As political observers deem the 2020 election for president likely the most momentous in living memory, each of us needs to be accountable for our vote. Rather than argue in support of one of the candidates, I’m going to share why I am a liberal. I challenge you, the reader, to attempt, in 650 words, a positive statement describing your political ideology, the basis for your vote and vision of a better America.
I’m a democrat — small d. That means my liberal America is one in which every human who has a stake in the distribution of political and economic power can claim an unhindered ability to contribute to the determination of that distribution. Minimally, that means the vote, the right to run for office and access to agenda-setting.
And most inclusively, the electorate includes every resident — regardless of citizenship status. If you expect to be impacted by a law or a candidate, then your preferences should be tabulated.
I’m committed to human dignity, which means each human is an end in theirself. Humans are not means, they’re not instruments to accomplish some person’s or organization’s agenda. They deserve care, respect, safety, self-determination and equity.
The last of these, equity, tasks a society with ensuring that all humans have access to the resources and clearest pathway to achieve their life goals. Each of us enters this world with a singular set of capacities and subsequently develops shaped by a unique set of opportunities, barriers and luck. Some demographic groups benefit from social tailwinds that enable outcomes mistakenly perceived as earned but more accurately reveal structural privilege. My liberal equitable America works to ensure that despite headwinds and tailwinds, every human has a serious, continuous and lifelong shot at self-defined success.
Homo sapiens is a social species, which means individuals have been bumping up against community standards and responsibilities forever. I enjoy my freedom as much as the next person, but among social animals the pack rules: whatever freedoms and rights we enjoy as Americans are only afforded us by the pack. Defy the pack and you should expect negative consequences. As a liberal I value my political liberties, but I also understand that absent a healthy Us there is no healthy I. In my liberal America we prioritize nourishing our community bonds while also expressing our individual selves.
A core activity of democratic governance is public deliberation. Public deliberation requires public reasoning that is broadly accessible and attainable. Revel in the personal bases for your own beliefs and actions, but in my liberal America deliberation that potentially impacts Americans needs to rely upon a public discourse. Such a discourse considers personal experience, no doubt, but favors earned authority, empirical evidence, inclusivity and logic.
As one can rightly guess from the name, conservatives conserve past traditions as well as what is good about the present. In my liberal America we are bound neither to the present nor the past but to a better future constructed by humans intent on broad human flourishing.
Such confidence in human capacity, however, requires the moderating influence of humility — humility in the face of diversity, partiality and failings. History manifests both human achievement and infamy. As a liberal I believe in human ingenuity tempered by prudence.
Lastly, whether you believe humans evolved or were created, we do share our habitat with millions of other species of life. Because my liberal America extends dignity to the human species, we need to likewise consider to what extent dignity should be enjoyed by other species.
As the dominant species on this planet — though COVID-19 might disagree — we should be wary of letting that status bias our thinking and instead embrace our responsibility for the health of this planet.
As of right now, one candidate better aligns with my vision compared to the other.