Op-Ed

Richard Dawahare: Liberals seek to conserve cherished national values

Richard Dawahare is a Lexington attorney.
Richard Dawahare is a Lexington attorney.

By Richard Dawahare

Standing in Commonwealth Stadium, cheering the team, I looked out at the stands on a sea of...black.

Weirdly feeling out of place wearing — gasp — blue, I wondered wasn't I, supposed liberal, the real conservative?

While school colors and such are trivial matters, it did get me thinking about philosophical truth in labeling. By coincidence, a professor friend and his wife asked recently what I considered myself to be politically.

I answered that I was a liberal conservative.

This was no joke. Liberalism is all about conserving. I hold sacred our nation's foundational principles. Those principles, and the moral values inherent therein, are worthy of conservation.

Justice for all and equality under the law are values to conserve. Freedom is a value to conserve — both freedom of self-determination and freedom from the harm of those who abuse it.

Human rights and the Constitution's mandate to promote the general welfare are values I'm stubborn about conserving. Collective action for the greater good is a value as old as our republic. Truth, mercy and humility are values to be cherished, honored and, yes, conserved.

Policies — either existing or promoted as solutions — that are contrary to truth, or betray the spirit of sister and brotherhood, are ripe targets for those committed to preserving our ancient values.

We can only do so through the just workings of our federal government. Thus, we abolished slavery — our nation's original sin. We ended the disenfranchisement of women and the poor from the voting booth. We insured that all people (not corporations) were to be treated equally under the law.

Thanks to the Roosevelts, government action was brought to bear on immense injustices. First came trust-busting Teddy, who stood up to abusive corporate power. He broke up monopolies, ended child labor, protected workers, promoted progressive taxation and regulated the railroad and insurance industries.

A generation later, cousin Franklin saved the nation. The Crash and Great Depression had America on the ropes. But FDR was ready. Polio-induced paralysis filled him with a tremendous capacity for empathy and humility. His triumphant spiritual leadership created progressive change that conserved our values by saving the nation.

FDR, like Teddy before, understood that only through regulation and progressive taxation could government work for all the people.

Contrast today. Oblivious to Bush's Great Recession, so-called conservatives push the same policies that crashed the economy and shrunk the middle class: deregulation, lower taxes on the new aristocracy and cuts in social services.

They trumpet rugged individualism and personal responsibility. Yet they buy, bribe and take government aid at every turn, while denying it to the least of us. There is nothing conservative about policies as heartless as they are headless.

Values are eternal, circumstances change. Only by following fact-based solutions consistent with the lessons of history can we conserve the values of yesterday, while preserving the promises of tomorrow.

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