How Left Is Right & Right Is Wrong

by Alan Colmes

Chapter One

HarperCollins
I'm proud to be a liberal. In my spare time I hug trees. I'd rather hug a tree than embrace a tax cut we can't afford. Ever try to hug a tax rebate check? Bark burn is so much more pleasant than paper cuts. I believe there is a role for government. So do conservatives, in spite of the fact that they love to shout about getting government off our backs. They love government, too. They just use government differently than liberals do. Conservatives want government to tell you what you can't do. In fact, the Republican view of legislation is "Just Say No." I am a liberal because I believe in what government can do as a force for good. I believe that, when used properly, government can create opportunity, equality, and equity. I agree with Ron Brown, the late Commerce secretary and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who stated, "The common thread of Democratic history, from Thomas Jefferson to Bill Clinton, has been an abiding faith in the judgment of hardworking American families, and a commitment to helping the excluded, the disenfranchised and the poor strengthen our nation by earning themselves a piece of the American Dream. We remember that this great land was sculpted by immigrants and slaves, their children and grandchildren."

I Am Not a Party Animal

The more I learned about the Democratic Party and its rich history, the more I felt at home with its ideals. This is not to say I agree with every Democratic politician, policy position, or pronouncement. And I'm often more critical of my own party than of the opposition. When I'm critical of Democrats or liberals on Hannity & Colmes, it drives my fellow liberals crazy because they feel I should be an ideological cheerleader. This is not something I can do while maintaining my intellectual honesty. I'm not a Democrat because I love political organizations (I am a loner, not a joiner), and I don't agree with much of the inside baseball that gets played within and between our American political parties. I'm a Democrat because the progressive ideas in which I fervently believe are closer to what the Democrats stand for than what the Republicans profess, and those two parties are the only viable infrastructures for electing candidates to office.

That being said, I heartily identify with the roots of the party. "The party of the common man" was founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1792 to fight for the Bill of Rights and stand up to the elitist Federalists. In the next century, William Jennings Bryan, known as the "Great Commoner," was considered the conscience of the nation. As a two-term congressman and three-time presidential nominee, Bryan fought for and won women's suffrage, direct elections of senators, and a progressive income tax. As President Woodrow Wilson's secretary of state and a peace advocate in the early part of the twentieth century, Bryan won the approval of thirty nations to agree to investigations of disputes before going to war. Wilson, that century's first Democratic president, brought us the League of Nations, the Federal Reserve Board, and the first child and welfare laws. President Franklin Roosevelt brought our country out of the Great Depression with his New Deal, Works Progress Administration, and the creation of Social Security. President Harry Truman integrated the armed forces. President John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps and brought a new optimism to America. President Lyndon Johnson's administration heralded the civil rights movement with the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. It was Johnson's Great Society that declared war on poverty and created Medicare and Medicaid.

In short, Democrats don't need to add the word compassionate to further define what they are: the notion is already built in to the philosophy. Liberals are the ones who have fought to move forward while conservatives have done what their name implies: conserve the past. That's why I'm proud of the "L" word and what it represents. And that's why I'm committed to fight for and uphold its ideals.

Liberal, Literally. Are You One?

The conservatives' tactic of making the word liberal seem as though it should be one of the seven words you can't say on the broadcast media has been brilliant. The word drips off the tongue, as though if it's said too often, the speaker will have an aneurysm as it parts the lips. (Conservatives also love to use the diminutive "lib" to marginalize the left.) When Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi was running for and then became leader of the House Democrats, the words San Francisco liberal were spit out of conservative mouths as though the pronouncers were trying to dispel toxic bile from their systems. The last time I checked, San Francisco is part of the very same America that conservatives claim to love so much. Or maybe they only love those parts of America that got colored red on the Bush/Gore maps of 2000. Sixties conservatives said, "My country: Love it or leave it." I say: "My country: Love it all or don't love it at all."

Liberal is a very nice word. Say it a few times. Let it roll off the tongue. Say it loud and there's music playing. Say it soft and it's almost like praying. Wait a minute ... that's "Maria" from West Side Story. Actually, it wouldn't be such a bad idea if liberals could embrace this word with the same kind of glee with which Maria embraced her beauty:

"I feel liberal, oh so liberal. I feel liberal and witty and bright
And I pity those conservatives who think they're right."

The foregoing is excerpted from "Red, White & Liberal" by Alan Colmes. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022

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