Mike Kueber's Blog

December 1, 2012

A tenuous left-center majority rules America?

Filed under: Economics,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:26 pm
Tags: , ,

According to New York Times columnist Timothy Egan, the recent election reveals that America has a tenuous center-left majority.  Although his conclusion is belied by the fact that only 25% of the voters identify themselves as liberal, while 35% self-identify as conservatives and 41% as moderates, Egan explains – “What’s going on here, demography and democracy seem to be saying at the same time, is the advance of progressive political ideas by a majority that spurns an obvious label.”  Ah, American voters are comfortably liberal, but because of some unexplained thought process, they don’t like being associated with the term.

According to Egan, liberals (not necessarily Democrats) are responsible for all of America’s significant advances – i.e., Lincoln’s abolition of slavery (Republican), Teddy Roosevelt’s adoption of an income tax (Republican), women’s suffrage (bipartisan), Social Security (FDR), Civil Rights (Democratic and Republican), national parks (Republican), child-labor laws (Democratic), environmental protection (Republican), and universal health care (Democratic). 

With President Obama’s reelection, Egan believes the Democratic liberals have an opportunity achieve further greatness – to bolster the middle class, ensure that ObamaCare succeeds, and address global warming.  If the liberals fail, the “knuckle-dragging” Republicans will return their cynicism to America.

I have previously blogged about liberalism, and wrote the following in a post:     

  • A small “l” liberal is someone whose values and philosophy flow from the Enlightenment or Age of Reason – which according to Wikipedia was an 18th century movement “to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted science and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition, intolerance, and abuses by church and state.”
  • “Liberalism is a political ideology or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality.  Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally liberals support ideas such as capitalism (either regulated or not), constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights and the free exercise of religion.”

Based on the preceding descriptions of liberalism, I disagree Egan’s claim that establishing a Europe-style welfare state is a liberal value.  Rather, a genuine liberal favors robust capitalism.  I agree, however, that civil rights and environmentalism are predominantly liberal values.  In the middle, I don’t see how bolstering the middle class or implementing an income tax is either a conservative or liberal value. 

There is no denying that liberalism has played a noble role in America’s history, but the term has come into disrepute because it became associated with the Europe-style welfare state that LBJ started with his Great Society.   Although Egan wants to associate the term with positive issues like civil rights, equal opportunity, and environmentalism, the term will never be redeemed as long he also associates it with welfare and socialistic redistribution of wealth.



  1. the declaration of independence is liberal: we have rights of life, liberty, pursuit of happiness – anything that promotes this is liberal to me.

    the constitution is conservative: we need constraints to coexist so here is a process for creating laws (constraints).


    Comment by Q — December 2, 2012 @ 1:29 pm | Reply

    • That’s an interesting comparison, q. As a technical matter, I don’t think the Declaration has much legal force, but it certainly reflects the values upon which this country was formed.

      With respect to the liberal value in favor of the pursuit of happiness, I think that traditionally this refers to the right to getting and keeping your private property. In that sense, a large welfare state is contrary to liberalism.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — December 2, 2012 @ 6:13 pm | Reply

      • to me, a very limited population, one critical trait of a right is that it does not deny anyone of anything. for example, your right to speech does not inhibit my right to speech.

        it really gives me heartburn when people call a “privilege” a right. Example, I was in Uvalde preapring for a mission trip trying to find houses needing repairs. I stopped in the local welfare center (i don’t know the politically correct name – sorry to all) hoping they would know of some. The walls are plastered with signs that say “YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO pick your favorite item: food, housing, health care”. WRONG – these are not rights. these are privileges granted by the generous American tax payer! Man that gets my goat…

        so, i agree do not think taxing is liberal. it takes wealth (our property) from us.


        Comment by Q — December 3, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

      • Good point, q. Incidentally, my youngest son went on a mission last year for a week to fix up a house – somewhere on the border, perhaps Del Rio. I don’t know where he found religion – it wasn’t me – but he is now attending Francisan Univ. in Ohio and might become a full-time missionary.

        Regarding privilege and right, I remember as a youth objecting when told that driving a car was not a right, but rather was a privilege from government. Then I learned in political science in college that ultimately we the people had given the government a limited privilege to govern our driving conduct.

        Comment by Mike Kueber — December 4, 2012 @ 12:32 am

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