by Andrew Lidden Pate, Jr.
Donald J. Trump caught a lot of Americans by surprise in 2016, no group more so than the so-called "liberals," who are also sometimes referred to by opponents as "extreme liberals," "left-wingers," "communists, "socialists" and by other less complimentary names.
"Liberals" were caught off guard for many reasons. They underestimated the desire for change by many Americans. Initially, they treated the rise of a new nationalism too lightly. And too many scoffed at Trump in a better-than-thou fashion that turned-off his supporters and strengthened their resolve to stay with him.
But there were "internal" causes that contributed more significantly to the "liberal" failures. And if these mistakes of their own making are not corrected, liberals will continue to suffer in the voting counts. Among the major errors they have made, four stand out:
First—they have pampered themselves, some even relished in, adopting the title they most frequently go by, overlooking the fact that, like it or not, "liberal" has become a dirty word in the U.S. In political discussion or debate, the mere usage immediately harms those it is used against.
Despite being a highly respected word in higher education and once, in ordinarily public discourse, "liberal" is, in the 21st century for vast numbers of our citizens, "unAmerican," "ungodly" and to many Christians, a definitive sign of "the anti-Christ."
Some "liberals" have recognized the word's disadvantages and switched to "progressives," which is no better. Just because history moves and time changes does not mean that things are better, or that progress has been made. Millions of ordinary Americans saw through the name-change quickly and, as a result, have drawn no distinction between "liberal" and "progressive." In the Trump world both are anathema from the onset, and destined never to be anything else.
Secondly, and closely tied to their first mistake in the modern era—"liberals" have failed to explain adequately to the American public what they stand for. They represent a variety of opinion and positions so wide they range from the advocacy of a "totally socialist state" to one centered on "pro abortion," from "universal health care" to a decisive focus on "health insurance guaranteed for pre-existing conditions," and their leading spokespersons come from so many different professions and allegiances, there is no clarity on who they really are, and why. Instead, there is considerable confusion.
Thirdly, 21st century "liberals" have looked down on the middle-classes and ordinary working people of America. Perhaps not intentionally, but de facto and with considerable political damage done to themselves and the noble causes many of them wish to become reality. People without college degrees are just as worthy in their individuality as are those who hold those degrees.
Trump supporters do not flinch at his unbalanced rhetoric, nor resent his vulgarities and put-downs of lesser people. To them Trump is simply giving back what ordinary citizens feel they have long been the recipients of from "liberals," a lack of respect.
It stands to reason that we all would be better off if we could stop the name-calling, and instead find ways to show respect for one another while together unifying against racism, bullying, anti-gay bashing and social injustice.
Until we do, it will remain impossible for us to find workable solutions to the major issues confronting us, like: assuring but controlling immigration, providing health care for everyone who really needs it, creating jobs for people change has left behind, and, most importantly, learning how to recover our fundamental values and become so unified around them that we are again One America.