A lot has been said over the past few weeks about the direction we need to move in, as democrats, in order to reclaim some optimism about the future.
I was recently involved in a drunken conversation with two Republican voters, their take was that they are social liberals but fiscal conservatives. I got to thinking today how that works. I came to a conclusion. It doesn't.
It's so easy to waste breath complaining that liberals raise taxes and throw money at social problems. I think it's pretty simple and I look at history for some inspiration. Laissez faire economics has led the way in creating individuals of great wealth. Now I like money and I do OK but there has to be questions asked when the weakest members of any society are left to rot. I know that there are some bums out there who bring their own decay upon themselves but I refuse to accept that the vast majority of those who remain marginalised by the material demands of modern society are at ease with their circumstances.
I come from a society that has had it's shining moment, a time just after World War Two when Clem Atlee's Labour government created the National Health Service. "To provide care fom the cradle to the grave". I am not going to claim that this creation, born out of a socialist belief in equality is a perfect system, it's got cracks and leaks and funding problems and , in it's 56th year it has an incredible task ahead of it just to tread water. The simple fact is this, it provides a level of care, free at the point of delivery for all citizens. It's not perfect and yes, Denmark has a better one, as does Holland, Sweden and any number of European countries. It's simpler to make a system work by taxing at a higher rate and when working with a smaller, more homogenous population.
The Conservatives (be they British, American or Swedish, whatever) would never have put such a system in place. It's highly doubtful that the current Labour admininstration would have done so. The late Barbara Castle, a Labour MP in 1945 said, shortly before her recent death that there was no way that a modern left wing government could afford such a measure. All I can say is that I'm proud and relieved that Atlee's historic government of 1945 found the means, both emotional and practical to engage in such a feat.
I look back even further, the New deal here in the states, embarked upon by the closest thing America has ever seen to a socialist administration. The New Deal was subsequently dimantled, piecemeal by the Administrations of Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush.
National insurance, unemployment relief, old age pensions. All brought about by Asquith's Liberal government at the beginning of the twentieth century. Opposed by conservatives across the board who still believed that government should be based upon the Protestant work ethic ,"The harder you work, the closer you are to God" accordingly, any n'er do wells or blackguard layabouts should perish in sight of God, they will not work, he will not protect them, Why should we?
These measures and others like them are now being seen as props to a lazy underclass. Stand up! Be a man! That is the mesage of conservatism, always has been, always will be.
Abortion? Let's strangle funding of this "socially liberal" measure with our fiscally conservative good sense. Trust me, Abortion is no choice or convenient way out when it comes knocking at your door (or the door of your partner or daughter). But that's OK because the time may well come when entire states block this desperate option, sure, you can travel to another state (or nation?) where you will face additional expense for your treatment.
End result? Do the math. The poor lose out.
The key point is this, we must fight to maintain a sense of progress. We must tackle the forces of conservatism at every turn and wherever we find them. Conservatives have never given anything up without a long, hard fight. If that means direct politcal action or just giving conservatives some pause for thought next time you are out drinking, do not give up . Let them know you exist, Let them know that you, and millions like you care.
Billy Bragg once sang the words "In the name of humanity, battered and torn." We are battered and torn, always have been, always will be. But we are stronger than they realise.
The struggle continues.