Party people

Is "liberal" a dirty word? Members of Salon's reader community, Table Talk, define themselves and their party, this week.

Published May 25, 2007 10:39AM (EDT)

White House

"They're OFF!" -- The 2008 Presidential Race Begins

schroeder -- 09:05 pm Pacific Time -- May 17, 2007 -- #6309 of 6516

Bill Clinton once speculated that deep down, this was the real reason for all the Clinton hatred. That a poor boy from Arkansas could beat a blueblood like George W. Bush. To me, the fact that someone like Bill Clinton, who grew up poor, in a single-parent household, in a small backwater, with few advantages, could through hard work and intelligence grow up to be President -- that's what makes this country great. That's the promise of America, the sense of opportunity, the idea that your aspirations may be rewarded, that no matter where you start out, the sky's the limit as to where you might end up.

To a Republican, that represents everything wrong with America. To a Republican, what's great about America is that someone like George W. Bush can become President -- with no experience, no aptitude, not even a strong desire for the job, nothing, in fact, to recommend him except his birth into a wealthy and powerful family. That's the America the Republicans want, and they're tearing the real America down brick by brick to build it.

So, like Clinton, I think the hatred for John Edwards being rich and wanting to help the poor is genuine. But not because he's a hypocrite. Because he's, as they called FDR, a traitor to his class. Look at the last few candidates for President the Democrats have run. I've already discussed Clinton. Al Gore's someone from a powerful political family who, while he could have pulled strings like GWB, enlisted to go to Vietnam; while he could have raked in the cash trading on his family name, he dedicated his life to public service. The Republicans hated him for it.

Then there was John "Send Me" Kerry. He didn't just enlist when he could have stayed home; he volunteered for the most dangerous job in the Navy, because he believed that, being born into privilege, he had an obligation to give something back. He could have become a high-priced corporate lawyer, but he became a D.A., again, because he thought serving his community was more important than being self-serving. And the Republicans savagely attacked him not despite his service, but because of it.

The Democrats have long searched for a way to articulate what they stand for, but I think the kernel of it is that idea that, as a citizen, you have an obligation to give something back to your community and your country. FDR knew it when he called for shared sacrifice to get us through a depression and a war. Kennedy knew it when he said "ask not what your country can do for you." LBJ knew it when he envisioned a Great Society. John Edwards knows it, and they're going to hang him for it.

The Republicans hate the idea of shared sacrifice, or sacrifice of any kind. They hate the idea of giving anything back -- it's grab with both hands, and to hell with everyone else. And they reserve their most vicious attacks for anyone who says otherwise.


The Off-Topic Thread IX

Dingo -- 03:25 am Pacific Time -- May 20, 2007 -- #1579 of 1633

Deciding it was time to renew my paganhood, I went to the University Street Fair to buy a witches' broom, replacing my old one which had worn down to the size of a toothbrush. A witches' toothbrush has no cachet -- and makes sweeping the floor a bore of a chore.

My zeal probably had something to do with reading Ann Coulter's praise of Jerry Falwell, where she denigrated those conservatives who had expressed reservations about some of his great truths -- specifically his great truth that the feminists, pagans, ACLU and gays and lesbians helped bring on 9/11. "I ALWAYS agreed with the Rev. Falwell," she said.

I specifically was after a gay, feminist, ACLU broom. But no luck, even in the bastion shadows of the great liberal enclave of a university.

"Damn," I thought, "what else can I destroy America with?"

And then, wouldn't you know, at the humanists' booth of all places, I found a blue-gray t-shirt with Liberal written across it. That would have to do -- something to wear while I sweep the floor with a toothbrush.

I've always loved the word "liberal" and refuse to let the Right possess it, to make it a byword, something shameful.

I don't think of the word, on my t-shirt, as denoting a noun. I think of it as an adjective.

Look it up in the dictionary. You read: a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry. b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.

You read: a. Tending to give freely; generous. b. Generous in amount; ample.

You read: Not strict or literal; loose or approximate.

You read: Of, relating to, or based on the traditional arts and sciences of a college or university curriculum: a liberal education.

The word comes from the Latin liber, meaning free.

That's why terrorists and terroristas are intent on destroying America as they keep shredding our Constitution by passing laws against it, and drafting signing statements pledged not to uphold it: they hate our liberals. P> Best of Table Talk is an ongoing feature of Salon's vibrant community forum. Older posts of the week can be found in TT. Want to join the discussion? Sign up here.

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