Today’s Democrats are in danger of standing for something like the very opposite of freedom.
Liberals just aren’t very liberal these days. The word “liberal” comes from the Latin word meaning freedom, and in the 19th century, liberals in this country and abroad stood for free speech, free exercise of religion, free markets, and free trade — for minimal state interference in people’s lives.
In the 20th century, New Dealers revised this definition by arguing that people had a right not only to free speech and freedom of religion but also, as Franklin Roosevelt said in his 1941 Four Freedoms speech, freedom from fear and from want.
Freedom from want meant, for Roosevelt, government provision of jobs, housing, health care, and food. And so government would have to be much larger, more expensive, and more intrusive than ever before.
That’s what liberalism has come to mean in America (in Europe it still has the old meaning), and much of the Obama Democrats’ agenda consists of logical outgrowths — Obamacare, the vast expansion of food stamps, attempted assistance to underwater homeowners.
But in some respects the Obama Democrats want to go further — and are complaining that they’re having a hard time getting there. Their form of liberalism is in danger of standing for something like the very opposite of freedom, for government coercion of those who refuse to behave the way they’d like.
Example one is the constitutional amendment, sponsored by 43 of the 55 Democratic U.S. senators, that would cut back on the First Amendment and authorize Congress and state legislatures to restrict political speech.