by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The term “liberalism” ranks among the most contested in our political lexicon. It should also be regarded as among the most vital.
In the large sense, liberalism names the modern tradition of freedom. Liberalism so understood was the dominant strand in our nation’s founding. Appreciating the standard accusations against it and why it is worthy of defense is crucial to conserving the best of the American constitutional tradition. …
… Few have risen to liberalism’s defense against the assaults from the left and right.
This is partly because the term came to be associated narrowly with the tax-and-spend, big-government wing of the Democratic Party. Thanks to, among others, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, that wing has undergone a rebirth and radicalization and flies now under the flag of socialism.
It is also because knowledge of the modern tradition of freedom is fast fading. From K-12 through college, our educators prefer to inculcate a divisive and intolerant version of diversity, equity, and inclusion that privileges a progressive perspective and harshly reproaches departures from it. When our colleges and universities are not depicting liberalism as the root of all evil, they generally either teach an arid, abstract version of liberalism whose principal relevance seems to be in justifying an aggressive redistributionist and regulatory state, or they present it as a curiosity in the history of ideas that should be studied like all the other systems that have come and gone over the centuries.