I was once told by my roommate, whose-upper-middle class upbringing probably explains his views, that the United States is actually more conservative than expected, and that, in general, college students are now becoming more conservative. There was a time that I did think liberalism in the United States was dying. It was early 2001; George W. Bush was elected president, Republicans had the majority in Congress, and the protests of very worried activists against G8 and World Bank summits had gone relatively unnoticed. The American middle class, still feeding off of the dot-com economic boom, could have cared less about the poor. The very core of liberalism, social justice, toleration, and equality, was falling from a passive and complacent American public.
What happened to resurrect liberalism in America? Surprisingly, the answer is conservatives. The Bush administration's current policies have reawakened the liberal in John Q. Public; the right-wing comments Republicans have made about taxes, unemployment, gay marriage, and Iraq have increased the ire of the activists, both old and new, as they realize, "There is something fundamentally wrong with what they said." Nothing energizes liberals more than seeing the mistakes conservatives make, and boy, has this administration made a lot of them.
The Bush administration was particularly successful in polarizing liberals and conservatives in America. According to the latest Gallup Poll, Bush, who once preached "compassionate conservatism" and being a uniter, not a divider, has an approval rating of 91 percent among registered Republicans. Among Democrats he has an approval rating of 17 percent, the largest gap since Gallup began measuring approval rating by party in 1948.
From Iraq to Social Security to gay marriage, Bush has fudged and slipped up his way to energizing liberals. Wasn't it his unilateralist stance on a preemptive war that made thousands of people protest the injustice of his foreign policy? Haven't those tax cuts that he supported, now amounting to $1.7 trillion over 10 years, helped push the federal budget deficit to record levels with a weak economy and higher spending for defense and domestic security? Isn't this the same president who preached tolerance towards Muslims even while the government imprisons Taliban soldiers without POW rights at Guantanamo? And this same president whose call for a marriage-definition amendment has only spurred more gay couples to have the courage to express their love in California, New York, Massachusetts, and New Mexico?
Now some would argue the United States is still very much to the right. Most conservatives I meet would cite the Congressional election of 2002 as evidence that the American electorate is now more Republican, and also cite the growth of college Republicans on campuses.
First, in response, America has changed immensely since the elections in 2002, and what with Iraq, the probe on Halliburton's Iraqi contract, the Social Security overhaul, and gay marriage, I think the only group they haven't offended yet is the religious right, which actually does get easily offended.
Second, college Republicans, while they may be more vocal, are not necessarily the voice of the colleges. In fact, often when college Republicans do voice their objections to the "liberal bias" on campus, the objections are put up to scrutiny. Recently, University of Colorado-Boulder College Republicans set up a grievances website to list all cases of liberal bias. While college Republicans have the right to oppose any sort of thinking with which they disagree, doing so requires they should stimulate debate with an intelligent counter-argument, one that adequately describes both the merits and flaws of any given position. Would doing so make the college Republicans realize they might be wrong? That's a chance apparently most conservatives aren't willing to take.
With campaign ads disparaging Bush from organizations like moveon.org, and, strangely enough, Log Cabin Republicans, conservatives have much to fear about the vulnerability of their leaders and the revitalized liberalism in this nation. People are so outraged by these out-of-touch conservative actions and words that now they are beginning to react. While conservatives may ridicule the resurgent social activism and election drives the Democratic primary has initiated as Bolshevism and Communism (conservatives have an habit of misnaming all forms of liberalism as Communism), they are in fact afraidafraid of the interests the Democratic primary has stirred up and afraid of expanding the vote to a public who might be willing to vote liberal.
Even if liberals get complacent and sedentary again, I would like to remind them that they at least have my voice standing up for social justice, tolerance, and equality, and I believe there are many more similar voices. Ann Coulters and Rush Limbaughs of the world beware: your rhetoric has woken up a sleeping liberal giant.