Liberalism and American Identity

Liberalism and American Identity

Patrick M. Garry

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 0873384512

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Since 1968, liberalism as a viable political ideology has been under attack, with the most aggressive assault occurring in the 1988 presidential campaign. While conservatives denounced the "L-word" and proclaimed its death as a political ideology, liberals and Democrats failed to defend America's proud liberal tradition. Liberals have yet to take the ideological offensive. Indeed, without a clear ideological identity, it is not surprising that the Democratic party appears uncertain as to its future political message. In Liberalism and American Identity, Patrick Garry presents a coherent and well-argued thesis of the meaning and importance of liberalism in American politics. His is the first work that attempts to rejuvenate political liberalism since the devastating attack on it during the 1980s. Presenting a workable definition of liberalism, which was lacking throughout the 1980s, Garry demonstrates the vital role it has played, and can continue to play, in American history. His examination of the liberal ideology and tradition in American politics reveals not only the nation's liberal identity, but also the conservative tendency to label liberalism "un-American" as a means to circumvent discussion of social problems. Garry defines liberalism, through historical examples and the beliefs and leadership of prominent Americans, namely Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and John Kennedy. He then applies these principles of liberalism to a discussion of current politics and the problems of crime, poverty, and national defense. Although arguing that the conservative attack during the 1980s greatly misrepresented the American liberal tradition, Garry also acknowledges that changes withinaccepted liberal doctrines during the 1960s and 1970s led to a deviation of contemporary liberalism from its roots. This betrayal of liberalism and its degeneration into special interest politics, he asserts, caused an identity crisis among liberals and alienated large segments of the














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technologies, and force other nations to open their markets to American products, has done what some liberals have long advocated: employ the power of government to rebuild America’s industrial base. The trade proposals of President Bush, in fact, reflect the recommendations of President Reagan’s Commission on Industrial Competitiveness, which called for establishment of a Department of Trade and a Department of Science and Technology to oversee changes in U. S. trade and industrial policies.

just individual freedom but political and social freedom. The liberalism of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt defended American freedom in two world wars when the conservative creed at that time favored isolation and withdrawal from the international world. Liberalism provided the vision and strength for America to join and lead the United Nations, where it could defend and advocate its principles and values to the rest of the world. Indeed, the liberal mixture of individual and democratic

between wealth and its achievement was severed. The liberal value which conservatives have most recently distorted is tolerance. To conservatives, tolerance implies an absence of beliefs and values and a failure to choose. To the contrary, however, toleration implies the freedom of each individual, each generation, and each democratic majority to choose its values. While they may throw off traditional rules and constraints, they also may reassume them. Political democracy cannot exist without

Declaration of Rights calling for the “free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience.” Yet both Jefferson and Madison practiced civil religion. The American civil religion of Jefferson and Madison accommodates pluralism—a pluralism that says in public life religion is proper, but only if all denominations are respected equally. It is meant to infuse American life with a sense of transcendent values, not to impose a religious sect on individuals. Civil religion, through its

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