Alan Colmes new book, Thank the Liberals for Saving America (and Why You Should), frames the political debate around liberal ideas at a time when our country is awakening. According to Stan Greenberg, “Contempt for the Republicans is pushing Democrats into the lead at almost every level, not only in the presidential race but across Senate races too — and let’s watch the House races now.”
Colmes told me that he believes “this election could reshape the perceptions of conservatism vs. liberalism” and I couldn’t agree more. This election is an opportunity for liberals, due to the relentless attacks on policies that are liberal ideas like Medicare and Social Security. Americans are saying, hey wait a minute, I want my Social Security. This is the time to make the case for those programs and with them, the thinking and values behind them. Colmes’ book does just that.
You might be thinking of the Alan Colmes on Fox News — but this is Alan Colmes unshackled, if you will (yes, I went there). This is also the Alan you hear on his radio show, where he regularly takes down the frothing conservatives with polite but hard-hitting facts.
Colmes takes back the linguistic assault on liberalism, writing:
For too long the word liberal has languished in a pool of disrepute, demonized by detractors as representing all that’s wrong with our country—even though America was founded upon and has progressed along liberal lines, advancing because of liberal efforts. A well-honed right-wing message machine has been in full force for years, grinding out focus-group-tested definitions of what a liberal is, in keeping with the concept of defining the enemy before the enemy can define itself. This effort has successfully turned one of our great American ideals into a dirty word, so much so that many liberals have taken to calling themselves “progressives” to avoid the dreaded “L” word. But, as Americans, we shouldn’t shy away from this term: liberal and liberty both derive from the same root, tracing their origins back to the Latin liber, which means free.
His book offers succinct ideas to counteract Right Wing talking points at the end of each chapter.
In chapter one, “You’re a Liberal (But May Not Know It)”, “Exhibit A to prove my point that you’re a liberal—maybe in conservative clothing—is that you are an American.” Unlike conservatives, Colmes doesn’t just announce this and move on. He proves it, based on the way Americans live their lives and the foundation of our nation. He writes:
America was founded on a liberal idea. The concept of a representative democracy without a state religion was a move leftward from the motherland, where the Church of England dictated certain laws and mores. Our forefathers thought that a state religion was repressive, and so they established one of our key tenets: freedom of (and from) religion. There can be no religious test to hold public office in America. That’s liberal. A commander-in-chief who’s a civilian, not a member of the military: liberal. Taxation with representation: liberal. A tripartite form of government where no branch can rule the other: yep, that’s liberal, too.
Colmes, who has plenty of experience fighting the right (and can do it better than anyone – listen to his radio show), provides liberals with talking points to fight conservative framing, including, “Conservatives’ views often don’t comport with their personal actions.” This point goes back to the tripping point of every discussion regarding personal freedom, as you’ll see conservatives falling over themselves on abortion and gay rights, while acknowledging that in their personal lives, they want the freedom to decide.
In the delightful chapter two, “Have You Thanked a Liberal Today?”, Colmes points out that if you like Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security, you should thank a liberal. Alan dives into the heart of the matter, using the healthcare debate as an example that “What liberals have done, beginning with our founders, is to fight for a society of equality and fair play.”
A few examples he gives:
Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, vacations, weekends, a minimum wage, and protected bank deposits barely scratch the surface of reasons to thank a liberal today.
The Affordable Care Act will get rid of coverage denial due to preexisting conditions and lifetime limits on how much coverage you’ll have.
Obamacare does not include “death panels,” health care rationing, or coverage for illegal immigrants and abortions, contrary to what you may have heard.
Many of the ideas for health care reform now opposed by the right, such as expanded government coverage and mandates, were originally proposed by Republicans.
Raising Americans out of poverty has been a calling card of the left.
When framed like this, most Americans are liberals. Spread the word and maybe you can assist a few people into not voting against their real values.
In “Liberal Values Are American Values”, the easy flowing humor takes the edge off of Colmes’ sharp rebuke of the manner in which conservatives have lapel-pinned patriotism while voting to defund our veterans and disabled.
Taking Obama’s lead on patriotism being in your heart, Colmes lays out the case for the emotional/moral appeal of liberalism. He writes, “The lyrics to “America the Beautiful,” penned by Katherine Lee Bates, aren’t just about “purple mountain majesties” and a “fruited plane.” A bit further down, “alabaster cities gleam.” The next time we sing these words that capture our national soul and make our chests fill with pride, let’s remember how beautiful all of America is and the values we all share. Oh, and you might also be interested to know, as you belt out one of our most patriotic anthems, that the crafter of its words happened to be gay. American means all of the above. These are our liberal values. These are our American values.”
In “Who’s Your Deity?” he explains that “Politics married religion with Ronald Reagan conducting the ceremony in 1980, and that hasn’t been good for either. We left merry ol’ England hoping this marriage would never take place.”
On Citizens United, “The Citizens United decision drastically changed what constitutes a person. Corporations are not people, my friend. Corporations and humans have different basic needs. Corporations need profits to survive. Humans need fresh air, fresh water, life liberty, and the opportunity to pursue happiness.”
Colmes challenges conservatives’ co-opting of messaging over reality, pointing out, “Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times, Bill Clinton left us with a surplus, and Barack Obama offered Republicans $2 trillion in spending cuts that they rejected, so stereotypes based on political ideology don’t bear out.”
Colmes sums up with this soaring ownership of liberal patriotism, “Over time, Americans will come to see how the tremendous progress liberals achieved during our short existence benefits us all. Even though we stand at America’s dawn, we can see the arc of the day. Because of all that we have done, because of all that we are, and because of all that we dream to be, we can thank the liberals for saving America. And by liberals, I mean all of us.”
That’s exactly right – all of us. Liberals include all of us, as opposed to the 47%, because America was founded on liberal ideas.
This election season offers us the opportunity to make our case for liberalism. Voters are seeing through the veneer of fake patriotism and policies that hurt the majority of Americans. Don’t be satisfied with their contempt of Republican values when you could me taking back the linguistic assault on liberal values that founded this country.
Colmes’ book would make a good gift for your wavering Republican friends and Independents, because there’s no time like the present to own the proud values of this country and stamp them with the appropriate label of “liberal”.
Thank the Liberals is published by HAY HOUSE, INC. and available at Amazon.