As the Democratic Party, now with two massive figureheads, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, begins to fracture as the battle over what direction the party should move wages on, we are starting to see two very different camps use the same word: liberal.
This poses a problem as to what a liberal is, and this is addressed by Danny Katch in his book Socialism … Seriously, in which he points out that, “Millions of people find themselves classified as liberals by default, ranging from those who march against banks and bombs to those who bail out the former and drop the latter. That’s not a very useful category.” He points out that in today’s politics, a liberal is basically anyone who isn’t a Republican.
As the party splinter begins to widen, the term liberal is no longer going to suit the leftists who align more on Sanders side, or even further. For socialists, this has meant abandoning the term altogether. One reason is, as Katch argues is that while “Liberalism can agree with socialism that some things about capitalism should be reformed, and socialists often work alongside liberals to win those changes. Where we differ is that liberalism views reforms as ways to preserve capitalism while socialism sees them as steps toward replacing it.”
While not everyone will default to the position of socialism as they abandon the liberal ideology of saving capitalism, it does seem to be the most viable alternative at this point in time. Liberals in general, as Katch highlights, have done nothing but mock the Republican platform but for many years have failed to offer solutions. We see this today as Hillary Clinton takes the presumptive position for the Democratic Party is offering herself up as merely the alternative to a seemingly xenophobic and racist Donald Trump. Clinton has campaigned solely on offering more of the same of the last eight years of President Obama, doing little to nothing to offer fresh ideas or solutions.
All the while, Sanders has put forth much more radical ideas, albeit, within the confines of the capitalist system, he is breaking the mold and putting forth ideas that upset the status quo. This is a move many believe has cost him the nomination, he was unwilling to play part in the Democratic strategy of winning on the coattails of President Obama, yet if he succeeds the nomination come July, he is expected to fall in line and support Clinton, making himself another cog in slowly turning wheels of the Democratic Party.
The Green Party’s Jill Stein, a self-proclaimed liberal, is putting forward ideas that seem to upset the capitalist machine but does fail to speak out in favor of a real alternative such as socialism. Her campaign does a great job of highlighting that capitalism won’t fix our problems, but for whatever reason fail to take up the platform that to win the battle for green energy or to win the fight for equal pay, higher minimum wage, and all the other radical ideas she is putting forward, we must first abandon and replace capitalism.
While her language is guarded, it would make the most sense to stop referring to her, and those like her, those who are not interested in putting Band-Aids on capitalism, as liberals and instead take up a moniker of leftist, or if the shoe fits, socialist. Liberalism has been one of the great failures of the past century, failing to solve the world’s biggest issues and even issues directly inside the United States. Liberalism had to rely on the Supreme Court to enact same-sex marriage rights, liberalism has failed to provide healthcare to every single American, and it has failed to protect racial minorities from rampant racism and discrimination.
The liberal idea that progress should be made in incremental steps has left too many bodies in its ever so slow moving wake. It is time to take the left’s revolutionary ideals to the masses and not wait for a petty minority of conservatives and centrist Democrats to catch up.
As both the Democratic and Republican Parties splinter and burn in the aftermath of the 2016 primaries, it’s time for political action groups to rise from the ashes, to put forth new ideas and to once and for all stop playing the two-party game that has held us captive for so long.
While Clinton and her supporters are correct in saying she is a better choice that Trump, a vote for Clinton offers no forward progress and leaves us with four to eight years of stagnation. For those living in poverty, those locked up in for-profit prisons for non-violent drug offenses, to those who are sick and still cannot afford to see a doctor, that stagnation is too much to bear.
It is time for leftists to speak up and abandon liberalism and to rise up to the challenge of putting forth new ideas. A true opportunity for change has presented itself and the future of progress hinges on how we move forward.