Saturday, November 21, 2015

Killing us softly.... no, loudly, with these guns....


Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said: you are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

An example of an opinion is that having unrestricted access to guns is a good thing. A fact is that there are numerous countries- Australia, Japan, United Kingdom, and so forth, which have very strict gun control laws, yet have not seen increases in violent crime, and have a gun death rate one one thousandth- or lower, than ours. That's a fact- and nothing any 2nd amendment defender says can change it. It is possible to severely limit and restrict long guns, eliminate all hand guns for civilians (only law enforcement and military), yet not lose one iota of freedom or security.

Here are some statistics: in 2014, total deaths from firearms in Japan: 6. That is so statistically insignificant in a country of 127 million people, that the number per 100,000 is effectively zero. In Australia, a very freedom loving (and free wheeling) country of about 24 million, originally founded as a transport country (convicts and the detritus of England-- ) the total was 226 in 2012, the most recent year I could find in a quick internet search. That comes to less than 1 in 100,000.

The stats also break down by suicide, accident, and homicide, although not by stranger homicide versus domestic or "friends." I would wager that most homicides by firearm are not the kind that would involve self defense against a burglar or a carjacker. In Australia, the rate per 100,000 for homicide is .11, but suicides are 6 times higher at .62 per 100,000 (that's a decimal point- so we are still talking way less than one.

And the rate per 100,000 in the United States? More than 10 times higher- in a country of over 300 million, annual firearm deaths are over 33,000 (about 10.5 per 100,000).

The fact is that firearm deaths can easily be reduced by outlawing hand guns completely, and requiring that only adults without criminal histories and with a certificate of firearm safety course be permitted to own long guns. And we can register those. Will criminals still have guns? Yes, of course. But the truth is, the myth of the good guy with a gun stopping a bad guy with a gun is just that- a myth.

Why is it a myth? Because we are the most gun loving and owning country in the world, yet of the civilized countries, we far and away lead them in firearm related deaths- suicide, accident, and homicide combined.

And no amount of good guys with guns will ever reduce- not even by one death- the day to day tragedies of 2 and 3 and 4 year olds playing with guns and shooting someone else or themselves.

So if your opinion is that you like guns, or you like to hunt, or you think that unfettered individual gun ownership or unrestricted access to guns is positive or a good thing, no one can take that opinion away from you. But if your opinion is that the U.S. is safer from firearm deaths to innocents (suicides, children, victims of domestic violence, accidents) than we would be with strict gun control, then your "opinion" is factually mistaken, based on the factual experiences of civilized countries that have strict gun control.

We have mass shootings here almost weekly, and we wring our hands and do nothing. We should take heed of Australia, which reacted to their 1996 mass shooting tragedy by imposing strict gun control- and it was a conservative prime minister who led the way. Aren't we at least as capable as Australia-- or Japan, or the United Kingdom- in stopping gun deaths while retaining our freedom and our security? I would hope so.

Monday, September 07, 2015

My FaceBook letter to Georgia's Democratic Chair, Rebecca Dehart


The last President who was not ashamed to be a "liberal" Democrat


Miss. Dehart:

My inbox seems to be filling up with e-mails from you- but the problem I have is that the Democratic Party- in Georgia, and nationally- simply refuses to learn from mistakes. I ran for public office in 2004, and I did so on a specific platform of practical solutions to real problems: getting us out of Iraq, reforming the health care system-- the financing part-- in general and medical malpractice cases in particular, restoring civil rights, and so on. My observation, having campaigned around the State in 2004, was that the Democrats were afraid to say the word "liberal" and worse, were letting Republicans define them, and never vice versa. More often that not Democrats ran trying to be Republican lite (Jim Marshall and John Barrow ran campaigns that were right down the center of Republican platform principles). I was on debate platforms and forums with a number of candidates, both Republican and Democrat; I sat next to Johnny Isakson at one due to alphabetic seating- he ended up winning the race, which was highly predictable, because we fielded the worst possible candidate, and it was pretty hard to tell the Democratic candidate from the Republican in most races. So, my suggestion to you, and to the party: #1: don't be afraid of who you are and what you stand for. Michelle Nunn actually refused to run the word "Democrat" in her primary ads, and failed to show up for almost every primary debate, including one I moderated in Albany at ASU. #2 run competitive races in every Congressional district and every State house and senate race. Recruit and groom potential candidates for the next election. #3 pay attention to what you did when you lose and don't repeat mistakes. Have an institutional memory on what worked and what failed miserably. If we are going to lose, let's at least lose not being afraid of who we are and what we believe.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"LIBERAL" IS NOT A DIRTY WORD



Benjamin Franklin, not a Christian, answered a questioner about his religious beliefs thusly: "As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble."


In the wake of two Supreme Court decisions generally characterized as favoring the "left" or "progressives," one interpreting a statute (the 2010 Health Care Reform Act) and the other on gay marriage expanding the reach of the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, it is instructive to look back a bit at our nation's history to see where these decisions fall on the fault line of political ideology.

Since the founding of this country, the great events have almost always been forged by persons whom we in modern times would have no trouble distinguishing as "liberals." In 1776, it was "liberal" to espouse throwing off the yoke of monarchy in exchange for representative democratically elected government. The "conservatives" of the day were the Tories loyal to the British Crown, many of whom ended up emigrating to Canada when they lost the war.

And since then, throughout our nation's history, every major advance was because of an argument, a debate, a court case, won by "liberals," and every time, the self styled "conservatives" were on the wrong side of moral right and the wrong side of history, which inevitably traveled on the path of increased freedom and increased inclusion.

In 1787, the "liberals" forged a new Constitution for the infant republic. Many liberal ideas were included: a ban on "ex post facto" laws which had allowed governments to criminalize and punish past behavior, and a ban on "bills of attainder" which punished the descendants of criminals (both in Section 9 of Article I). And, most relevant to modern discourse, a ban on the establishment of religion (the First Amendment, in 1791) and on "religious tests" for holding public office. No government could require any candidate for public office to espouse any particular religion- or even a belief in a deity: "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States" is in Article VI of the Constitution. 228 years later, as we approach a presidential election, the vast majority of those self styled "conservatives" seeking the Republican nomination can't or won't admit that the Constitution bars their attempts to use the powers of the federal government to impose what they think is "God's will" or their Biblical interpretations of law on the American people.

By 1860, the liberal party in America was the then brand new (six years old) Republican Party, which wanted radical change, to wit: the eradication of slavery (or, more accurately, a beginning to its end by curtailing its expansion into the new Western territories destined to become States). The "conservatives" sided with the South, to preserve the "peculiar institution" which had existed for hundreds of years. The Democratic Party nominated a "conservative," Stephen Arnold Douglas, a supporter of the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision in the United States Supreme Court which held that not only was Dred Scott not freed by moving to a free state, but went far beyond the issue before the Court to rule that no African slave or descendent of a slave could ever be a citizen of the United States. Douglas won the South but lost the election, thus igniting the Civil War. In 1860, shortly after the election, South Carolina, the first state to secede, put out a written statement of its reasons, led by the refusal of Northern States to enforce fugitive slave laws to return runaway slaves to their masters.

The 1865 argument in the Congress over the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to permanently abolish slavery was won by the "liberals," as the movie Lincoln, based on a portion of Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Team of Rivals, portrayed. The conservatives who opposed the 13th Amendment used many of the same arguments-- appeals to "States' rights"-- made in modern times to oppose the expansion of civil rights, including voting rights, the rights of women, and the rights of gay people.

In 1920 women came to the fore with the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which banned discrimination in voting on account of sex. Thirty-four years later, in 1954, the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling outlawed racial discrimination in public schools and reversed the 1896 "separate but equal" doctrine of the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson. Ten years after Brown, in 1964 and 1965, the Republicans and Democrats had somewhat reverted to their 1860 roles, as Southern Democrats opposed Lyndon Johnson's historic Civil Rights legislation (ending discrimination in employment, accommodations, and voting) and many Republicans joined with the non-Southern Democrats to pass those momentous pieces of legislation.

In 1965 Ronald Reagan- Republican, father of the modern "conservative movement," and future California Governor and President- foretold the end of America as we knew it if Medicare was passed into law; he predicted we'd end up with a "socialist dictatorship" if the law passed, (it did and we didn't). The 1964 and 1965 Civil Rights laws driven through Congress by President Lyndon Johnson were opposed by bigots traveling under the fig leaf of the Constitution. The pernicious phrase "State's Rights" along with the concepts of "nullification" (that States could reject federal laws and portions of the Constitution with which they disagreed) and secession had come to life early in the history of our country, most notably by South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun circa 1830.

The phrase "State's rights" resonated with bigots in the 1960's and the Southern Senators, along with Republican allies such as Barry Goldwater, fought the landmark legislation. Fortunately for America, the "liberals" won those political and court battles, giving us legal bans on government and private discrimination on account of race, gender, religion, and national origin in voting, employment, accommodations, and housing by the end of the 1960's.

"States' rights" reared its ugly head again in 1980 with the kickoff of Ronald Reagan's campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the location of the infamous murders of three civil rights activists, Andrew Goodman, Michael Chaney and James Schwerner in 1964 by members of the KKK supported by the local Nashoba County law enforcement, including the Sheriff. At the Neshoba County Fair on August 3, 1980, Ronald Reagan's speech included the dog whistle phrase "I believe in states' rights" as part of the bedrock of his belief system. He won the Southern states, a continuation of their moving to the Republican column ever since Barry Goldwater, the 1964 losing nominee, opposed the 1964 Civil Rights legislation propounded by Democrat Lyndon Johnson. Reagan's election and his nomination of "conservative" federal judges and Supreme Court justices such as Antonin Scalia was intended to set back the civil rights advances of the 1960's. However, not all of Reagan's appointees toed his line, most notably Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, the latter of whom authored the June 26, 2015 landmark decision on gay marriage.


So why is it that for the past 35 years, since Reagan was elected president, that "liberal" is somehow a dirty word that most politicians- even many Democrats (who prefer "centrist" or "progressive" or "realist" or "pragmatic") flee at any cost?

Probably because propaganda works. In George Orwell's 1949 book Nineteen Eighty-four, the government propaganda machine could turn words into their opposites: "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." All of these word reversals and the deliberate distortions of fact and rewriting of American history by Fox News, right wing radio, the Tea Party, and Republican media machines have created a significant minority of not just ignorant but misinformed viewers and listeners. Ignorance can be cured- especially if the ignorant realize they have a lack of knowledge or understanding of an issue and a sincere desire to become informed. But people who are rigid, right wing, and misinformed-- who have been told over and over that our founding fathers were Christians who created a "Christian nation," that global climate change is a hoax, that The Affordable Care Act is a job-destroying law that drives up costs of medical care and takes away the right to choose one's doctor, that gay marriage somehow threatens marriages of heterosexuals or infringes on the rights of bakers (!) and religious congregations, that President Obama is a Kenyan born Socialist who hates America, that he's a tyrant overriding the rule of law with executive orders, that he's a weak President unwilling to stand up to Iran and who pulled out of Iraq-- will cling to their beliefs, no matter how self contradictory or how little they are based in fact. Ironically, the powerful media types who purvey misinformation also regularly attack the "liberal, mainstream media," another fiction created by their bloviators in chief.

And it is the cowardice of those in the media and in politics who know better but who lack convictions or any semblance of pride or courage that allows it to continue. It's time for our top mainstream media and for our nation's leaders, from the President on down, to embrace a word that describes the core beliefs of a majority of those Americans who live in the real world: liberal.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Liberal" v. "Conservative"

"Jane, you ignorant slut!" (for all those who remember Saturday Night Live in the early days, or who saw this clip on their anniversary show).

Recently I discovered in my mailbox, ensconced inside my copy of "Liberal Opinion" Week newspaper/magazine, a copy of a similar publication called "Conservative Chronicle" which was supposed to have been separately mailed to a resident of a nearby county in Georgia. Somewhat curious, I read some of the articles from the old reliable conservative pundits (George Will, Thomas Sowell, Rich Lowry, Michelle Malkin, Phyllis Schlafly, Cal Thomas, and so forth). What I found was what might be expected: they shed more heat than light on the subjects. The value of the Liberal Opinion Week, in my mind, is that there aren't any knee jerk apologists on the so called left (what used to be the center) who will ignore or spin facts to fit their predisposed viewpoint or agenda. In other words: I can get valuable information and insight that might conflict with my current views on a subject and might change my mind. Conservative minds don't work that way: they want an echo chamber that will give them what they already perceive as reality, and won't rock their boats. In other words, we don't have two equal and opposite sides in the debates between self styled "conservatives" -- who, in my opinion, don't want to conserve anything except wealth in the hands that already have it- and so called "liberals," who are more attuned to reality and who can change their minds when the facts warrant it.

But that's just my opinion. Feel free to challenge it. With facts and examples.

Here's the letter I wrote when I sent Mr. XXXX his copies of the Conservative Chronicle:

Dear Mr. XXXX:

Enclosed are two copies of “Conservative Chronicle” which were inadvertently mailed to my address along with my copies of “Liberal Opinion.” I apologize for the delay in sending these to you, as I wanted to take the opportunity to read what the commentators who label themselves as “conservative” had to say on the same topics as the pundits who are published in the Liberal Opinion.

I have to admit that I was hoping for some perspective. What I found was that the Conservative Chronicle published stories which were neither fair nor balanced, but rather than providing information or insight they pandered to the predispositions of their readers.

For your edification I’m enclosing a copy of the Liberal Opinion which contained some of the commentators’ responses to the Rudy Guliani’s remarks that President Obama does not “love America” and “... wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” The commentators in the Liberal Opinion were more focused on what prompted the comments by Guliana (not what was in President Obama’s background, but what was Guliani’s problem that he felt impelled to make these comments that didn’t appear to be related to any recent conduct or act of the President, but were more designed to get him back into the spotlight). They also focused on the fact that there is a group of Americans who want to divide this country- what Sarah Palin was trying to do when she referred to in the 2008 campaign to “real America” versus the rest of us.

The divide may be racial, religious, and or ethnic (White, Anglo-Saxon heterosexual Protestants are obviously their preferred group), and their ability to stoke the fires of bigotry, fear, and hatred is what makes the political climate in this country so inhospitable to reasoned political discourse. The so called “conservative” commentators appeared to be focused on President Obama’s background- a subject that was thoroughly aired 7 years ago during the primaries and general election. Old news, in other words. I didn’t see any of them who appeared to realize that the whole idea of condemning a person who is critical of his country as being unpatriotic is itself unpatriotic- that the famous quote “my country, right or wrong,” was only part of the quote, as the entire quote puts it in proper context: “My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

I hope that you can gain some perspective from the commentators who have what I perceive as open minds, the ability to receive facts that conflict with their opinions without discarding, ignoring, or disbelieving them, and that this will enable you to be better informed as to current events and the politics surrounding them.

If you ever find yourself in Albany, feel free to call and I’ll be happy to treat you to lunch and to listen to your opinions on the matters of the day.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

LOSING ELECTIONS

Pardon the Interruption has Role Play as a regular feature where Tony or Mike pretend to be someone else and answer questions as if they are that person- just as Democratic candidates do every election season, pretending to be just like their Republican opponents, only less so. Not a winning strategy so far. When will they learn?

Why are Democratic incumbents arrant cowards? They are like a professional football team that goes into a prevent defense immediately after the opening kickoff, afraid to dare anything at any time that might conceivably offend the hard core right wing voters who would never vote for them anyway. What would have been so hard about running on the undeniable advances of the Health Care Reform Act- ending the life time cap on insurance benefits, denials of coverage for pre-existing conditions, and allowing children to stay on their parents' plans up to age 26? Why not just run as who you are? Liberal, progressive, forward thinking, logical- not crazy, hateful or greedy. Oh well, maybe in two or four or six or 20 more years they will get it. Meanwhile, the rest of us are stuck with the results of their refusal to run as themselves.

Monday, August 18, 2014

2014 MID-TERM ELECTIONS: HOLDING THE SENATE, RETAKING THE HOUSE


Dear Congressman:

This letter is to provide a template for retaking the House and keeping the Senate. Please share it with Democratic incumbents, candidates, and persons responsible for national campaigns to raise money for and provide strategy and advice to candidates for both houses of Congress.

First, a brief recap: I’ve been a Democrat all of my voting life- I voted for McGovern in 1972- and I follow politics on the local and national level fairly regularly, but at this juncture I could not name a single program- a single plank of a national platform- that Democrats would enact if they regain control of the House and retain control of the Senate.

What that means is, if I can’t tell you what Democrats would do (I can tell you things they would NOT do, but that’s not the same thing) if they controlled Congress, then it’s highly unlikely that any voters who go to the polls in November can either. That also means that the only reasons a voter would choose a Democrat would be because of personality, character, or experience issues of a candidate in that particular race, or, because they have come to realize (as most intelligent and sane people have) that choosing a Republican and letting that party control the reigns of power has become, since the year 2000, extraordinarily dangerous to the health and security of the country (i.e. 9-11, Iraq invasion, Katrina, the 2008 financial catastrophe - much of the last of which can also be laid at the feet of the Clinton Administration in 1998-1999 with repeal of Glass-Steagal, signed by Clinton and backed by his Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin).

So what do we do to change the equation in Congressional and Senate races in 2014? In 1994, the Republicans came up with an idea that was a game changer politically (if not in actual effect): the “Contract for America.” The game changing aspect was that voters were given a list of simple ideas (i.e. term limits, balance the budget) that the Republicans vowed to enact if given the opportunity. The Contract itself got as much or more publicity that any single candidates. It had the advantage of simplifying mattes for voters and appealing to their yearnings for the national government at the same time. After all, who doesn’t like the concept of term limits for Congress (other than those serving in it) or a balanced budget (other than Keynesian economists in a recession)?

The obvious solution is that Democrats come up with some simple, effective (in real life and politically) and very attractive proposals that they (we) will promise to enact if given control of Congress. The elegance of some of these ideas (as my old Torts law professor would say) is that they are directly opposite of what Republicans propose to do, and will put them in the worst possible political situation should they continue to advance their proposals.

1. ESTATE TAX: “The Death Tax.” In the Spring 2002, I spent an hour on the phone with Max Cleland’s legislative director and also with his campaign adviser. I had a suggestion he didn’t adopt, because he was trying to do what too many nominal Democrats have done lately: they’ve tried to be just like the Republican opponent and supported the same- and very bad- ideas. I suggested to Max’s people that Max come out 100% in favor of the Estate Tax, but make it a “dedicated tax.” Every dollar would go to providing relief to seniors who need help paying for their prescription drugs, to save their lives. My slogan was: “let dead millionaires pay for life saving medication for the living elderly.”

In 2014, I’d update that, since a prescription drug benefit was added to Medicare in 2003. The 2014 idea is that the “estate tax” (and go ahead and call it the “death tax” since no one can say they were fooled by the name) should be retained and 100% dedicated to health care for military veterans. Let the dead millionaires (I’d probably put “billionaires” in the campaign ad with a photo of huge mansions, like the ones on Royal Pains in the Hamptons) pay for wounded veterans. The political advantage is obvious: Republicans would be opposing expanding (or paying for) veterans’ health care. I’d like to see them argue that side in a debate and be in favor of dead billionaires like the Waltons or Koch brothers.

2. HEALTH CARE INSURANCE: A second idea is the Health Care Reform Act- Obamacare. The only thing the Republicans can really rail at in their requests for repeal are the mandate on individuals and employers to provide it. The solution is simple (and should have been the original template of the plan in 2009): decouple health insurance from employment and completely remove the mandate. Instead, provide a public option: any person under 65 can sign up for Medicare, paying the incremental cost of adding another person to Medicare, with subsidies for persons who don’t have the financial ability to pay the full monthly premium. In one fell swoop, we’ve taken away all of the issues with States not participating, all of the political arguments against the program (the Hobby Lobby case will be reduced to an historical footnote), and reduced overhead for employers (for which they should be grateful, but probably will not be). In addition, although it will be voluntary for any person under 65 to sign up, the law should provide that if a person incurs medical expenses greater than $X (where “X” can be a number like $1,000, $5,000, or $10,000) and has not had them covered by insurance or paid them within 12 calendar months, then signing up is mandatory (and they will still owe the prior medical expenses). There is not only no political downside to this, but it will greatly expand the number of people signing up for health insurance, especially in the "No" states controlled by Republican governors.

Putting this in a national Democratic platform will also jerk the rug out from Republicans in a lot of local races, where repealing Obamacare will be the centerpiece of their campaign ads.

3. FREEDOM RESTORATION ACT: For some reason, Democrats have not united against the gross violations of their civil liberties, most obviously in the realm of privacy from government interception of e-mails and other social media communications. Democrats should make clear that they are the party of individual freedom, and that causes of action under the 1860's civil rights laws (i.e. 42 U.S.C. §1983) will be extended to violations by the Federal Government (without depending on case by case BIVENS v. SIX UNKNOWN FED. NARCOTICS AGENTS, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) type of judicially created remedies) and remove all governmental immunity for violations of individual’s rights under the Bill of Rights, including 1st, fourth, fifth, 8th and 14th (which should be explicitly expanded to cover the Federal government) amendments. In other words, no more State Secrets exemptions from civil suit, no more complete or qualified immunity, and make clear that in the 21st century, we care more about our freedoms from government intrusion than we fear a potential boogeyman hiding under the bed. BUT: rather than individuals being sued, the theory of Respondeat Superior should be the sole measure of relief, so that judges, prosecutors, and police will no longer be subject to civil liability (but would still be, as they are now, subject to criminal prosecution for the serious and intentional violations of civil rights). The NSA will no longer be able to spy on ordinary Americans or collect so called "metadata" and they can mothball that building in Utah. One of the huge advantages of this proposal is that you will get a lot of support from Rand Paul Libertarian types.

Those are just three ideas, but all of them should be made the subject of national campaign ads: in other words, every Democratic candidate will benefit from them. I think that putting out a short, simple, easily understood national platform can change the results in the November 2014 elections: Dedicating the death tax to veterans’ health care, repealing the individual and employer mandate in Obamacare and replacing them with a public option to enroll in Medicare, restoring individual freedom from governmental excesses.

I would also limit the platform to a maximum of three ideas (the rule of threes). Each one would be the subject of a separate, national ad, which can be slightly modified in each State to have an addendum listing local candidates who support that platform.


And, like Will Rogers, if he were alive today, I will be astonished if the Democratic Party ever does anything so sensible and effective. But one can always hope!

Jim



Sunday, July 06, 2014

IN DEFENSE OF LIBERALISM



Benjamin Franklin, not a Christian, who answered a questioner about his religious beliefs thusly: "As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble."



Since the founding of this country, the great events have almost always been forged by persons whom we in modern times would have no trouble distinguishing as "liberals," as compared to their contemporaries.

In 1776, it was "liberal" to espouse throwing off the yokes of monarchy in exchange for representative government. The "conservatives" of the day were the Tories loyal to the British Crown, many of whom ended up emigrating to Canada when they lost the war.

In 1787, the "liberals" forged the new Constitution for the infant republic. Many liberal ideas were included: a ban on "ex post facto" laws which allowed governments to criminalize and punish past behavior, and a ban on "bills of attainder" which punished the descendants of criminals (both in Section 9 of Article I). And, most relevant to modern discourse, a ban on "religious tests" for holding public office. No government could require any candidate for public office to espouse any particular religion- or even a belief in a deity ("no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States" is in Article VI).

By 1860, the liberal party in America was the brand new (six years old) Republican Party, which wanted radical change, to wit: the eradication of slavery (or, more accurately, a beginning to its end by curtailing its expansion into the new Western territories destined to become States). The "conservatives" sided with the South, to preserve the "peculiar institution" which had existed for hundreds of years.

The 1865 argument in the Congress over the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to permanently abolish slavery was won by the "liberals," as the movie Lincoln, based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Team of Rivals, portrayed. The conservatives who opposed used many of the same arguments made in modern times to expand voting rights or the rights of immigrants.

And so on, down through the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 which banned discrimination in voting on account of sex and the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling in 1954 which ended legal racial discrimination and reversed the "separate but equal" doctrine of the Supreme Court in 1896 in Plessy v. Ferguson.

Throughout our nation's history, every major advance was because of an argument, a debate, a court case, won by "liberals," and every time, the self styled "conservatives" were on the wrong side of moral right and the wrong side of history, which inevitably traveled on the path of increased freedom and increased inclusion.

Ronald Reagan foretold the end of America as we knew it if Medicare was passed into law in the 1960's- he predicted we'd end up with a "socialist dictatorship" if the law passed, (it did and we didn't). Civil Rights laws under Lyndon Johnson were opposed by bigots traveling under the fig leaf of the Constitution . The pernicious phrase "State's Rights" was coined in the 1820's most notably by John C. Calhoun, and it resonated with bigots in the 1960's and again in 1980 with the kickoff of Reagan's campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Fortunately for America, the "liberals" won those political and court battles, giving us bans on government and private discrimination on account of race, gender, religion, and national origin in voting, employment, accommodations, and housing by the end of the 1960's decade.

So why is it that for the past 34 years, since Reagan was elected president, that "liberal" is somehow a dirty word that most politicians- even many Democrats (who prefer "centrist" or "progressive" or "realist" or "pragmatic") flee at any cost?

Probably because propaganda works: in George Orwell's book 1984 the government propaganda machine could turn words into their opposite: "War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength." All of these word reversals and the deliberate distortions of and rewriting of American history by Fox News, right wing radio, the Tea Party, and Republican media machines have created a significant minority of not just ignorant but misinformed viewers and listeners. Ignorance can be cured- especially if the ignorant realize they have a lack of knowledge or understanding of an issue. People who are misinformed (our founding fathers were Christians who created a "Christian nation," global climate change is a hoax, The Affordable Care Act is a job-destroying law that takes away the right to choose one's doctor, Obama is a Kenyan born Socialist who hates America, he's a tyrant overriding the rule of law with executive orders, he's a weak President giving away American power in Crimea, Syria, and Iraq) will cling to their beliefs, no matter how self contradictory or how little they are based in fact. Ironically, the powerful media types who purvey misinformation regularly attack the "liberal, mainstream media," another fiction created by their bloviators in chief.

And it is the cowardice of those who know better but lack their convictions or any semblance of pride or courage that allows it to continue.

Not me, though. I was probably somewhat conservative at age 17- when I stood in front of a large auditorium at an anti-war (Vietnam) rally circa 1970 and tried to explain the domino theory and why it was necessary for us to be there. I was 100% wrong at the time, as history proved and I learned in much more detail later after reading A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam, a 1988 book by Neil Sheehan. By the time I hit law school in my 20's, down through the decades, I've been a social liberal, the right to be left alone by the government so long as we are not hurting others being paramount.

The voice of that ideology can be found in the opinion of Justice William O. Douglas in the 1965 Supreme Court decision in Griswold v. Connecticut which overturned Connecticut's ban on women using contraceptives-- Douglas wrote that the right to privacy was found in the "penumbra"of the First and Ninth Amendments to the Constitution (the Ninth Amendment provides: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."). That case was followed by Loving v. Virginia, a 1967 decision which was the most aptly named Supreme Court case in history, as it overturned government bans on interracial marriage. Decades later, state laws criminalizing sodomy were ruled unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas, a 2003 Supreme Court decision, and the Orwellian named Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA- which prevented loving gay couples from enjoying the same legal marital rights as heterosexual couples) signed into law by that "liberal," President Clinton, was overturned in 2013.

I would love it if people who have values which are unmistakably liberal would at least give their world view the label it so richly deserves. I'm talking about people who want all eligible citizens to vote (no bogus voter ID laws); they want all people to be able to enjoy affordable health care; they want to end government torture, imprisonment without due process, and capricious capital punishment; they want people to be left alone and not have their phone calls tapped, their e-mails read, or their private lives opened up to the government; they want the ability to worship whatever deity they wish- or none at all- in whatever fashion they want, and not have a majority scapegoat them, brand them, or exclude them from participation in public life. In other words, American values; values created and enhanced in a consistent line going back to 1776 and the Declaration of Independence, with the famous words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Try to get an ardent follower of Fox News or Rush Limbaugh to explain why those words don't mean what they obviously say- that "all men"-- not just white Christian males-- have the right to life and liberty. And as for nomenclature, those people aren't "conservatives," and their label needs to change. Those people are the "willfully ignorant," the "willfully misinformed," the "hypocrites." They are the "anti-freedom, anti-democratic (with a small "d"), anti equality" party. And those are the labels which should be attached to them, just as those who believe in the meaning and spirit of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Amendments to it, should be not just be labeled "liberals," but also as "Americans." Because those are our American values.