Following Churchill, classical liberalism found a new hero in the form of a young charismatic man considered by many to be the greatest president in American history, John F Kennedy. There is a definite reason why I opened this essay with a quote by Kennedy: he is the epitome of the liberal. As a matter of fact, classical liberals are often called “Kennedy Democrats”. JFK upheld an unwavering view that all should be equal in opportunity when he made promises to aid the civil rights movement. He stood for the American ideology of economic freedom and human rights by opposing the brutal dictatorships of Castro’s Cuba and the USSR. He strived for the best health of his citizens by laying the groundwork for retirement-based Medicare, and social security paying for higher quality healthcare for senior citizens. A non-interventionist foreign policy but with strong resolve against direct threats to America, as was demonstrated by his determination and intelligence during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Kennedy also believed in the value of taxes, yet believed the only way to raise revenue was to cut the rates, and that too high of taxes restrict the economy. He even went on to cut the corporate tax rate from 91% to 70%, the bottom rate from 20% to 14%, and the overall tax rate by 30% across the board. This gave Kennedy his expected result of increased tax revenue, as this led to an increase in business great enough to counter the drop in rates (had to increase by 30% to break even), and reduced unemployment to a 40 year low.
As an Obama democrat, one would think of Kennedy as a liberal republican, and they are not inherently wrong to assume that. If Kennedy were to run for president today it is unlikely that he would find a home within the Democratic Party, and that is a problem; Kennedy’s policies represent a high point for liberalism that hadn’t been met since the presidency of Lincoln. Fiscal centrism is also a key component of classical liberalism that has unfortunately become ignored by modern leftists. Not only have tax breaks that lie between those supported by modern leftists (too low) and modern conservatives (too high) been proven to increase revenue and decrease unemployment, but it also takes into account the importance of the individual when dealing with an issue regarding the collective. If you wish to effectively run policy, both the individual and the collective must be considered all the time, liberals simply value the collective slightly more than the individual. If democrats ever hope to return to the former glory and approval of classic liberals like Kennedy, an examination of why Kennedy’s policies were so successful must be taken into consideration.
In regards to examining the successes of the past, one must examine the reasons for descent in the now. An inability to accept reality that is increasingly found among modern leftists is also a great problem, as it creates a disconnection that leads many to conclude that all who oppose them is the ultimate enemy, or as they say, “literally Hitler“; leading them to justify the violation of rights and common sense, in pursuit of an unattainable utopia that violates human nature and the proven effective system of capitalism.
A famous example is when openly gay and far right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, was scheduled to speak at U.C. Berkeley in February of 2017. While Yiannapoulos proceeded to be shunned by conservatives with the head of CPAC Matt Schlapp calling his comments “disturbing” and “offensive” after he seemingly supported pedophilia, the response he received at Berkeley can only be described as horrendous, especially considering Berkeley led the fight for free speech in the 1960s during the civil rights movement. The campus came to blame “150 masked agitators” who incited fires and destructive acts, including destroying the windows of a nearby Starbucks and clashing Berkeley campus police. Six people were injured, damages costed the university approximately $100,000, and Berkeley was forced to cancel Yiannapoulos’s visit.
Even prior to the riots, over 1,500 protesters filled the streets of Berkeley with signs saying “no safe space for racists”, and “this is war”. While many of Yiannapoulos’s viewpoints and comments can be seen as racist and bigoted, those comments carry as much significance as those of blatant misandry charged by far left SJWs, and even the words of a philosopher and politician; the beauty of our nation is that all words receive the same rights regardless of how offensive as long as they do not instigate violence.
By demonstrating an intolerance of opposing viewpoints and automatically exaggerating the opposition to appear truly evil, these protesters ultimately demonstrating disdain for the very guarantees of civil rights and an open space for discussion that they believed to be protesting for. Fortunately Berkeley realized this, stating that they “condemn in the strongest possible terms the violence and unlawful behavior that was on display, and deeply regret that those tactics will now overshadow the efforts to engage in legitimate and lawful protest against the performer’s presence and perspectives”, and that “While Yiannopoulos’ views, tactics, and rhetoric, are profoundly contrary [to theirs]”, that they “are bound by the Constitution, the law, our values, and the campus’s Principles of Community to enable free expression across the full spectrum of opinion and perspective,”, demonstrating a legitimate liberal and civil view.
Unfortunately, protesters had already gone on to provide new fuel to the image that all liberals are fragile “snowflakes” who are incapable of dealing with reality that is held by so many conservatives (ironically, many of whom throw fits at a sports star kneeling during our national anthem, or the simple presence of a member of the LGBT community). Yiannapoulos himself even stated that he was “just stunned that hundreds of people…were so threatened by the idea that a conservative speaker might be persuasive, interesting, funny, and might take some people with him, they have to shut him down at all costs”. Enhancing the argument that the left is all intolerant and fragile children, only seeks to damage the very name of liberal, and damage the legitimacy of any logical and true liberal who genuinely believes in free speech and debate.