragraph is the part that really spoke to me. We need a viable two party system.

10:06 PM, December 12, 2004  
Blogger Kevin said...

This is an interesting post with the fight for a new DNC chair going on. My post today was about how DNC needs a revolutionary in that post vice the same old swarmy money raiser.


10:38 PM, December 12, 2004  
Blogger Zelda said...

Very interesting post, Tom. David Horowitz of Frontpage has a new book out called Unholy Alliance. It's about the alliance between the radical left and the radical Islamists. The commentaries you quoted seem to touch on that issue as well. (I just did a quick read of your post without going to the sites.)

The Democratic party of today is not the party of Roosevelt and Truman, which is what I keep trying to tell people.

Perhaps, with that party going so far to the left, there my eventually be a more moderate party.

6:45 PM, December 13, 2004  
Blogger the Humble Devildog said...

America doesn't *need* a two-party system, America *wants* a two-party system. It's easier to view life through a "us v. them" mentality than a "us v. them, who are against those, but, allied with yonder, except when yonder is against those, or allied with us" mentality.

For most of this country's existence, the two major parties (whatever they were at the time) agreed on what the problems were, but disagreed on the solutions. After the Communist Revolution and FDR, the two major parties could no longer even agree on what the problems were.

9:41 PM, December 15, 2004  

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