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In 2004, former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote a book subtitled Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America. He argued that the populace is more compassionate than the tone set by conservatives who dominate government. He said most Americans have "a bedrock sense of public, or common, morality" which sympathizes with ordinary folks, not the privileged elite favored by conservatives.

"Republicans have posed the deepest moral question of any society: whether we're in it together," Reich wrote. "Their answer is we're not." But Reich said conscientious people "should proclaim, loudly and clearly, we are."

In his book, the ex-labor secretary outlined:

"The classical liberal ideas that emerged in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and took root in America soil sought -- for the first time in human history -- to improve the wellbeing of all people, not just the rich and the privileged. Liberalism has stood for an economic system that betters the lives of average working people, and for a democracy that gives voice to the little guy. That liberal tradition animated American abolitionists of the nineteenth century who fought against slavery. It inspired suffragettes who demanded that women have the right to vote. And it motivated civil rights workers who put their lives on the line for equal rights.

"American liberalism... moved reformers at the turn of the last century to stand firm against monopolies and political corruption. It inspired progressives to battle for safety, health, and food and drug regulations. In the wake of the Great Crash of 1929, it led New Dealers to regulate banking and clean up Wall Street. As the Depression deepened, it prompted them to create Social Security, unemployment insurance and a minimum wage.... The same liberal spirit aroused labor leaders to fight for better pay and working conditions for average working people. And it animated public-works spending to put millions of Americans back to work....

"Liberals have always stood in sharp opposition to fanaticism and violence, and against religious bigotry, totalitarianism, and nationalist zealotry.... They've held to the goal of an international community. After World War II, they created the United Nations and international economic institutions....

"These ideals -- this profound insistence that Americans are all in it together, this search for practical reforms to make democracy and the economy work better for average people, this bulwark against bigotry and fanaticism, this smart internationalism, this demand for decency and tolerance -- this is the true, robust liberalism."

Reich pointed out that, "before the New Deal, liberalism was mostly about protecting people's freedom," but, ever since the Depression, progressives have championed a public safety net to protect average families from calamity.

In 2016, Boston University religion professor Stephen Prothero wrote Why Liberals Win the Culture Wars (Even When They Lose Elections). He says conservatives often feel society around them shifting away from their cherished privileges and prejudices -- for example, they feel "anxiety about the demise of the patriarchal family or Anglo-American dominance or 'Christian America.'" Too late, they raise an outcry and fight a furious resistance, but the trend can't be stopped.

"In almost every case since the founding of the republic," he wrote, "conservatives have fired the first shots in our culture wars. Equally often, liberals have won.... A liberal win becomes part of the new status quo and eventually fades from our collective memory. No conservative today wants to disenfranchise Mormons or outlaw five o'clock cocktails. So these victories no longer even appear to be 'liberal.' They are simply part of what it means to be an American."

The professor added:

"America's culture wars are won by liberals.... Gays and lesbians get marriage. An 'infidel' (Jefferson) and then a 'papist' (Kennedy) get the White House. Nearly as predictably as night follows day, those who declare war on 'infidels' or Catholics or the sins of the 1920s or the abominations of the 1960s go down in defeat. Liberals win because they typically have the force of American traditions on their side, not least the force of the Bill of Rights itself, which on any fair reading protects the rights of minorities against the impositions of majorities. Liberals also win because the causes conservatives pick to rev up their supporters are, surprisingly, lost from the start."

Dr. Prothero spotlights five religious-racial-moral battles in America. The first was a bitter showdown in the 1790s when conservative churchmen branded Thomas Jefferson a "howling atheist" in league with violent radicals of the French Revolution. The struggle involved dispute over whether America was "a Christian nation."

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James A. Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia's largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail.  Mr. Haught has won two dozen national news writing awards. He has written 12 books and hundreds of magazine essays and blog posts. Around 450 of his essays are online. He is a senior editor of Free Inquiry magazine, a weekly blogger at Daylight (more...)

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