The american right-wing does get one thing right; liberals do put too much faith in the federal government to make their liberal dreams come true. The ecstatic election of Barack Obama seems to confirm this. But the american system is really poor at quick, substantive change from the top down and therefore it’s no surprise that a year and a half later, liberals’ discontent with Obama is palpable.
So what’s a liberal to do? My suggestion is that liberals need to start living liberally – not just voting for it. For too long we leftists have settled into a lazy and cowardly routine of ranting and raving and voting – but that’s all we do. We don’t really want to shake things up like our heroes of the late 50’s and 60’s did. We write editorial letters calling for more top-down policies with socialist sensibilities, but our daily lives are no different from any other individualistic, consumerist obsessed american. We vote for the supposedly environmentally friendly candidate, but our level of sustainable living is barely beyond symbolic. If we want more socialism in our society we need to start living it—daily.
Another way of saying the same thing.
I’ve thought for a long time now (particularly after the Obama election) that we liberals need to do a lot more than just ‘vote’ liberal. We need to live it. When the other side votes for the status quo…they’re also living it–their irrational, xenophobic, uninformed, individualistic, gas-guzzling, corporatist and militaristic voting fits well with tradition and life as usual in america. The conservative can walk out his door and not change a thing to put substance behind his vote. But does the typical progressive/liberal live a significantly different kind of lifestyle, in accordance with his vote? I’m not sure they do.
We liberals pine for more democratic socialism, more sustainability, more equality and sharing, more cooperation, and less empire—but is our daily life all that different than the conservatives around us? Oh, sure we vote for so and so; we might drive a Prius, donate to Amnesty International, read Truthout, have Muslim and gay friends or go watch a provocative documentary…but are we really doing everything we could be doing to turn our communities (nonviolently) upside down in a progressive way? Are we physically gathering together, forming community beyond chatting/blogging online – so much so that it forces the status quo defenders and regressives to either get with the program or sulk away because living ’conservative’ becomes untenable in the progressive space we’ve created?
I don’t think we are…not even close. I’m not sure we even have the guts to live or imagine that radically…we want liberalism—but not enough to truly break with the cultural norms… We progressives need to do a lot more countering the status quo in bold, in your face, sacrificial lifestyle ways in order to back up our progressive vote for hope and change.