In several posts, I’ve written about the idea of a liberal coalition against the various authoritarian movements in politics. This is the first of a series of posts I’m planning, to describe some details of what I mean.
I’ll keep repeating, since new readers may drop in on any of my posts, that I’m not talking about “liberalism” in the sense of Democratic Party politics, but the older idea, which still has some recognition in Europe.
In broad terms, I understand liberalism to be the presumption that people should be free to make their choices and act on them unless there are strong reasons to the contrary. Now I realize that putting it that way is far too vague for a political philosophy. I adhere to a libertarian principle — that people should be free to act except where their actions do concrete damage to others — but here I’m talking about whom we can reach out to and work with.
A second criterion which I consider important to the liberal coalition is applying our standards to all people. We have to be as willing to defend the rights of people we dislike as people we like. That doesn’t mean we can’t censure them, but it means we can’t stand by if the government censors them.
The limits of cooperation depend on what’s most at risk at the time. During the Trump years, major risks will include mass arrests and deportations, war crimes, targeting people for their religion, targeting people who incur the president’s ire, mass surveillance, border militarization, and cutting away at due process. We need to work together with others who oppose these things, even if we have major disagreements with them on other issues.
We do need to be careful not to let people with other aims take over the coalition for their purposes. The Tea Party started out as a coalition for limited government, but over time a nativist faction worked their issues into it and changed it. They were able to do that largely because smears of “racism” made it sound like a welcoming place for them, and because the early Tea Party leaders didn’t push back against that hard enough. We need to be careful not to lose our focus.
Coalitions depend more on practical unity than philosophical unity, so there will always be serious problems in working together. It’s important right now to find solutions to these problems, at least long enough to insure things will improve in 2020.