By Shelton Bumgarner
The idea of the liberal first entered my personal consciousness when I was a young boy in the 1980s. President Ronald Reagan seemed hell bent on ending the reign of “tax and spend,” “big government” liberals who were ruining America and preventing it from enjoy its potential through over regulation.
In rural Virginia in the 1980s, this was quite a popular set of rhetoric. Of course, I was curious why everyone hated liberals and promptly became one, almost out of spite.
Since the 80s, things have grown significantly worst for liberals. Liberals now get it from both sides, with Right wing nut jobs calling for our heads on one side and progressives telling us to get out the way on the other. But before I go into, let’s at least attempt to try to figure out what a liberal is in the first place.
A liberal, at least in my view, is something believes the government has a place in people’s lives, that it can improve the lot of the common man by giving them a hand up when they need it. Liberals, unlike radicals on the extreme Left believe in gradual change in the context of a mixed economy. That’s not a text book definition by any means, but that’s the general one I have in my head when I think of myself as a “liberal.”
The apparent universal hatred for liberals wasn’t always the case. From about 1933 to 1953 America ran on liberal ideas. That was pretty much the center of the action when it came to the American body politic. Liberals would continue to be a powerful force in the post-WWII era for generations to come.
But, gradually, large segments of the population grew disenchanted with the liberal agenda. Just from what I have experience in my personal life of observing politics, it seems a lot of the hatred of liberals was the result of wedge issues like abortion and gay rights. The people those topics did not alienate, liberal being at the forefront of the the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements did.
So, by the time of the Reagan Revolution in 1980, liberals were now the go-to whipping boy for Reagan Conservatives who — unlike Donald Trump — actually had an ideology that they could go to when need-be. Reagan Conservatives wanted small government, lower taxes and “traditional values.” Unlike the mental citizens of today’s Trumplandia, they seemed to have some sense of what, exactly, all that meant in a cogent way they could defend without fear of it all being upended with an early morning tweet.
The interesting thing is that some people really took Reagan’s rhetoric against liberals to heart. And hence, we have the ideological underpinnings of the dire straights we find ourselves in now. A lot of people who don’t even understand what a liberal is, just know they hate them and that they hide under their bed, feasting on the bodies of dead children.
So, now what.
It seems to me that we have kind of come to a dead end. The hatred of liberals among those on the far Right has reached such surreal extremes that really the only way it could get worst is if people started to get physically harmed. Which, of course, we know they already are.
I would idly note that a lot of what Right wing nutjob hate so much and call “liberal” really is more the ideological successor to the “New Left” that was birthed as a result of the Vietnam War. So, all the talk of “safe spaces” an “trigger warnings” is more, at least in my book, more Neo-New Left than it is liberal.
And, I have to note, don’t even consider myself all that liberal in real terms. The Bill Clinton agenda of about 1996 is where I stand politically to this day and that definitely isn’t very liberal.
Now we find ourselves in the era of Trumplandia, where it seems we are all about to OD on “liberal outrage” over this or that obscene thing that Donald Trump has done to the Constitution. As I keep saying, if liberals are going to do anything about this, we’re going to have to stop being enraged and become engaged instead.
That’s the solution to the problem at hand. We have to use our anger constructively. As Baby Boomers grow older, the work of liberals will grow much, much more difficult. If we do manage to survive this Era of Trumplandia, it could be 20 or 30 years before enough Baby Boomers have died off that a new generation of liberals can come forth and clean up the damage.
Or it could go a different way. Either progressives will pick up the baton and do what liberals used to do, or if I may strike a darker, more dystopian tone, this may be it. We may no longer be living in a Republic at all and we’re fucked. We may be now in a “managed democracy” like they have in Russia and the liberal agenda will be squashed for here on out.
But I have hope. I have hope that the American spirit is stronger than that and maybe, just maybe, thing will work out for the best for everyone involved…eventually.
Shelton Bumgarner is the editor and publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.