The demise of true liberalism

By Austin Stadelman

Over the last few decades, “liberalism” has become less appealing to both sides of the political spectrum. This especially applies to younger voters given the events of the 2016 election and the rise of democratic socialist figures like Bernie Sanders.

Conservatives often see contemporary liberals as pro-choice, pro-immigration, pro-universal healthcare, pro-gun restrictions and advocates for trigger warnings and safe spaces. These are all politically averse to what conservatives fundamentally believe in, so their criticism of the liberal mentality can be attributed to political differences.

There is also criticism from the left, though it is of a different kind. The left views them as weak, fair-weather liberals who only support a leftist cause when it suits their personal lives. They believe contemporary liberals often ignore class conflict and discrimination when it’s not trending on Twitter or in the mainstream media.

These attitudes are misconceptions of what it means to be a liberal.

Liberalism is based on the notion that people can maximize their happiness when there is limited government (compared to the unlimited power of a monarchy or aristocracy), free trade, protection of individual liberties and the belief that democracy is fundamentally good.

Liberalism is not about the need to take away an individual’s right to own guns or the government stepping in and saving individuals from feeling uncomfortable in a classroom. It’s about encouraging new ideas that preserve liberty.

As a political concept, liberalism originates from the European age of enlightenment. It discarded the idea of divine right and allowed people to live by their own governance. This liberal mentality has only increased the overall standard of living and quality of life.

However, some people view American liberalism as invalid because of Democrats’ history of supporting slavery and racism. They argue that the principles liberalism was founded upon are invalid because the creators and beneficiaries of those principles were the oppressors. 

Though this criticism is valid for America’s grotesque history, the ideas themselves should be applied further. Because of liberal thought, American citizens have the power to make laws incorporating all, regardless of their characteristics, who seek protection and freedom from oppression. Though the true completion of that equality has always been a work in progress, the disregard for liberalism is counterproductive to the cause.

Austin is a sophomore in Media. 

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