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What is “A Liberal”?

January 10, 2008 1 min read

Over at the blog This Week in Education, colleague Alexander Russo accuses me of imagining to be a liberal. Were it that simple.

Read my reply.See Alexander’s posting and my reply here, or read my reply (with helpful links) below.

For the record:

While I might have been imagining myself as a Liberal Democrat in 2008, I was not imagining my political philosophy.

I’m what was once called a “Rockefeller” Republican or a (Scoop) “Jackson” Democratic. I was born in Boston and grew up on the North Shore of Massachusetts, where it was probably the consensus. My father was an immigrant Frenchman and a serial small business entrepreneur, my mother a full-time, feminist, anti-war, civil rights activist from a family with deep ties in the area’s Scottish diaspora. I think I learned something from both that made me comfortable with my region’s traditionally centrist pragmatic politics.

Today, I think the term for Republicans like me is “crunchy.” “Hard” on national defense, fiscal conservatism and taxes, not entirely trustful of larger government, but “soft” on matters of civil and individual rights, and a respect for the role of government in the redistribution of wealth and opportunity from the top to the bottom.

Governor Weld remains a hero. Senator Jackson’s was the last Democratic candidacy for President that got me excited. With the defection of what are now derisively called neoconservatives to the Republican Party in the 1980’s, culminating in the ejection of Senator Lieberman last year, I don’t think the Democrats have enough Jackson Democrats to justify a new designation. (Are enough neoconservatives trying to return to the fold to be identified as “Webb Democrats”? ) But my social liberalism follows from morality, rather than institutional affiliation, and so for me, the political attachment to teachers unions is minimal.

I support the need of employees for collective bargaining, and hence for unions. But (perhaps as a Yankee) I have no great love for concentrations of power - union, corporate or government, and the tendency of the leadership of those institutions to confuse their own self interest with the interests of their members. As a definitional matter, I think that package of beliefs puts me squarely in the political philosophy classically called liberalism.

Posted by: Marc Dean Millot | January 10, 2008 at 17:31 PM

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