Liberal Life Stories?
Rather than telling the story of their political values as a kind of moral fantasy of their own compassion and boundless emotional commitment to selflessly aiding the less fortunate, perhaps they could say more, and say it more authentically, about the roots of their social vision. At the very least, this might prove a more potent and honest—if not particularly democratic—reply to the kind of anti-intellectual populism that is embodied in something like the resurgence of creationism in many parts of the United States. It might also reconnect educated liberal Americans with a hopeful, progressive story of American life as opposed to a bitter story of alienation from America.
Okay, I'll give it a try. Boundless emotional commitment to selflessly aiding the less fortunate was never my narrative anyway. It has always struck me, frankly, as a fatuous projective fantasy on us by our rather anti-intellectual Conservative friends, a straw man to oppose their attitude of realpolitic, good common sense, and moral superiority (the keywords here are "taking responsibility" and "knowing the difference between right and wrong") to the less fortunate.
I stand for the Public Interest. Let's give an example: in my state, Ohio, there has been no real "economic recovery" from the downturn of 2000, particularly no recovery in the form of an increase in new jobs to replace those lost. It is also a largely Republican-run state where the demands of "workfare" that people find work where it does not exist, and the continuous slow squeezing of the poor, the sick, the mentally ill, and the disabled out of the benefit system has been refined to a fine art practiced with gusto and relish from the Ohio Statehouse.
It is in the Public Interest for Americans not to be unemployed or underemployed. It is not in the Public Interest for those who are, and have no way to create employment for themselves, to crowd the entrance ramps of the freeway in the driving rain or snow (as they do now and as they did through much of the Reagan/Bush One years, too) with cardboard signs reading: "Homeless, Starving, Will Work, Please Help".
This is NOT a matter of charity and sympathy in a country of citizens with "liberty and justice for all", however much it would be so in a country of subjects, serfs, slaves, "separate but equal" races, or biological robots whose only purpose in life is to make someone else money, and then decently die (knowing the difference between right and wrong, and doing so responsibly, of course) when they are surplus labor and thus no longer needed.
It is a matter of the Public Interest to "promote the general welfare" and "secure the blessings of liberty" not to have this happen. Those are the roots of MY social vision as an intellectual Liberal: they call it the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States.
Philosophically at least, I think my Conservative friends stand for the denial of the existence of a Public Interest, however much they have a sentimental and lacrymorse fondness for things like a strong military of fine, upstanding, and brave citizen/soldiers, called upon to give "the last full measure of devotion"-- which is also part of the Public Interest called "providing for the common defense".
Show them a flag-draped coffin, and, even if they are not willing to pay more taxes for it, they are certainly willing to borrow more money on the behalf of all of us for it--as well as borrow the money for any special little projects for their own State or Congressional district.
Why is it so difficult, for example, to convince them to believe that breathing dirty air, drinking dioxin flavored water, eating mercury-laden fish, and eventually losing our great agriculture to global warming, is bad for everybody? And this despite that fact that it makes a few of us richer, and gives a large number of us the comforting illusion that, somehow, our "freedom" has increased, or at least our income has not diminished, because of it.
It does not form a more perfect Union to have these things happen. It does not promote the general welfare to have these things happen. It does not provide for the common defense to have these things happen. And it does not secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity to have these things happen.
Isn't there really a Public Interest? And isn't it in that Public Interest for this not to happen?
How's that for a Liberal Life Story, an honest narrative of the authentic roots of my intellectual Liberalism, Mr. Burke?