The Right’s ‘Freedom’ Meltdown: Why GOP Still Doesn’t Get What Liberty Actually Means

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence holds a news conference at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 26, 2015. Pence has declared a public health emergency in response to the HIV epidemic in Scott County.  Seventy two cases of HIV have been confirmed in the southern Indiana county. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence holds a news conference at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Thursday, March 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)


(Salon) – When liberals and Democrats suffer an especially bitter political defeat, the loss is usually followed by a round or two of finger-pointing, self-flagellation and near-existential dread. The ritual may be necessary, for the sake of catharsis and internal cohesion. But the consensus reached by the end of the fight rarely lives long enough to make it to the next campaign.

That being said, there are some exceptions. Bill Clinton, for example, was probably right to think Democrats wouldn’t win in the immediate post-Reagan era without moving to the right. (Whether that was the moral thing to do is, obviously, a different story.) Similarly, Howard Dean was onto something when he pushed for a 50-state strategy after two straight losses to George W. Bush.

More recently, some of the left’s more influential voices on the left have responded to the Democrats’ stumbles by urging the party to talk more about freedom and less about equality. “Every successful movement” in U.S. history, Salon’s Corey Robin wrote in 2011, “has claimed it.” Thomas Frank wrote much the same in 2009, arguing that “few things in politics [are] more annoying” than Democrats’ “silence” in response to the GOP’s attempts to define the term.


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