Death of liberalism is near, and its harbinger is not a conservative onslaught, nor a new Contract With America. Its demise is being signaled by activities in a small town in Oregon, noteworthy only for a rambunctious annual Shakespearean Festival.
Ashland, Oregon, as all things west of the Cascade Range in Oregon, is a refuge for all things liberal, but Ashland finds itself in a liberal conundrum that portends bad things for left leaning granola crunchers.
More on Ashland later.
American liberalism initially manifested itself with the emergence of suffrage drives, with Wilson’s pandering for the League of Nations, and with the relaxing of mores during the twenties. Morals were plied with the consumption of prohibited beverages and further trod upon by the liberating sense of rebellion that came with doing so.
Such exuberance was quickly snuffed out by the harsh realities of the Great Depression, Nazism, the bleak existence most families found themselves in, and the eventual national commitment to a two front war. There was scant time available for dalliances with anything that wasn’t practical and immediate. Concepts and ideas outside of the very real and necessary were left to those in the colleges of America and Europe or to professional philosophers and theorists.
The esoteric took a backseat to the real.
Then, after a relatively brief period of peace, America elected a young Senator from the uber-liberal state of Massachusetts, and liberalism was once again uncorked. Fermented by years of being bottled up by the necessities imposed by the outside world, liberalism was unleashed full tilt into a generation excited by the charisma of a core of liberal politicos who enthralled them. Eager to escape their depression educated parents and their parents’ puritanical concepts in child rearing; this generation accelerated past the standard bearers and never looked back. Chicago 1968.
Based on the reasonable concepts of equal civil rights (although it took Republicans to actually get civil rights legislation passed in the sixties; over objections of many Democrats), women’s rights, taking care of the poor and protecting the weak, liberal thought was embraceable by many who felt blessed in those heady times. The original concepts of egalitarianism were soon consumed by an unstoppable tornado that evolved from the anti-war movement and its associated rebellion against all restraints; parental, moral, and governmental.
Soon liberal thought pushed well past the novel concepts of civil rights, sexual equality, and governmental support of the poor, to free love, sexual freedom, feminism, abortion rights, and exaggerated forms of freedom of expression, including; burning the flag, urinating and defecating on religious symbols, vulgarity in art and music, tolerance of all manner and combination of sexual encounters, right to self-euthanize, and the consumption of all manner of mind bending drugs, among others.
Liberalism is now best defined by its extremists. Much like Spinal Tap, liberals are not content to have the volume up to 10; they have a need to continually go to 11, and beyond. No idea is off the table. No idea is too extreme. Just keep turning the volume knob to the right, 12, 13, maybe. Bose eat your heart out.
Which brings us back to Ashland, Oregon.
Ashland is proud of its liberalness and in particular its tolerance for nudity. Liberals support this form of self-expression as harmless and victimless. Yet now Ashland finds itself having to rethink its policies. Not because there are too many cute women walking the streets of Ashland sans fashion, but because such open policies invite the extremists. And even in Liberal-ville, full male nudity is enough to change the mind of many self-expression proponents; especially those raising children.
But real crisis occurred when a Minnesotan boarded a bus to Oregon in order bring his own brand of nude self-expression to Ashland. Mr. Freedom-of-Expression decided that parading his package in the vicinity of an elementary school was indeed an appropriate form of self-expression, and Ashland was the kind of liberal haven to support it.. Some moms, liberal and otherwise, became concerned.
What is a liberal to do?
Now it is liberal v. liberal in Ashland, as the community tries to achieve an impossible balance between reasonable nudity and un-reasonable nudity within the city’s limits. The mayor wants an ordinance, many townies want nudity, the Minnesotan wants a refund on his bus ticket, and parents, many liberals themselves, want to protect their children from free-expression freak-a-zoids who have no restraint.
There will be pockets of liberal thought and liberal resistance, but conservatism is about to enjoy a resurgence as extremists burn out even the most ardent sock wearing, Birkenstock shod, parents in Oregon with their continual assaults on society with their lack of discipline and nouveau-avant-garde liberal stunt-ages, un-cleverly disguised as freedoms-of-expression.
All things reach an acme, for liberal thought it was Election 2008. The reality of implementing liberal ideas in government in 2009 and beyond comes with the revelation that gaining liberal consensus is much more difficult than herding cats and much less likely than taming badgers. Because of the now disparate nature of many core beliefs, liberals simply cannot effectively govern.
Sometimes the brightest star does burn itself out first. With nowhere to go, except past 14, 15, and beyond on the volume knob, liberalism is quickly replacing its once viable compassionate reason with more volume and diametrically opposing ideas; ideological difficulties which are not easy to overcome with lurking massive deficits and growing taxpayer unrest.
The liberal movement is quite literally running out of ideological steam after is meteoric run, but now a long period of acrimony and infighting awaits.
I only hope conservatives are ready.