This paper is about Liberalism in the United States and it is organized as follows:
Here, meaning of the word liberalism in the United States context is given. a brief history of liberalism is also given and a statement on how it has changed over the years.
Variants of liberalism
Here, the various variants of liberalism are defined.
Periodical change in Liberalism:
Here, the changes that have taken place in trying to give American liberalism the practical meaning that it makes a practical reference to are looked into
Key figures in the History of American liberalism
The most outstanding figures in the American liberalism history are examined and the contributions they made to the American society.
Current state of liberalism in the United States and the future:
Here, a statement is given on where the American liberalism stands and what we are likely to see in future.
A concluding remark is given here that covers the entire essay in brief.
Liberalism in the United States since 1880 to the Present
Liberalism has been a controversial political ideology not only in the United States but also the world over. Given that the United States has been a democratic society with each individual having the freedom to pursue their lines without interference, a unique variant of liberalism is at play. American liberalism has its focus on a very different set of targets compared to the types of liberalism that are peddle in especially parts of Europe. American liberalism is defined as the commitment of the state into providing key social services (Nieuwenhuys,2006,P 35). Due to political misunderstanding and open malice, it is not uncommon to come across a politician who is being subjected to very hostile questioning simply because he bears the tag liberal. American liberalism has never meant socialism or communism. It has always meant state responsibility and it has its roots in the constitution as it was crafted by the founding fathers.
Liberalism has a number of variants or divisions. They differ in a very slight sense but all of them advocate for state responsibility. The major forms of liberalism are classical liberalism, liberalism; neo-liberalism.Liberalism simply means the commitment of the state in a bid to ensure that it is able to meet basic needs for those that cannot .It also means the extension of rights to all sectors of the society and the defending of those rights so that they are not abused. Classical liberalism supports the idea of the state giving everyone in society their rights but it does not support the idea of the state coming up with any program to provide basic needs to the people. Neoliberalism has a different tilt. People in this category of liberalism belief that the government is inefficient and the transfer of responsibility to private hands can generate responsible government for the people.
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How liberalism has shaped the Politics of the United States of America
Liberalism as a political ideology has been in the United States for a very long time. The Founding Fathers understood it well and supported it but those among them who still owned slaves did not want the slavery stopped as the principles of liberalism demanded. But along came Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and he abolished slavery in line with the constitution. This was the beginning of the implementation of the genuine and real American form of liberalism, the liberalism that does not put emphasis in assisting people in the state with food and clothes but ensuring that their rights are not abused.
The struggle to mainstream liberalism cooled down for a while till the Great Depression. Due to economic difficulties, the then American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt decided that it was time for the government to get hold of a liberal program once more for the purpose of turning around the economy. This was the birth of the New Deal, whereby there was massive spending in national programs such as road construction and true to form, this undertaking led to the turnaround of the economy. This was followed by a moment of silent activist whereby the political, economic and numerical minorities led by African Americans and Jews kept on mobilizing since they were still being persecuted.
The election of President John F.Kennedy in 1963 saw the massive uprising of African Americans who felt that the mistreatment that they were going through had gotten too far and were out to ensure that legislation was put in place to defend their rights. Figures like Malcolm X mobilized both black and white people and participated in matches whereby the demands for civil rights legislation were made. A number of white people especially the less schooled and non-exposed ones from the south of the country were still racist and their eyes had not opened to the reality that all humanity is the same. It so happened that President John F.Kennedy was assassinated and Lyndon Baines Johnson came in with the idea of the Great society. Civil rights legislation was passed in 1964 after figures like Malcolm X had already gotten assassinated as well. Thus the civil rights legislation became another landmark achievement of the liberal movement of the United States. Other key political achievements that have been made by the liberal movement of the United States is the passage of the social security Acts as well as the enactment of the Community Reinvestment Act.
On the side of social life, the liberal movement has not carried out an open campaign on how Americans need to behave but through political undertakings and liberal media personalities, the influence is moving forward. More and more Americans are picking the liberal mentality as more people get exposed, become open-minded and break their own long-held myths about life (Bulkeley 2008, p15).
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Perhaps the only area where liberals have not made any progress and they have not shown much interest is in the economy. They seem satisfied with the way the American economy is run but they have now adopted new issues of concern such as the environment and climate change.
Reasons for the rise and fall of the various variants of Liberalism in the United States
The rise of liberalism in the 1880 was because of the push and encouragement that was gotten with the emancipation proclamation. It again cooled down till the 1960 when some triggers activated the liberal base and the civil rights movement was born. The extension of political and economic rights to the entire American society has led to the silence that is now characteristic of the liberal base. The issues that they have always played out have all been given to the citizens so there is no more idea left to use for making noise.
Also, the American political environment has gotten accustomed to two parties to such a level that when a third party comes in, it is always difficult to get space. That has led to the lack of market for some of the ideas of the left or the other variants of liberalism. Then there is the overpowering of the fringe forms that are not recognized by the general term –liberalism that has been associated with such big names as President Lyndon Baines Johnson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This has made it very difficult for the other forms of liberalism to penetrate the political marketplace of ideas.
The status of liberalism today
In the United States today, the concept of liberalism is possessed by some members in the Democratic Party. They are the ones who take far left positions on issues such as abortion and gay marriages. It is not a very huge constituency as at now.
Future of liberalism: The Democratic Party is likely to get more of its members taking more liberal policy stances in the coming days as the country becomes more liberal.
Liberalism in the United States has a different meaning compared to liberalism elsewhere in the world. It means freedom or liberty. The liberal group in the United States comes out to act when there is a problem. Otherwise most of the time they are silent. Examples of time they came out are in 1870 when slave trade was abolished, 1930 during the time of the new deal and 1964 during the civil rights movement.