In Defense of Liberalism
An Annual New Year’s Essay from American Politics Journal
By Jeff Koopersmith
Dec. 31, 1998 (APJ) — In 1996, around Christmas time, I wrote the original version of this essay.
It was updated last year.
Now another year has passed, and our editors thought I should look at it again for 1999 — keeping a tradition.
First things first.
I remain proud to be a “liberal.”
On this, the first day of 1999, whether, Christian, Jew, Muslim or Buddhist, ask yourself a simple question: “Would Christ have registered as a Republican?”
Of course not. Especially in 1999.
This collection of editorials, news, updates and research we call American Politics Journal are presented to the reader as an unabashed defense of democracy and liberalism as its highest pursuit.
I have stood by for nearly 20 years and watched the fiber of this nation begin to collapse — not from lack of “family values” but from the oversold tales of a small minority of fundamentalist right-wing conservatives and pseudo-Christians claiming, simply, “that Americans lack ethics.”
Men like William Bennett, William Kristol, Ralph Reed, Tim Russert and Sam Donaldson — who know nothing about poverty and the misery it causes — tell us that we need to “get Biblical” in order to get moral.
Today, The Christian Coalition, largely responsible for blaming societal problems on the lack of “family values” — a buzz-phrase for religious zealotry — remains under indictment through litigation aimed at its illegal support of Republican candidates. The Justice Department continues its criminal investigation of this group on charges of money laundering and other illegal campaign activities during last year’s election as well.
But this year, the Christian Coalition lost members in droves as well.
Things are looking up.
But even as the Kings are revealed as having no clothes, I also believe that the disappearing American dream — if it ever truly existed — is waning due to the frantic pursuit of unprecedented wealth by the few with so very little compassion for the many.
What caused this is fodder for volumes of material. Suffice it to say that the so-called Reagan Revolution — unrecognizable even by Ronald Reagan himself — spun out of control.
So wildly did it swerve that the Democrat party of today Has become a mirror image of the Republican Party of yesteryear!
Instead of a battle cry for increased popular productivity, the “message” was somehow twisted into “You’d better make more money now and faster or you may be out on the street.”
“…and you’d better do it alone!”
Thus, when one overhears a conversation among college seniors today, it’s unlikely to be about traditional collegiate liberal viewpoints and a matriculation made to “change the world for the better” but, more likely, a discussion of how to make the most money in the shortest possible time.
In fact, The Newt Gingrichs and Pat Buchanans of our world, spurred by the Christian Coalition’s former Director, Ralph Reed, have perverted the truth about American’s compassion, and twisted the minds of good “God-fearing” citizens by blaming the women’s rights movement, minorities, gays, undocumented workers, “illegitimate children,” the television and film industries, and victimless crime for our national ills.
This year, after 75 months of digging, they finally laid the blame Bill Clinton for the demoralizing of America using unproved, untested “facts” that Clinton lied under oath. As a lawyer, I can tell you that he did not lie nor commit perjury under oath. He came close but never crossed the line. He will never be convicted, nor will he ever sign a censure.
In truth, it is unbridled greed, born of a seriously flawed corporate and Republican political “ethic,” that has caused the most intense polarization of rich against poor since the end drew near for Czarist Russia. And it is this avarice that has targeted Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Nothing less, nothing more.
The good news is that Americans evidence unparalleled uneasiness about this “me against you” philosophy so deftly sold them by the “new right” snake oilists and fundamentalist religious groups.
They know that something is rotten on Capitol Hill, but most are hard-pressed to articulate it.
That is why American Politics Journal was born: to help focus these issues and to put complex issues into day-to-day, entertaining language.
But make no mistake, we are dead serious about our editorial stance.
Almost all political and attitudinal polls suggest that support for right-wing philosophies is now on a steep decline, but voters — willing to try anything — still rewarded the most “conservative” wing of the Republican party with a modicum of control over the Congress. I write “modicum” of control because it is obvious that the younger, right-wing members of the congressional classes of 1992, 1994 and 1996 and 1998 have not been able to complete their agenda for their variety of balanced budget or their brand of new tax cuts.
More important — they have not been successful in destroying President Clinton and the Presidency itself.
They never will be.
The pinchbeck of the Gingrichian GOP “Contract With America” — which was never signed or seen by even a small percentage of Americans — has in most part been breached, not only because of Democrat legislative interference and defense, but from GOP party infighting with wiser and more moderate Republicans who are themselves uncomfortable with this new craven ideology.
A Contract “On” Americans is more like it.
And there was more good news this year — Big Business is rethinking its support of whippersnapper Republicans. The smartest of corporate leaders I talk with see that polarizing rich against poor, have against have-not, white against black, American against Mexican is certainly not in their best interest.
Instability in the marketplace is the worst possible atmosphere for continued profitability.
However, this is not to say that right wing conservatism is dead. Hence years ago, I began, in earnest, to criticize, albeit sometimes too passionately, the direction toward which many Americans are being dragged through deception and, even worse, manipulation of truth.
It has cost me. But not enough to stop. I have reveived death threats. My family has been terrorized, and certain members of the government would love American Politics Journal to be “disappeared.”
Few journalists, editorialists and essayists are openly writing from the liberal viewpoint. In this last year, only one noteworthy television journalist — Geraldo Rivera — was actively pursuing fair coverage of the latest coup attempt by Congress.
Put quite simply, the highest-paid journalists are afraid to lose their jobs in corporate media hallways controlled now almost entirely by the right wing. Thus, we offer this daily, wholehearted if not linguistically flawed, view of America and her politics from the back benches and the dark alleys of reportage.
I am not a great writer or thinker. I’m often a hypocrite. I too love the things and beauty that money can buy.
I, like the Christian Coalition, wish that American families could all stay together; that women did not have to, or want to, work while their children were young; that crime did not exist except in the insane, and; that we all saw each other every week in churches, synagogues, mosques and temples.
I wish that some people, bereft from simply living, did not turn to drugs for solace.
But wishing is not real.
That is what separates the leeches from the doers. I am a doer. The Christian Coalition is an institutionalized leech — threatening congress with its very life, blackmailing members to vote their way “or else.” As God predicted, evil will come cloaked in goodness.
As we become more erudite and the world shrinks ever-quicker, the pressure on the average man and woman increases a thousandfold. A world where we can watch a war 12,000 miles away live and in real time is one surely fraught with complexity and so much misinformation as to addle the mind of even the most astute.
A world overwhelmed by poverty of money and soul, where the majority of people go comparatively hungry, is suffocating for most of us — including me. We become inured to the tragedy around us. And the Republican Party, eager to permanently fix our blinders, helps us to do just that.
I was reminded of this last year as I read a snotty little note in the New York Times from Ms. Abigail Thernstrom — the Harvard-employed woman who thinks “Blacks are getting too much attention.”
She was congratulating herself for saying that General Colin Powell owed nothing to affirmative action. What an outrageous statement from this ghoul who was wonderfully chastised in front of millions by the President only a year ago.
Let me again ask Ms. Thernstrom: “Did the decades of struggle by Martin Luther King, and ordinary white citizens like my mother or myself, result in nothing? Do you think General Powell would have been made an officer in 1918? How about 1928 or 1938?” It was the atmosphere so courageously crafted by Dr. King and others which stood Mr. Powell in such good stead. If he had been born a decade earlier or four decades later, he would not have been The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
That is for certain.
Blood was shed during the civil rights era, but not much flowed over white skin.
Ms. Thernstrom, like the right wing of the Republican Party, is a sorry bigot who sells evil in place of compassion. She is a privileged White woman fighting so hard to sell her insipid tomes. She, like many of her ultra-right Republican sisters, preach hate while pretending to educate.
How dare she instruct the destroyed on their great “opportunities” by using a sell-out, Colin Powell, as an example – a false idol — a specious icon of a Black man who can get ahead without quotas or affirmative action or whatever label you choose! Colin Powell — A Black Republican — is a living oxymoron like his comrades-in-disgrace, Ward Connerly and J.C. Watts, who openly fight against their own people in order to secure a place at the all-white country club called the GOP.
Are you a madwoman, Ms. Thernstrom — or simply an overeducated naive whore for conservative ideas long dead and dying?
Our human tendency is to hide, to seek comfort in our own, and protection in what it ours. It is this weakness — shared by all mankind — upon which religious fundamentalism and right-wing fanatic “evangelism” seek to capitalize — most often without planning or even realizing they are doing so.
But certain leaders, like Mr. Gingrich, Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Reed and televangesnake Pat Robertson know exactly and quintessentially what they are doing, and how to do it. They know how to bait and use people like Thernstrom, Connerly and Powell. Certainly their formula was stumbled upon — much like a baby discovering ice cream. But if was perfected as well, just as Hitler honed his propaganda in 1935.
Once Newt Gingrich, Bob Barr, Henry Hyde and “the boys” found Nirvana in pitting us, one against the other, in the face of a designedly ever-shrinking pie, the masses, unthinking, hung onto the message like a gutter dog on a old soup bone. But then, this year, they went too far. They attempted to throw out a duly elected President based on entrapment — pure and simple — by the hoodlum prosecutor Kenneth Starr.
Well, Mr. Starr, you have your cake. Now choke on it.
I have spent most of my life, from age sixteen on, involved in politics — first as a volunteer, then as a professional, and finally as a financier of Democrat candidates and ideals. I have also worked with and for moderate Republicans and count many as friends. I recognize that many Democrats are also part of the problem, and fuel the fire of discontent. Republicans do not have all four corners on sowing greed and non-compassionate conduct — maybe only three.
However, it is Republicans who speak in the name of “family values,” yet practice the opposite by offering succor to the already rich — if only to gain more power. It was Newt Gingrich who preached family values while allegedly charging prostitutes on his American Express Card and reportedly serving his putative spouse with divorce documents on her thought-to-be death bed.
It is Henry Hyde, who lied to his constituents by omission — time and time again — about his ruinous affair with Mrs. Cherie Snodgrass — an affair which ripped her family asunder and ruined her husband’s life. It is Charles Canady, the rabid Florida moralist preacher who reportedly had an affair with the married Mrs. Becker and that forced her and her husband Robert into divorce court — another marriage destroyed. I spoke with Mrs. Becker. She was weeping and begged me to leave off — she had a teenage daughter. I did, until the story broke. . Then there’s the California Republican Congressman soon to be outed by Larry Flynt for having oral sex with a male in an alley and then fleeing the police as they closed in on him and finally arrested him — an arrest that was quietly “fixed.”
And there are more. Many, many more.
Yet it was these same men — merely suffering under general human frailty — who were the very cause of the suffering of Bill, Hillary ad Chelsea Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, her family and all of their their friends. Republicans continue to claim that Bill Clinton has brought this upon himself. But that is simply not true.
Let me ask you: how many of you would rush to the press, or to an acquaintance’s wife, to tell her of her husband’s infidelity? How many of you would then revel in it — only months later saying “It’s not about sex — it’s about perjury!”
How evilly convenient.
It was never about sex. It was about unseating a twice popularly-elected President who threatened big business with universal health care. It was about unseating a President who did not agree with William Kristol’s New Moralism. It was about unseating a President who did not worship at the false altars of Pat Robertson and his henchmen Ralph Reed and Jerry Falwell. It was about bribing a woman — Paula Jones — to sue the President for millions of dollars in, of all things, a federal civil rights suit! Civil rights, now embraced by the right wing, is today defined as extortion. It was about “hiring” the awful Linda Tripp to entrap her friend Monica Lewinsky into a series of moves designed to force the President to lie and to lie under oath.
But he didn’t fall for it. He knew what was up. He played their miserable game.
And he won.
It is the heart of the ultra right who deserve to be impeached — and impeached by their GOP colleagues for attempting an unconstitutional assault on the United States by plotting a coup against the White House. That’s what happened to Andrew Johnson. That’s what happened to Bill Clinton. Johnson won in the end, and so will Clinton.
Someone, somewhere — most probably a historian — thought they could rewind history and replay the Johnson impeachment trial — but with a different ending. It didn’t work. That “historian” was Newt Gingrich. He now sits alone planning his new “business” — monkey business, we’d guess.
Part of me feels that Republicans, so tired of being a shrinking minority in the early part of this decade, fabricated the notion that the United States is some terrible place to live — especially for the white middle class.
What else could they do but lie to gain power?
The truth is that this country is only a horrible place to live for those without means — minorities, women and gays — ever set upon by ignorant whites. And our women, who have endured countless rebuffs and insults to their intelligence and abilities — what are they even doing in the Republican party?
Have they given up or given in?
The truth is that America is a Garden of Eden compared to the rest of the planet! We have the lowest taxes, the greatest opportunity, the fairest of cultures, the warmest of hearts, the bravest of people — all while maintaining the highest relative standard of living on earth.
This has been the case for a long time — but less so since Republicans took the congressional helm. For they have twisted our fortune and made it their own in absolute disregard for truth.
They tell women that using contraceptives is “murdering their babies.” They say that “partial birth abortions” to save a deformed child from a back ward life is “killing.” They say that a woman’s right to choose is “murder.”
For those of you who have not had the privilege or inclination to travel outside our borders, I urge you to do so. Look about the world, search out its wealthiest cities and most dreadful slums. Linger in these places. Do not go abroad merely to sight see, but to learn about other countries — their tribulation and victories.
It is a humbling experience, and one that might shame those of you who complain so loudly about our lack of values. Compared to most of the world, our values, family and otherwise, are most high.
And when you come home, be sure to visit our American slums, the barrios on the Texas/Mexican border. The slums surrounding Palm Beach, Florida. Talk to émigrés — legal and not — and ask them how and why they came to our shores. Make acquaintance with Black and Hispanic families. Meet and talk with a gay man or woman.
Ask a thief why he steals. Ask a drug addict why he uses.
Do you really believe they’ll tell you that they chose this life?
In short, open yourself to information and contact with others unlike yourselves.
If you’re a “conservative’ Republican now, you’ll be ashamed.
Then, red-faced, ask yourself: “What would I do under their circumstances?”
You will be surprised at your indignation.
I assure you — the more you heed my suggestions, the hollower the words of the pseudo-Christian right and the frantic Republican stalking horse will sound.
Don’t believe me.
Don’t believe Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay or Ralph Reed.
Don’t even believe your parents or your best friends when they preach that which divides rather than that which unites.
Go out yourself and seek the truth. It is then that you may discover the true meaning of Christ, the Bible, the Torah, Buddha, the Koran and other great and small religions, leaders, teachers and Gods.
It is then that you will discover the beauty of our constitution. For all share a common ideology or theology — and it is not, as right wing fanatics would have you think, “caring about, but not caring for your fellow man.”
It is the Constitution, flaunted sinfully by the ultra right, that will, in the end, save rather than convict Bill Clinton.
One need only look at his or her own relationship to his family to see the fallaciousness of caring about but not caring for people. Imagine caring about — but not caring for — your children, your parents and siblings.
Just as a newborn cannot fend for himself, many through no fault of their own cannot care for themselves. This might be because of lack of opportunity due to racism or religious persecution. It might be from lack of intelligence, illness or even insanity. It might be born from hopelessness or helplessness.
It may be from the stunning blow of poverty that smacks three-year-old ghetto kids as they stare out the front window at their neighborhoods while leafing through your old discarded copy of Town & Country.
However and wherever, one cannot assuage need for care by simply stating that one cares.
This is what Republicans ask you to do. That is what they do. It is their only choice, because in order to give all Americans an equal playing field we would have to spend enormous amounts of money, money Republican incumbents are “hired and bribed ” to protect.
When have you heard a story about welfare bashers adopting a Black crack baby in order to preserve its life?
You’ll hear the Republican leadership constantly quote the “Founding Fathers” as if they were Gods. You will hear them invoke the words of Thomas Jefferson, and avid slavemaster, in their zeal to convert you to an 80 hour-a-week workaholic, laboring for the “man” that feeds the GOP its campaign cash and stops by Democrat treasuries as well.
And now that Americans are beginning to sense the false prophet’s words, The Republican National Committee, leaderless, seeks to cloud your minds again — this time with $100 million worth of lawsuits, investigations, false indictments, lives destroyed and wives shattered, children humiliated, and nations dissolved.
And for what? To be the top cops for a gang of multinational thieves more bent on luring the global economy than hugging their sons and daughters.
It sometimes seems impossible — this battle to convince Americans that there is more than money, more than military might, more than “getting what you deserve,” to define a good life.
This atmosphere of greed began in California under Republican sponsorship of tax cuts that devastated public education and social services for the poor and middle class. It was called “Proposition 13” and it made 50% cuts in Californian’s property taxes in 1976 and was nothing more than a payoff — a bribe to Californians in exchange for turning their backs on the weak and unfortunate. “Prop 13” is proof that even Americans can be cajoled into doing something that is neither right nor judicious — and certainly devoid of any “family values”
All that was California experimental fascism is now gone. The Democrats swept every important election in 1998 and will sweep in 2000 as well. Californians learned quickly that they do not want to live in a Neo-Nazi-controlled state governed by the likes of Pete Wilson.
A black man among white leaders said it best: Vernon Jordan, a true symbol of tolerance and opportunity and a man denigrated unjustly by Ken Starr, called Prop 13 “America’s Dirty Little Secret — Racism.” He was razor right. But now America’s dirty secret is forked. It aims not only at minorities, but also at the poor — white or otherwise. It is unacceptable to be poor in America. “There is no reason for it,” says our friend Mr. Gingrich.
While his more moderate pals like Senator Orrin Hatch are hawking Bible-based music CD’s for profit, Henry Hyde has pledged us another year of character assassination, despicable behavior and racist polemics. He and people like Dan Burton vow to spend another $50 million to “get the president” and the Democrats.
You see, I believe in cliché, and hackneyed thoughts when they are appropriate — That our nation, our world, is one big extended family, where everyone’s victories and defeats are visited on the other.
Nothing less could be true.
Americans know this, and that is why we send more money and people abroad to help the helpless than any people on earth. It is also why we send bombers to cripple evil.
We seem to know the misery of others, yet often forget the misery of our own.
Isn’t that just like us?