That Kind of Liberal

Rachel Lavine, pragmatic liberal, lesbian mother and wife, longtime grassroots Democratic party member,feminist and environmental activist.

Yet another political blog?!  Why, you might ask.  The answer is that I could not find any other voices that fully speak from my perspective as a pragmatic liberal, lesbian mother and wife, longtime grassroots Democratic party feminist and an environmental activist.  So following the advice of a revered political leader, I decided to be the change that I seek.

The name of this blog is derived from speeches given in New York State by two eminent liberals. Franklin D. Roosevelt first described himself as “that kind of liberal” during a speech to the New York State Democratic Convention in 1936:

The true conservative seeks to protect the system of private property and free enterprise by correcting such injustices and inequalities as arise from it. The most serious threat to our institutions comes from those who refuse to face the need for change. Liberalism becomes the protection for the far-sighted conservative ... In the words of the great essayist, “The voice of great events is proclaiming to us. Reform if you would preserve.” I am that kind of conservative because I am that kind of liberal.

And John F. Kennedy later defined what a “Liberal” was and was not, while proudly claiming that identity when accepting the 1960 Presidential Nomination of the New York State Liberal Party:

If by “Liberal” they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer’s dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of “Liberal.” But, if by a “Liberal,” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people – their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties – someone who believes that we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say that I’m a “Liberal.”

FDR  – and Eleanor Roosevelt – and JFK were all that kind of liberal. They answered the voice of great events. They made bold structural change. They understood the mechanics of real power. They saw the lives and needs of middle class Americans and the poor, of political minorities and the socially disenfranchised. They had a clear understanding of the individual propensity for self-interest and self-deception, as well as the human capacity to transcend the smallness of the self and to support a social good that benefits more than oneself.

And yes, sometimes they over-valued the end game, redefined as necessary what was in fact only politically strategic, stalled and temporized when they should have acted and demanded. Sometimes what they saw as absolute political limitations were only self-imposed ones. They were imperfect, sometimes egregiously wrong but they tried:  that kind of liberal.

The focus of this blog is mostly local and specific, and enumerates my own immediate – and varied – interests: New York City and State politics, LGBT rights and community, Israel and the calumny of pink washing, food and environmental politics, feminism and parenting, the need for radically fairer economic and social structures. Sometimes the blog will stray and wander, grazing other, lighter subjects. Like myself, this blog is evolving.

I hope that this blog will become a place where people can engage in thoughtful and challenging conversation. I welcome discussion and debate. I respect – and often admire – the passion animating deeply held opinions, and support robust dissent or disagreement. However, I reserve the unilateral right to remove posts that I find offensive or obnoxious for any reason. Name calling and mean spiritedness debilitate good conversation, and usually mask a weak or incoherent argument.

Rachel Lavine

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