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  • March 11th, 2011

Liberal…And Proud of It

By Joel M. Vance

I am fed up with being called a “liberal” as if it were a criminal offense.  Just as I am fed up with being called a “bunny killer” because I love to hunt.
If being a liberal means being in favor of universal health care like that of every advanced nation on earth…except the United States…then I’m a liberal.  If it means favoring a fair break for workers, an abandonment of the policy of shipping jobs to countries where workers get pennies a day and labor in awful conditions until they die then I’m a liberal.  I believe in equal pay for equal work for women, minorities and any other put-upon group that isn’t male, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (which I am, by the way).
If it means abandoning the stupid “trickle down” policy of economics then I surely am a liberal.  The idea that if you give rich folks all the money they will distribute it to the poor went out with John D. Rockefeller throwing dimes to the masses.  The rich don’t distribute their wealth; they keep it.
I believe in the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, not the Bush Doctrine of beating up on folks before they might beat up on you.  James Monroe, our fifth President, reiterated what our first President, George Washington, said: “avoid foreign entanglements.”  George W. Bush said just the opposite and more than 4,000 young people have had to die for it.  Monroe said that the United States would resist colonization and meddling in hemisphere politics but we’ve been tampering with Central and South American politics forever, almost always to our detriment.
It’s unclear what doctrine George Bush used as the basis for Iraq other than his own Messianic fantasies.  And Afghanistan?  Gee, we must need rocks as much as we need oil, else why would we kill for them?
I’m far from a pacifist.  I think we should track down and kill anyone who attacks us, but wholesale slaughter of Iraqis and Afghans, either deliberately or by accident, smacks more of ethnic cleansing than it does of targeted retribution.  If we can’t devise a global S.W.A.T. team to go after bad guys only then we’d better redefine our methods and get it right.
Yes, government needs a change and we can start with the training of response teams so we don’t have another 9/11 where there were clues galore ahead of time and where there has been no punishment since, or a Katrina where the government did “a heck of a job” all right—but not in the sense that Bush intended.
Having said those things, I also am a conservative.  I think deficit spending should be a last resort, not a first one. If I had squandered the country’s money and resources like politicians have for decades I’d be in jail.  Over the Bush years we went from a surplus to the largest deficit in the country’s history and it’s still ballooning.
Incidentally, taxes now are lower than they were in any of the Bush years.
I believe in conserving energy by slowing down, keeping an energy-efficient vehicle in top running order and limiting my travel to that which is necessary.  I oppose the “all eggs in one basket” approach to alternative energy—that’s what got us in trouble with oil.  A combination of other energies not only will help bail us out of an oil drunk, but also will offer more jobs to more folks in more areas.
I am totally opposed to the mindless yelling of the Tea Party types.  They offer no solutions; they just bitch.  Where is real outrage?  We’ve already put the BP disaster behind us. Who has been prosecuted?  What substantial safety changes have been made?  Where is the continued public outrage for problems of real substance?
We’ve forgotten that it was the Bush folks who got us into two awful and stupid wars, who ran the country into the crushing debt.  It’s all Obama’s fault because he couldn’t magically make things right.  Oh, yeah, he’s black, but let’s not mention that.  Instead we can say he’s not native-born and he’s a Communist or Socialist or Fascist or some other word we heard somewhere.  Let’s form a Tea Party and yell a lot.
The country had a clear choice in November two years ago.  It could vote for an old pol white guy whose positions changed almost by the hour complimented by a good-looking, albeit vindictive woman whose various misdeeds are stuck in far-off Alaska…or it could have and did vote for a black man who has been consistently intelligent but often disappointing to those of us who wanted to see things really change.
Chances are we will have the same choice in 2012—an old line white guy (think Romney or Gingrich), Republican to the core and representing the most repressive wing of the G.O.P. running against Obama.  So far no other Republican has surfaced to seem viable.
Sarah Palin is in it for the cash and is married to a fellow who belonged for seven years to a political party that believes in secession of Alaska and is, if that’s possible, far to the right even of the Tea Party.   He is considered to be his wife’s unofficial chief-of-staff and there’s no reason to believe that would change if she were to become a candidate.
I can’t believe she’ll run—she’s having too much fun taking the money of suckers.  Michele Bachman is nuts.  Tim Pawlenty is a nationally unknown wimp. Mike Huckabee seems like such a nice guy, fun to be with.  Mike Who?
Perhaps some charismatic type will come along, the conservative counterpart to Obama.  That hope apparently flickered and died with Ronald Reagan, now 100 years old and the anointed Jesus of the Republicans.  He raised taxes seven times during his administration.

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  1. Michael Patrick

    March 11th, 2011 at 10:50 am


    This is a well written and accurate assessment of what a liberal is and the nature of the right wing today.

  2. Kathy love

    March 11th, 2011 at 11:51 am


    Tell ’em, Joel. And can you believe the Missouri legislature?!? They are running amok. Chris Kelly had a good column in the Columbia Missourian yesterday, “Missouri legislators continue to undo will of the people.” And see the KC Star editorial, “Senate shows contempt for voters, puppies.” unfortunately, the politicians are drunk on their own power and running roughshod on the average citizen.

    • joelvance

      March 11th, 2011 at 2:20 pm


      The puppy mill bill is a good example of why voter preference doesn’t mean much, if anything, anymore. Remember–the Supreme Court elected Little Georgie, not the voters. The Wisconsin governor and Republican legislature is ignoring what surely is the will of the people re public employee bargaining rights. How can a teacher, say be motivated to be exceptional when his or her rights are crippled by narrow-minded politicians?

  3. Carrie Vance DeValk

    March 11th, 2011 at 5:07 pm


    Thanks for championing the teachers, Dad! Walker is making a sham of a democratic government. And yea for the liberals! That label does not imply an unpatriotic fluffhead. We care for others.

    • joelvance

      March 12th, 2011 at 9:00 am


      Tell me how a teacher (or any other public employee, which I was one of) is going to maintain morale when he or she is stripped of any chance to negotiate. “Take it or hit the road” is the mantra and no one can be expected to do a good job. The hidden agenda I think is privatization of education and most other public services and when the business types are running things the good of the people is far secondary to the profit of the enterprise.

  4. Steve Bruchman

    March 12th, 2011 at 7:16 am


    Impressive blog, Joel. Love your prose and diction, too (your daughter the Language Arts teacher and my wife are likely nodding their heads and smiling as they read your words).

    I wholeheartedly agree with your comments. It’s difficult to be a “happy camper” when much of what I read and hear from those on the farther right end of the Conservative spectrum is partial-truth, selective history, innuendo, and misinformation. We are experiencing a strong dose of that here In Minnesota, and our good neighbors in the Wisconsin Legislature seem to be as mis-directed as many of our Minnesota conservatives.

    Perhaps the greater American public will have to experience another 18 months of this. By then the Tea Party and far-right conservatives will have had ample opportunity to disappoint and appall–and yes, sometimes entertain–most of us with their antics and misrepresentations. That will be the time to “throw the rascals out” of office and get us back on track with reasonable and responsible rhetoric and policies.

    • joelvance

      March 12th, 2011 at 8:57 am


      Thanks for the kind words. I’ve written about my metamorphosis from conservative to liberal (I voted for and still would Mr. Eisenhower). Oddly I was influenced mostly by Pete Seeger. Wanted to learn the 5-string banjo and his liberal writing came along with it–that and the events of the 1960s when the Democrats (who have somehow now become right wing Republicans) were so vicious to the Civil Rights workers. At least we had some leaders with intellect and depth in those days. Now we have shadow figures and a far dumber America. Not good.

  5. Dan

    March 20th, 2011 at 5:45 am


    Well, you certainly hit that nail on the head. Well said, as usual. Thanks, Joel.

  6. Larry Bozka

    March 28th, 2011 at 5:12 pm



    I met you around 25 years ago, at an OWAA meeting in Kalispel, Montana. I can’t recall the names of all the guitar pickers, but am fairly certain you were among the crowd on one particularly unforgettable evening when we all sat outside and watched the Big Sky sun sink beneath the mountains. There was at least one Pete Seeger tune rendered, mauled as it may have been, along with various other folk songs. An awesome time was had by all … especially me.
    I write you this all these years later to tell you how profoundly inspired I was by your “liberal” blog entry … not just the thoughtful and objective commentary, but also the fact that you possess the world-class stones requisite to penning such a straightforward piece at this uniquely turbulent juncture in American history.
    I used to think that the word “polarized” applied only to quality sunglasses. Then came modern-era so-called “conservatism,” the mind-numbing age of the “Stop Everything Express,” when keeping one’s political party in power ranks as a far greater priority than addressing the nation’s woes, when the Republican Media Icon-in-Chief, making $59 million a year, openly acknowledges that he WANTS the president to fail. Given his income, I doubt he’s unduly concerned in regard to the consequences that would be potentially shouldered by the unwashed masses should his fervent wish be granted.
    I am a 54-year-old white guy, Joel. I long ago accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I own a collection of guns and have spent my entire life hunting and fishing. I drive a truck, and among many other genres enjoy listening to and doing my best to play and sing country music (although it was a sad day in America when Johnny Cash was relegated to the “Alternative Country” genre).
    Apparently, these characteristics provide more than ample evidence for a great many of my peers in the outdoor writing community to assume, without question, that I adhere to their slash-and-burn centimeter-wide brand of politics and philosophy.
    How do I know this? Despite my considerable efforts to stop the surge, my e-mail continues to be inundated with countless “If you are a True American/Christian/Patriot/etc. you will forward this to your 10 closest friends” messages. I sometimes stop to respond, telling the sender that emails of this sort are almost invariably generated by spammers who use them to compile massive email lists for the endless propagation of yet more spam. Said messages are universally ignored. They keep coming, even though they are almost always proved to be false, or at least partly false, by a quick online fact check via Snopes.com, FactCheck.org and similar sites.
    I recently pointed out the fallacy of one such message to a guy who wrote back to inform me that “It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. This stuff is just fun to send.” I asked him if he would feel the same if his daughter was the one being falsely maligned. As expected, he didn’t respond. And again, as expected, later that week I got yet another missive from him explaining how President Obama was about to declare recreational fishing illegal. I finally reluctantly resorted to the “block sender” option … reluctantly because, as a talented fishing guide, there are things from this fellow that I would actually like to receive. Unfortunately, the cost of continuing contact is too high to justify doing so. As it is, I spend at least an hour a day cleaning up spam and garbage email.
    Another fellow, actually a longtime friend, told me a few months ago that President Obama is a “fascist.” I asked him what that meant, to define “fascism,” and at least he was honest enough to admit he didn’t know. He did know, however, that the president is in fact an illegal alien who hates Jesus. His wife told him so, and Glenn Beck told her. She is a 62-year-old “ultraconservative,” a cancer survivor on Medicare who draws a monthly disability check from Uncle Sam and nonetheless insists that the government “keep its hands off her health care.” Then again, she has been convinced since his name first hit the airwaves that the President of the United States is also the Antichrist.
    Only in America. Anywhere else, she’d be a political prisoner. Then again, I think she believes Obama is already doing that as well, secretly locking away all those yet-to-be-discovered God-fearing conservative dissidents. (Don’t ask her what the “Patriot Act” … arguably the most cynically-named edict in U.S. history … did for the basic rights of every American citizen.) You might as well remind her that it was George W. Bush, not Barack Obama, who led the charge for the roughly $800 billion Wall Street bailout immediately prior to his hasty departure from the White House. One of my biggest problems with Obama is that he didn’t push for the prosecution, and if convicted, incarceration of the worst of Wall Street’s worst. Instead of iron cell doors, they took multi-million-dollar bonuses straight out of the wallets of American taxpayers. The “financial reform” that followed was an incredibly bad watered-down joke.
    So maybe, just maybe, both political parties share accountability for the mess we are facing on the financial front. Don’t dare to say so, though. In W’s own words, “You’re either with us or against us.” He wasn’t talking solely about terrorists.
    So, we have hard-liners both right and left running the shows and leading their respective herds. It’s hard to tell a buddy that his wife is clueless, a walking contradiction. So I didn’t. But damn, it’s getting hard to keep my mouth shut with so much oxymoronic BS polluting the airwaves 24 hours a day. I don’t know it all … not even close … but I know the difference between fact and opinion.
    That’s a problem, according to Sarah Palin. Get too much information, become too educated, and you are immediately branded an “Elitist.” Cover both sides of the news regardless of your own beliefs and you are inherently part of “The Lamestream Media.” Is it becoming nigh-impossible to get most folks to even slightly veer from their chosen sides, to actually learn and assess the facts and draw their own conclusions?
    You betcha.
    The people who I grew up admiring because of their commitment to clean water and quality air are now collectively classified as “Environmental Wackos.” Profess to care about pollution problems and stand ready to be labeled a “Green Weenie.” Now there’s a non-elitist piece of nomenclature.
    And, as you so poignantly note, anyone who becomes too concerned gets the dreaded “Liberal” label. I’m waiting for a Joe McCarthy type to rise from the ranks so that he can root them all out of the country’s deepest fabric.
    His primary question to those who ask too many questions?
    “Why do you hate America?”
    With time, I must confess, I have just about given up. I’ve come to realize that not all, but most Tea Party types only hear what they want to hear, that they get their news solely from sources that reinforce their skewed and slanted views. They don’t want news, at least not the impartial news that I learned about in journalism school back in the 1970s. They tune in to editorial page echo chambers, on the radio and on cable television, hosted by venom-spouting, self-righteous media entrepreneurs/entertainers who make more in a day than their typical listener makes in a lifetime. The louder they yell, the more people listen. So, facts be damned, they just keep getting louder.
    Sarah Palin is great at showbiz. But the thought of the woman becoming the President of the United States terrifies me. Like you, fortunately, I take comfort in the fact that she is way too busy compiling an unholy fortune … and it’s every bit her right to do so via the countless suckers who support her … to ever enter a life of public service. Hell, she didn’t even stick around to be the governor of Alaska.
    The first time I read Sarah Palin’s name I was thumbing through an issue of Reader’s Digest. Right there, in the magazine’s “That’s Outrageous” column, was a blistering story about the shameless woman governor who alongside the late Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska had aggressive lobbied to receive millions of dollars in earmark funding for the soon-to-become-notorious “Bridge to Nowhere.” Yes, Sarah enthusiastically supported the shipment of government “pork” to Ketchikan. But just try to tell that to a Sarah supporter. Even the typically-conservative pages of Reader’s Digest become “lamestream” when it’s convenient.
    I didn’t mean to turn this into my own diatribe, Joel. I’ve taken far too much of your time and space. You have a great blog.
    I just want you to know that thanks to you, I have decided not to give up … or more accurately, not be intimidated by the local public fervor (remember, I live in Texas, a state I am extremely proud of that all the same has some serious problems of its own). I’m even thinking of coming out of the closet and openly declaring myself to be “progressive.” As a voter, I have long been an Independent. And like you, I am in many elemental ways conservative.
    But if by professing a belief that universal health care is a moral imperative for America, that funding education in the United States is far more important than financing non-declared “wars” in the Middle East and Central America, that if really asking “What would Jesus do?” and listening to a subconscious but all-too-clear answer makes me a liberal, then I reckon I’m the “L-Word” too.
    Just don’t tell anybody yet, okay? You’re a hard act to follow.
    Until we meet again, thanks for making my day.
    Wishing you and yours the best of everything life has to offer …

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