Can Real Liberalism and the Democratic Party Be Saved from the Radical Takeover?

"I want the people to know that they still have 2 out of 3 branches of the government working for them, and that ain't bad."

 -- Jack Nicholson as "President Dale" in Mars Attacks.

The far left has at least temporarily won the battle of ideas in the United States and taken over institutions by pretending to be “liberal.” Meanwhile, actual traditional liberalism, which ruled those institutions for many decades, has vanished. Suddenly, we are supposed to believe that “class warfare,” anti-capitalism, hatred of America, Stalinist-style treatment of opponents, the glorification of the extremist Occupy movement,  a mass media all too devoted to propaganda, and a betrayal of Enlightenment values are normative liberal ideas!

During the 1930s, the Communist Party tried to take over liberalism but failed miserably. Today, however, the post-Communist left has succeeded in that effort to a remarkable extent, effectively wiping out the memory of what liberalism was actually like.  For their part, many conservatives are quite willing to reinforce the left’s rewriting of history, suggesting that Barack Obama and the destruction of once-great institutions is a natural and inevitable outgrowth of people like Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson.

Yet there is a sizable bloc of traditional liberals who have been repelled by the radical takeovers of institutions and the destruction of their own ideas. They have not yet found a voice but, if given proper treatment and leadership, they are about to far exceed the “Reagan Democrat” phenomenon.

According to a recent Gallup poll, 21 percent of those who considered themselves Democrats when Obama became president no longer do so. And if you add in those still calling themselves Democrats and who will vote loyally while being very disturbed with what's happening, that number might total about half. These are people who never felt comfortable with the new radicalism, who have woken up in the last three years, or will do so very soon. That’s the constituency I want to speak to.  And briefly here’s the message:

The Obama administration is a radical, not liberal, government. Its domestic policies will never get the country out of the current depression. Its foreign policy is a disaster. It is no longer 1911 or 1932 or 1945 or even 1961. The United States has dealt with the old bigotries to a remarkable extent. Environmental pollution has come under control. Conservatives have accepted these changes. Giant corporations are not controlling everything.

America doesn’t have seemingly unlimited funds to devote to achieving perfection and solving every social or environmental problem.  The government may have been too small 80 years ago but now it is too big. Spending is too high and debt threatens the country’s future. Regulation is strangling business and impinging on personal liberty to a ridiculous extent. Stop demonizing conservatives. They are not a reincarnation of the Klu Klux Klan or mindless idiots.

Vote Obama and the leftists in Congress out of office. If the Democrats don’t provide you with good alternatives then vote Republican, if only to teach them a lesson and force the party back toward the center. Conservatives are far preferable to radical leftists, just as that was so during the Cold War. If a post-Obama Democratic Party moves back toward the center then you can return to it -- and if not, then give up on it.  

You shouldn't have to be a conservative to be horrified by the contemporary situation. But while conservatives and Republican are going to lead the opposition to the status quo, they should seek to build a broad front rather than wage a campaign against historical liberals.  This doesn’t mean they have to water down their program, but it should be presented in a way designed to broaden its appeal. The target should be the far left, and its camouflage as merely “liberal” should be exposed.

And if there is not going to be a bipartisan basis for cutting the size of government, reducing spending, rejecting the nanny state, undoing strangling regulation, and undertaking other such needed structural reforms, how will there ever be a working majority to get these things done?

A starting point is to remember what really happened in the course of U.S. history. Since the United States became urbanized and industrialized, there have been three broad positions in American politics: the left, liberalism, and conservatism.