Webb: Liberalism then and now


This is written primarily for those who call yourselves Democrats, liberals, progressives or socialist Democrats. Tuesday was the anniversary of the execution of Che Guevara, one day after he was captured by the Bolivian army.

So many on the left admire Che Guevara, wear the T-shirts and shout the slogans but I wonder how many know his true history. This is not the thrust of this article, but the anniversary of his execution spurred the idea to explore who truly understands what a liberal is and who remains today as a classic liberal. 

Roughly 175 years ago, as modern liberalism was born, the debate raged across Europe and in the halls of famed institutions. Newspapers, such as The Economist founded by Scottish hat maker James Wilson in 1843, were created to promote liberalism.


Liberalism sounded good in the beginning. Liberalism campaigned initially for dignity, open markets, limited government and a belief that progress could be achieved by debate and reform. I know this shocks many of my conservative brothers and sisters but it is true of many in the early days who saw freedom and liberalism as synonymous in many ways.

Liberal societies have prospered since that time and in fact liberal societies are the reason freedom from autocrats, monarchs and dictators were among the demands of the people. In reality, this is somewhat different from liberalism today. 

Ideals and ideas are often perverted by those seeking power. Former President Wilson and his version of liberal ideas followed by former President Roosevelt dragged traditional liberalism to the far left and began the path that takes us where we are today. There are many more to blame but these two presidents held the highest political office and deserve to be called out.

They and their supporters grew government as the new autocratic system that would govern our lives and determine our needs. As liberal democracies continued to grow in the Western world, some began to drag it backward under the guise of what is better for all.

They found it important to control not only government but educational institutions. Where they could not win in the marketplace of ideas they would seek to tear down social structure, cultural norms and rebuild them much in the way former President Obama talked about fundamental transformation.

The violence we see today is not representative of the original ideals. As a conservative, I would like to debate classic liberals on how we do best as a nation. The new liberal progressives under any self-identified label led by the elites are willing to partner with violent elements in American society. We have seen the rise of Black Lives Matter, Antifa, the occupy movement and even willing partnerships with radical Muslim groups. They each seem to exist under the principle that the bear will eat the others and then save them for the last. 

My question is for those who call themselves liberals and hope to one day regain where their movement started. Are you willing to debate the others in your modern Democratic Party and fight to take it back so you can have reasoned debate with conservatives or will you be relegated to the ash heap of history like the Whigs? 

Once you let the progressives in the door, and you already have, it will become increasingly more difficult to push them out. Look around the country now and you see a Democratic Party that is becoming more localized and losing its national political position. This doesn’t really bother me as someone who stands in opposition to your governance but as an American who believes in the Constitution and enjoys the debate of ideas, I prefer that you exist.

I don’t fear you, but I fear that what you are becoming will be dangerous for too many Americans who will not have the opportunities that our country offers.

Webb is host of “The David Webb Show” on SiriusXM Patriot 125, a Fox Nation Host, Fox News contributor and a frequent television commentator. His column appears twice a month in The Hill.

Tags Liberalism Progressive politics

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