Make Liberalism Great Again: a 5 Step Plan
Liberals should stop identifying as progressives.
Following the publication of my previous article Donald Trump’s Victory is a Failure of Liberalism, I have been asking for and receiving responses. One of the most common problems I found with the reception of my argument was that there was much confusion about what liberalism was. Furthermore, a common response was simply that the word ‘liberalism’ means nothing these days. How sad. If we don’t have a good understanding of liberalism, liberty will never prevail. We would be doomed to an eternity of different Donald Trumps, some of the Right, some of the Left.
We need to start fixing things NOW.
Liberalism simply means for liberty. Anyone or anything that is for liberty is liberal. Anyone or anything that is against liberty is illiberal. It’s as simple as that. Liberalism is a very powerful ideology, because liberty is a powerful force.
It’s time to Make Liberalism Great Again. It’s time to Put Liberty First again. It’s humanity’s only hope now.
So how do we do that, exactly? Here are some suggestions. Note that most are not politically correct: you have been warned.
1. We need to reclaim liberalism from the authoritarian progressives.
Authoritarian lefties, often self-identifying as progressives, like to claim that they are liberals too. Moreover, the American media empowers them to do so, equating Left with liberal. Although liberals were considered on the left of the spectrum during the French Revolution when Left and Right came into use, liberalism is a specific ideology, and authoritarian lefties are simply not liberals by definition. The bottom line: if you do not support freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience to the max, you are NOT a liberal. Getting people fired because they don’t agree with you, and pointless accusations of cultural appropriation may sadly be part of everyday life in some leftist circles nowadays, but real liberals should NEVER accept these things to be normal.
1a. We also need to refrain from EVER identifying as ‘progressives’.
Authoritarian lefties, who primarily identify as progressives these days, practically encourage us to identify the same way. While liberals have been considered progressives throughout history, right now the liberal identity and ideology is at risk of disappearing, so we should probably wear our liberalism on our sleeves whenever we can. Every time you identify as a progressive, you lose a chance to identify as a liberal.
2. We need to end the conflation of liberalism with differential treatment
Real liberalism does not support differential treatment of people based on race, gender or sexual orientation. Real liberals are about equality of freedom and equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. The liberal welfare state is based on the idea that everyone deserves equal opportunity, and deviation from equality of treatment threatens the very existence of this institution. Similarly, liberal anti-discrimination laws are there to guarantee race-blind, gender-blind and sexuality-blind treatment of everyone. While authoritarian progressives can and do support differential treatment for the sake of equality of outcome (e.g. the ‘progressive stack’ at Occupy rallies), we should be clear that this is not the position supported by liberals.
Furthermore, identity politics is only compatible with liberalism to the extent that identity groups seek to use their experience to guide society towards equal treatment of everyone. For example, LGBT people championing for marriage equality and feminists championing for equal consideration in employment are both liberal goals. However, the kind of identity politics that seek special treatment is clearly incompatible with real liberalism.
3. We need to end the conflation of liberalism with socialism.
Liberalism simply is not socialism. There are plenty of liberals who are also socialists, but there are plenty of liberals who are against socialism. Libertarians are liberals who don’t like socialism, for example. The liberal tent should be big enough for both. (Meanwhile, authoritarian leftists who are also socialists should not be considered liberals just because they are socialists!)
The reason that liberals are divided into socialist liberals and anti-socialist liberals also need to be well understood. Basically, it’s just based on different conceptions of liberty in the economic sphere. I believe both camps need to come together and have healthy debates on the economics side of things, but sometimes inevitably they will have to agree to disagree. But the more important point is that both socialist and anti-socialist liberals should work together on non-economic matters. Too often, socialist liberals give authoritarian lefties a free pass because they are in the same party, and anti-socialist liberals give authoritarian conservatives like Trump a free pass for similar reasons. This is what kills liberalism.
Disclaimer: I am personally a mixed-economy liberal. I believe in cutting taxes of small business but not big business. My liberal friends, on the other hand, range from more capitalist than Reagan to as socialist as Bernie Sanders. But the one thing we share in common is a commitment to liberty.
4. We need to end the perception that liberalism opposes traditional values.
Liberalism has been pitted against conservatism politically, because traditionally conservatives favor using public policy to enforce traditional values, while liberals favor letting individuals, families and communities choose. However, that does not mean liberals discourage people from choosing traditional lifestyles. Among liberals, there is a real diversity of traditional and non-traditional beliefs. I am personally more small-c conservative inclined when it comes to commitment and family values, but some of my liberal friends reject cultural conservatism completely. And that’s fine, because liberals respect each others’ consciences. Far-left anarchist revolutionaries are the only ones hell bent on destroying tradition for everyone, and real liberals are opposed to them.
5. We need to show the world what we’re made of.
Each ideological group needs to show the world what business it has in this world, if it wants to be understood by the wider public. The religious right’s opposition to marriage equality, the alt-right’s support of Donald Trump, and the authoritarian left’s attempts to enforce political correctness have all had a clear and sharp imprint on our cultural and political landscape. It’s time liberals had a similar impact. I suggest we start with the following:
i. Making it clear that while we oppose the reign of Donald Trump and hope to offer an alternative, we are not on the same page as authoritarian progressives. We oppose Trump because he is authoritarian, not because he is politically incorrect. The alternative we offer is liberty, not political correctness. In doing this, I believe an alliance with moderate Republicans would be helpful, especially since the authoritarian left have said that they would reject such an alliance. By the way, as liberals, we disagree with Trump rather than hate him. And we have nothing against his supporters either, as evidenced by my admiration for Ivanka Trump.
ii. Making it clear that we support freedom of speech and diversity of opinion. Whether it be Milo Yiannopoulos or Ann Coulter, we should make it clear we support their absolute right to free speech, even if we don’t necessarily agree with the contents. We need to condemn those who attempt to silence anyone, Left or Right. We need to do it in the best spirit of the 1960s Free Speech Movement.
iii. Actually engaging in rational debates with our opponents, on a wide range of issues. For example, there are plenty of reasons why we may support marriage equality, trans rights or action on climate change. While authoritarian progressives would simply shut down their opposition, we liberals must engage with each detailed argument from the opposite side, and argue our case accordingly. You will find that it is the best way to change hearts and minds. By the way, while engaging our opponents, we should let them know that we are pro-liberty liberals and are completely different from the authoritarian lefties, lest there be any confusion.
iv. Standing up for minorities while we are doing this. Remember, the authoritarian left is just as much an opponent to us as the Trump right. The authoritarian left are presenting themselves as the best friends of the LGBT community, ethnic minorities and even the autistic community. They are exploiting the vulnerabilities of these people so they can build a ‘mass movement’ (their own words, not mine) to do who knows what (the only thing we know is whatever they do will be authoritarian, perhaps a mirror image of Trump). While the authoritarian left will accuse us of leaving minorities behind, we need to show that we are actually more effective at securing their rights and welfare. For example, while the authoritarian left is using trans people as the latest wedge in the culture wars, we should help convince (moderately) conservative people that trans individuals are worthy of our respect, and why using the right pronouns is an essential part of this respect, using our skills of rational debate and reasoning.
v. Taking a strong stance against the politically correct culture. Not only is PC culture not effective in causing real change, people are truly fed up with political correctness. Recently, even those who are otherwise not bigoted are increasingly turning to the alt-right to tear down PC culture. In fact, what they should be looking for is real liberalism. Therefore, we need to take a strong stance against the authoritarian left’s peer pressure based social engineering attempts. We need to say that cultural appropriation theory, microaggression theory, no-platforming (silencing opponents) and mandatory trigger warnings are anti-liberty, and we respectfully disagree with the authoritarian left on these matters. I’m pretty sure J.S. Mill wouldn’t support these things either, so why should we? By the way, we should also be clear that we don’t support Cultural “Marxism”*. (Cultural Marxism is not used in the alt-right sense here.)
*Cultural “Marxism” refers to the inappropriate application of the principles of Marxism to cultural matters, and has nothing to do with Marx. It should not be confused with real Marxism, which is an economic ideology. For example, Cultural “Marxists” frequently talk about ‘oppression’ in a cultural sense while appropriating Marx’s language, which even real Marxists would recognize as illogical. If there is something real Marxists, liberals and conservatives alike can agree on, it’s that Cultural “Marxism” is deeply misguided, to say the least. Also, while Marxism has been practiced in various regions of the world, Cultural “Marxism” appears to have ever only existed in the West for some reason.