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Modern Liberalism

Thomas Paine

It’s crunch time. Where the rubber hits the road. When we separate the wheat from the chaff. Or choose your own tired metaphor. But choose you must, Grasshopper. Those who try to sit on the border fence will be toppled when the winds of change blow the fence down.

As the old crusader showed Dr. Henry Walton Jones there are fatal penalties for those who do not choose wisely.

We have a new administration coming into office next month, despite loud braying from the current officeholder (why is it Democrats who get portrayed as asses?) and the endless bloviations of sunshine patriots who keep promising to start a second civil war rather than submit to an administration chosen by popular vote.

On December 19, 1776, Thomas Paine warned us against “summer soldiers and sunshine patriots” who loudly proclaim their intentions to fight and to sacrifice themselves to the great cause of revolution, but who are all talk and no action. In the Bible, Jesus warns us against those who pray loudly in public, but who don’t live by the Commandments. And, as the Donald’s base begins to run out of hot air, we see that, just like Paine’s sunshine patriots, their ‘courage’ is limited to speaking out on the interwebs and now, accusing Bilious Barr and even Donald-appointed district and Supreme Court judges of being disloyal to his orange flatulence.

Revolutionary? No, just revolting

Such noisemakers are now turning on their own. The openly racist John Roberts has now become a “RINO”—a Republican in Name Only. Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and even Amy Barrett are identified as traitors, turncoats and agents of the Deep State. Bill Barr, and even the man Donald handpicked to oversee election security, have been identified as participants in the Deep State. Senators who, temporarily, put truth and their Constitutional oaths ahead of personal loyalty to the Donald, have revealed themselves as closet Democrats, or even worse, Democrat-socialists.

We have had four years of constant, organized, partisan attacks on our governmental structure. We have seen environmental, labor and healthcare laws and regulations rolled back, ignored by agency heads drawn from criminal corporations. A major effort was made to make these thing appear to be the personal decisions of an erratic, uneducated, and weak-ego’d buffoon. But they all follow a pattern that speaks of organized thought, and thought more systematic than the neo-nazi ravings of Steve Miller, the Donald’s “brain.”

These rightwing and corporate extremists are, sadly, not alone. Now that the Biden administration is beginning to step in, ahead of inauguration, filling the void left by the Donald’s retreat, we are beginning to hear similar voices from the “left.” “If it ain’t my way, I’ll oppose to the death any other ideas of how to recover from the past four years’ damage.” Even before the Biden-Harris team has been sworn in, the long knives are out to cut them down.

This is beyond tragic. When the silly summer soldiers and sunshine patriots of the right are ineffectual, there is little damage to the nation. Perhaps there is even some benefit when they insist on showing the world how uncooperative they are. Proving that they prefer attacking each other to the risks of attacking the left, even just verbally, doesn’t hurt the nation. Indeed it may help. These people are out campaigning against reality, and then showing us that they don’t have the courage of their convictions when the going gets hard.

How is it different when people “on the left” attack the new administration even before it starts? It is different because it is more destructive.

How is it different when people “on the left” attack the new administration even before it starts? It is different because it is more destructive. When Bolsheviks and Mensheviks found it preferable to attack each other than work together to solve problems, the communist experiment collapsed. Yes, the Bolsheviks raised Russian serfs out of squalor, gave them healthcare and education. But the party also excluded them from power, denied them the right to participate in “communal” rule, even at the most local level, and descended into the paranoia that inevitably engulfs dictatorships.

In the U.S., we have two core tasks right now. One is to overcome the damage of the past four years, restoring the government protections for everyday Americans and wresting control from the corporate functionaries who infest too much of government. The other is to put the nation back on the path of becoming better, every day. The path that Dr. King taught us was inevitable when he reminded us that the arc of liberty bends toward justice.

Bends toward, even if it never reaches justice. Not because we aren’t trying hard enough or taking the right steps. Rather because justice itself is an evolving concept. When they designed our nation, some Founding Fathers understood that it was wrong to own other people as property. But most considered it “natural” and “just” that men ruled with no more input from women than pillow talk or letters like Abigail Adams wrote.

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It took us almost a century to end slavery, only to then come to the realization that unregulated capitalism results in a different kind of slavery. Our new understanding of justice was that children were different from adults and had no place in factories. And we learned that women had a place in both in the industrial workplace and in governance, justice demanded it.

More decades led the nation to understand and accept that non-white people were the equals of the white population which had run the country since its founding. Even the most strident racists today try to hide their bigotry under pretenses of believing in equality. And Black Lives Matter, as a concept and a movement, was accepted by the white population, which in earlier generations would have met the mere thought with the slaughter of whole towns.

The more we improve ourselves and our nation, the more we learn, the more clearly we see that “justice for all” remains in the distance. But we can also see that steps we take toward justice make subsequent steps toward the moved justice goal lines easier. The brutality of the decades long struggle for labor rights made made the struggle for black civil rights less brutal (though not as much less as it should have been), and that struggle made the struggle for farm worker rights and then for Latinx/indigenous peoples’ rights less violent and less long still.

The feminism and LGBTQ+ movements were almost miraculously rapid, as they both built on earlier movements, and benefitted from technical progress that made message spreading easier and loosened corporate control of information delivery. Our current social media evolution allows the entire world to share and debate evolving concepts of what “justice” is.

So the new Biden administration can’t possibly be merely a redux of President Obama’s two terms. Information now available to us establishes that while President Obama was a revolutionary in bringing to the world a demonstration that the U.S. was able to confront and overcome one of its defining bigotries, he was also a fundamentally conservative Democrat, committed to pretty mainstream approaches. (Remember that his non-universal healthcare plan was less expansive than what Teddy Roosevelt proposed at the turn of the 20th century.)

Lunch Bucket Joe

Attacking the Biden administration before it even begins is counterproductive. Too many attacks ignore that Biden’s hands are also tied by history and by the march of time. He has to deal with the evolution of technology and the greater universalization of knowledge that drives forward progress. He brings his own, mildly conservative work experience to the job. But that experience includes both the “Lunch Bucket Joe” component and the always corporate/banker friendly component.

The Lunch Bucket component has seen working Americans savaged by the policies of the corporate/banker component for the years since the Reagan revolution. The need to respond to that savaging, compounded by ever increasing exposure of corporate corruption of government, will make parts of Biden’s administration inevitable.

tom hall

Yet, like flies around a picnic table, pseudo-progressive voices buzz and attack. They are the left’s summer soldiers and sunshine patriots, eager to be heard, but not eager to actually engage in the hard work and sometimes risky work of searching for and implementing practical solutions to complicated problems.

With eager phrases of “revolutionary” zeal they write themselves into irrelevance by holding themselves “above” the practical political fray that is actually going to get things done.

Will Biden’s team accomplish the infrastructure rebuilding we have been talking about for decades? Will he save Social Security? Will he press for a restoration of the Fairness Doctrine for use of public utilities? Will he extend ObamaCare closer to being a universal plan?

Tom Hall

If he does any of these things, the “revolutionaries” for whom practical day-to-day politicking is so infra-dig will not be contributing. Will not have their more progressive voices contributed to the mix. Will cost the nation the value of their good ideas. Will become as irrelevant as the rightwing militia gang summer soldiers and sunshine patriots who choose to bloviate rather than engage.

Tom Hall