February 1, 2008

Commentary:

At the Dawn of A New American Liberalism

By E.A. Barrera

“We are all responsible for ensuring that children are raised in a nation that doesn’t just talk about family values, but acts in ways that values families.”
Hillary Clinton,
August 27, 1996
Democratic National Convention in Chicago .

January 30 marked the 126th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s birth. With the most significant and exciting election in 48 years upon the nation - and California getting the chance to play a significant role in who will be the next president of the United States next Tuesday - it is timely to consider that the heirs of FDR may once again be in vogue

It is not just the impact of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama this year that points to a new age of American liberalism. But in poll after poll, and the turnout of voters in the primaries and caucuses to date, waves of people – millions of voters – are choosing to vote for the more liberal candidates. The Democratic races in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina showed a doubling and even tripling of turnout from the 2000 election season (the last one where no incumbent president was on the ballot).

Even more telling is the renewed front-runner status of Republican John McCain and President Bush’s call for a $145 million stimulus package for the ailing economy. Though nobody but the most hateful and venomous of the right could ever label Bush and McCain as “liberals” both men share one thing in common: they do not support the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants from this country or the complete moratorium on those from other cultures and races entering the United States - like say the way former GOP presidential candidate Tom Tancredo called for – before being soundly ousted by Republican primary voters early in the contest.

McCain worked with Senator Edward Kennedy to create a bill Bush supported that would provide a pathway for the undocumented immigrants to legally work in the United States. It was stopped by conservatives in Congress and it did not address the real issues of poverty, low wages, and jobs being transported over seas, which are far worse problems than people from other lands seeking freedom and work. But it was a signal from the leadership of the GOP that the old racist tactics used by Nixon and his “silent majority” henchmen Pat Buchanan and William Safire to perpetuate white voter racist angst into voting Republican may be at an end.

The issues of the American left are now the dominant issues of this campaign. Healthcare solutions for the un-insured, under-insured, and those whose medical costs force then into poverty are being discussed by all candidates of both parties. The consequences of an unregulated and unfettered free-market economy which allowed oil companies to raise prices three-fold simply for bigger profits are ridiculed by the Democratic candidates. An administration that allowed the nations’ banks and lending institutions to swindle the poor into loans which would end in default … and then making it tougher if not impossible for those same poor to seek bankruptcy protection under provisions of a law passed by the Republican Congress and signed by President Bush in 2005 … are now at the forefront of the debate in this election year by Democrats intent on reversing those policies.

For the first time since Ronald Reagan told the nation “government wasn’t the answer to our problems – government was the problem” – a majority of Americans are looking for aggressive action by a strong federal government to check and balance the power of the corporations and the lobbyists they employ. And for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War in 1974, Americans by margins of almost three-to-one are opposed to aggressive, unilateral military actions and want to see the troops brought home from the war in Iraq.

But the candidacies of Clinton and Obama more than crystallize this new wave of Liberal patriotism sweeping the land. In what possible scenario could Americans of a generation ago, much less before that, have imagined a presidential election in which the leading, odds-on-favorites to be the country’s 44th Commander-in-Chief, would be a female United States Senator from New York and an African-American man from Illinois? The states which gave us FDR and Abraham Lincoln this year give us the greatest potential psychological break with our past since the Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln signed in 1863.

Enthusiasm for Obama and Clinton have drawn record numbers of new voters into the process. You can see it in the faces of the young students who cheer madly for Obama, or the young women who seek to shake Hillary’s hand and finally see a chance to break through the barriers placed on them since the dawn of time. San Diego’s Registrar of Voters reported a surge in registrations and party realignments from Republican and Independent to the Democratic Party. The recent endorsements of Caroline and Ted Kennedy for Senator Obama emphasized this reawakening of hope and optimism for the American Liberal tradition of service and national pride that was at the heart of the John and Robert Kennedy era of our history.

In her speech to the Democrats in 1996, Clinton echoed themes that both her and Obama have used in this present day campaign for the presidency.

“We are all part of one family - the American family. And each one of us has value. Each child who comes into this world should feel special - every boy and every girl. we have learned that to raise a happy, healthy and hopeful child, it takes a family, it takes teachers, it takes clergy, it takes business people, it takes community leaders, it takes those who protect our health and safety, it takes all of us. Yes, it takes a village,” said Clinton at the Chicago Democratic Convention 12 years ago. “It takes a President who believes not only in the potential of his own child, but of all children - who believes not only in the strength of his own family, but of the American family, who believes not only in the promise of each of us as individuals, but in our promise together as a nation. It takes a president who not only holds these beliefs but acts on them.”

Election Day for both the Democratic and Republican nominations is this coming Tuesday, February 5, 2008. The United States is at the dawn of a new age of political philosophy and activism. It’s an exciting time to be a citizen. Don’t miss out on it. VOTE!

Letters to the Editor Return to the Frontpage