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A belief in freedom of the people - the case for liberalism

by Loren Moreno, '05

A question was posed by a student in the Introduction to Humanities course, recently: should educational institutions of higher learning be mediums for the dissemination of liberal thought? The young woman had transferred from another university and noticed that both institutions were politically liberal.


Knowledge frees the mind and, indeed, this was the intention of the first schools—in ancient Greece—and first universities—in medieval Europe. The first universities were created for the discussion and teaching of liberal arts—the trivial of writing (grammar), logic (mathematics), and communication (rhetoric). Liberal is derived from the root words meaning “free” and “of the people.” Liberalism is therefore the belief in freedom of the people. Unfortunately, conservatives in this country believe and try to convince others that it is evil to be liberal.

The National Journal claimed Senator John Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, is the most “liberal senator” in Washington. The implication is that this is a bad thing, but is it? Republicans intend to defeat Kerry by claiming he is a “Massachusetts Liberal” out of touch with American values. Not so fast, President Bush. Liberalism is reflective of American values, and if John Kerry stands as a proud liberal, he will not be defeated. However, if he runs away from his liberalism, he faces certain defeat. Let’s examine the case for liberalism.

Conservatives tout that they represent the values of the mainstream. This is not so. Americans believe in equal access and equal rights. They believe that no American should be discriminated against regardless of race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation. Americans have believed this since the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the ratification of its principles in the Constitution. Conservatives, far from supporting these principles, have repeatedly undermined the rights of minorities in this country. Equal rights is a liberal value.
Most Americans believe that children should not go to sleep hungry or cold. They believe that the government should provide for the basic human needs of the poor or impoverished. Minimum wage, social security, and welfare protect families and children from going to bed hungry or going without an education. Unfortunately, conservatives have continuously tried to undermine these programs. Protection of humanity is a liberal value.

Americans believe that each person should have equal access to quality health care. No family should have to choose between paying the rent or insuring the health of their children—but unfortunately many families face this decision. America should join the rest of the industrialized world in providing its citizens with universal health insurance. How can providing health care for all be bad? Equal access to health coverage is a liberal value.
Americans believe in quality education for all. Good education should not be only for those who come from privileged families, but should be available to every child. Government should facilitate access to higher education to every person who wishes to seek it. Equal access to education is a liberal value.

Americans believe in no taxation without representation, however, conservatives wish to under tax the upperclass, over tax the middle class, and take away the social programs for the lowest class. They fail to listen to the concerns of Americans bearing the largest of the burden. Big corporations receive massive tax breaks while average Americans shell out hard earned money to support immoral wars. Reasonable taxation is a liberal value.

Americans believe in strong military defense and war only when necessary. The military should not be used for political gain, nor should it be used to impose values on others. America is a peace loving-nation—the world’s perception of us should not be misconstrued because of bad military reasoning. Protection of our liberties is a liberal value.

Americans believe in religious rights. No specific religion should be imposed upon the people, nor should the government fund any religion. Americans should not be discriminated against for their religious views; however, religion should not be force fed to any person. The right to one’s religion is a liberal value.

Freedom is the heart of liberalism. Conservatives wish to undermine a woman’s right to abortion, equal access to employment, civil rights, gay rights, and equal access to education. They wish to censor those who do not believe as they do and turn the volume up on those who speak their views. Webster’s Dictionary defines conservativism as “opposition to change” and conservatives as “closed-minded.”

Truly, the values and beliefs of liberalism are the values of this country. Conservatives can claim to carry the banner of this country’s values, but they act in direct opposition to the values most Americans believe in.

If Kerry wishes to win this election he cannot run from his liberal label as Al Gore and Michael Dukakis did. Instead, he should openly and proudly carry the liberal banner—the flag of the United States of America.


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