November 15, 2004

Could liberalism be dying in America

I grew up in a town called Belmont, which was right next to Cambridge and Harvard University. I remember going to Harvard Square as a kid, seeing one of the greatest universities in the world, and hearing the activist voices coming from it. These people, I was told, knew how the world should be. They had the only political and social values worth having. If I disagreed, I was part of the problem.

No one knows better than I do what I think and believe, and I refuse to be dictated to by others. I take advice from friends, but in the end all my choices are my own, and I am proud of this. I think that the differences in birthplace, parents, and hometown are what makes us human, and we should do everything to protect that. I celebrate the diversity of opinion and lifestyle that flows from individual freedom. And because of that, I resent any attempt to force the "politically correct" lifestyle upon me or anyone else.

If I were a working class man in Missouri, I would be entirely offended by Michael Moore telling me that I am stupid, because he has not experienced what I have. If I were trying to make ends meet in New Mexico, I would not care that Bruce Springsteen thinks we should vote for John Kerry, because Springsteen makes much more money than I do and has no public service experience. If I were trying to support my family in Iowa, I really would not care if the intellectual elites of the New York Times call George Bush every name under the sun, because such an act is inherently unintellectual and it "misunderestimates" Bush's virtues. I want to know, what are you going to do to make my life better while still treating me and my neighbor fairly? The Left never seemed to have a good answer to this question.

But the Democrats, who claim to be the party of diversity and tolerance, don't seem to get this. They seem to believe that all Americans want "equality." Even recently in this paper, Andrew Hammond, while writing an endorsement for John Kerry, said that Kerry would give "equal opportunity" to each person. If I were a working class person in Ohio trying to get ahead in society, I would not want others to be afforded different privileges for just about any reason. I would want to be treated fairly, which is inherently different from "equality." That basic philosophical difference alone was enough to keep people away from voting Kerry.

I am also offended by the way that religion is stereotyped by the northeastern elites that I grew up with. Let me go on the record that you will never hear me criticize gay marriage in this column. Gay marriage should be allowed, and I would be the first to criticize those who would use religion as a method to expunge it. However, I believe that the positives that religion brings to the country—faith, forgiveness, and friendship—are not only excellent qualities but fine values to promote with the American people. It is these values that make up the so-called "Bible belt."

Martin Peretz, editor of the liberal New Republic, best describes the death of liberalism in his comments about John Kerry. He says, "The extreme and bitter judgments against the citizenry after this election are especially tendentious. For what the electorate did on November 2 was essentially (or maybe just merely) turn down John Kerry, a candidate who until very late in the Democratic primaries was almost no one's choice as the nominee, the party's last option because it could rally around no one else. What a pathetic vessel in which to have placed liberalism's hopes! A senator for two decades who had stood for nothing, really nothing." He's identifying a liberal elite which pretends to stand for so much, but really stands for nothing at all except the belief that he is better than you and I. And yet he can still look you in the eye, claim both no pretensions and to be the leader of the party of the people.

Prove me wrong, Democrats. Show me you can take the empathy that you claim liberalism is based upon, and apply it to those who don't live in Cambridge. Show me you can make the case that you don't discount middle America as "stupid." Show me that you can produce a uniter better than our current president, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, or John McCain, or Rudy Giuliani. Show me that you understand American values, and that you don't want to make America into Europe. I came to Chicago to escape Harvard Square, and I hope the liberals don't intend to make America into a giant version of Cambridge.