A Liberal Idea
By: Reverand Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.
Tuesday, August 8th, 2004
There they go again. Devoid of ideas, running from the record of failure on the economy and national security,
President Bush and his campaign are going negative again, trying to label John Kerry rather than level with
Americans. Now the refrain is that Kerry and Edwards are too “liberal” for America.
Democrats now tend to duck for cover when such charges are leveled. Clinton dressed up as a “New Democrat,”
trying to separate himself rhetorically. Reformers now call themselves “progressives,” trying to avoid the label.
Frankly, I think its time for people to stand up.
Think about it. A conservative Christian is a contradiction in terms. Christ wasn’t a conservative. He fed the hungry
simply because they were hungry. He didn’t ask them for money. He didn’t require that they go to work first. He didn’t
even demand that they believe in him before giving them food. He healed the sick, simply because they were sick. He
didn’t push them into an insurance company, or let the drug companies gouge them on prices. He threw the
moneychangers out of the temple. Jesus was a liberal; Herod was the conservative.
Moses was the liberal; Pharaoh was the conservative. Moses led his people to freedom and delivered the
commandments to mend their wayward ways. Pharaoh wanted to keep them oppressed and opposed all change.
Abolitionists were liberals; slave owners were the conservatives. They wanted to hold on to the slave economy.
Mandela is a liberal; the South African apartheid leaders were the conservatives. That’s why conservative Dick
Cheney supported apartheid over Mandela, and approved of keeping Mandela in prison. He wanted to conserve the
entrenched system of racial oppression.
The Suffragettes were liberals; those who opposed the vote for women were conservatives. They wanted to keep
male supremacy, at least in the public arena. Martin Luther King was a liberal; the segregationists were
conservatives. He wanted to end racial discrimination; they wanted to conserve it.
Advocates of national health care are liberals; George Bush and the HMOs and the drug companies are the
conservatives. They profit from the current system and want to conserve it from reforms that would limit their profits
and privilege and make health care affordable for all Americans.
There's a lot of talk about patriotism these days. But America was a liberal idea. Washington and Jefferson were the
liberals; King George was the conservative. America was founded on the proposition that “We the people” were
endowed with inalienable rights – including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And when oppressed by an
unjust and unresponsive ruler, we had the right to declare our independence and establish our own form of
And America was built by liberals – by dissenters, by those prosecuted for their religion or their race. The Statue of
Liberty doesn’t say “send me your privileged, your wealthy, your powerful yearning to conserve their fortunes.” It says
send me your “tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
In today’s politics, the choices are equally clear. Bush and Cheney argue straight up for tax cuts for the wealthy; they
want to consolidate the wealth and power of the “have mores” that the president calls “my base.” Liberals are for
rolling back tax cuts for the rich and investing in education so every child gets a fair shot. Conservatives would
conserve the two Americas, one system of education, health care, retirement security for the rich and powerful, and
one for the rest of us. Liberals would make certain that every one has the right to a high quality education, to
affordable health care, to a decent retirement. Bush wants to cut guaranteed benefits under Social Security while
privatizing it; liberals want to save Social Security so that everyone has a basic floor beneath their feet.
Bush is against a minimum wage; liberals want to raise the minimum wage. Bush wants to weaken the 40 hour week
and reduce those eligible for overtime; liberals want to make certain workers get paid overtime if they have to work
more than 40 hours a week. Conservatives opposed the family leave provisions that allow workers to take time off to
attend to a sick child or a sick parent. Liberals want to fund family leave so that workers can take the time without
losing the pay they need to get by.
You can pick your side – liberal or conservative, for change or for the status quo, for the poor or for the privileged.
As for me, I stand with Christ against Herod; Moses against the Pharaoh, the abolitionists against the slaveholders,
Dr. King against the segregationists, the Suffragettes against the male politicians; the many against the few, and
liberals against this crowd in the White House.
But whatever you choose, the next time Bush and Cheney rail about Kerry being too liberal, remember that America
was a liberal idea from the start.
[2004 © Tribune Media Services]
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