November 16, 2014 / by admin / American History / No Comments

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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negative images put forth by conservatives. To explain the public support for liberal values and programs and of a liberal Congress, many political analysts have recognized that the American public is “operationally liberal”—they like the activities and accomplishments of liberalism more than they like the label of liberalism.18 In his recent book Cycles in American History, Arthur Schlesinger documents the historically strong public support for affirmative government programs to address social

corporation as the institution most responsible for social progress and the well-being of all Americans appears both naive and misplaced. In relying so heavily on the private sector for social progress, conservatives often hesitate to adopt changes needed to open up economic opportunity. Economic equality has two components: equality of access and opportunity (legal prohibitions against discrimination) and equality of outcome (income equalization). Conservatives tend to label the liberal

new employment in the community. In calling for a return to communal values, conservatives simply advocated mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Yet it is highly questionable as to what community-binding power the Pledge has. After all, the Pledge was commonly recited in schoolrooms in the 1950s by the children who later, in the 1960s, threw off all communal values. The issue behind the Pledge is not whether we must recite it, but whether it stands for the kind of community or

democratic need for tolerance and wrote that individual freedom could not be used to deprive others of their freedom to pursue their own good. Nonetheless, the liberal values of tolerance and freedom of choice have exposed liberalism to a charge of relativistic complacency. The refusal of modern liberals to incorporate the teaching of values into a liberal arts education, for instance, has drawn criticism from conservatives like Allan Bloom. According to Bloom, teaching the humanities means

social problems.8 This brand of liberalism in many ways reflects the basic outlook of twentieth-century liberalism. Neoliberals also look to all levels of government, as demonstrated by David Osborne in Laboratories of Democracy, in which he describes the activist and innovative strategies of neoliberal governors. As governor of Arizona, Bruce Babbitt, for instance, envisioned federal government as a partner with the states and private sector in restructuring the economy and in delivering

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