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Proud to be a Liberal

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Recent polls indicate that only twenty percent of voters describe themselves as "Liberal." I'm one of them, proud to be a Liberal.

In the run up to the midterm elections, many Democratic candidates avoid the liberal label. Some even deny the accomplishments of the 111th Congress. On FACE THE NATION CBS Correspondent Nancy Cordes noted, "Not only are [Democratic congressional candidates] running away from President Obama, they're running away from being Democrats." Shame on them! I'm proud of what President Obama and the Democratically-controlled Congress have done.

The Democrats' problem is not that they are too liberal, but rather that they are not liberal enough.

Robert Reich observed that embedded in the fabric of the American ethos are two hopeful stories: Liberal myths.

The Triumphant Individual "is the familiar tale of the little guy who works hard, takes risks, believes in himself, and eventually gains wealth, fame, and honor." This is the story of Abraham Lincoln and, more recently, Barack Obama. It's one of the cornerstones of American liberalism.

This narrative presumes a level playing field where every man or woman who wants to get ahead, provide a better life for themselves and their family, can do it. Liberals believe in the importance of individual responsibility, it's up to each person to take the steps necessary to move forward. Nonetheless, Liberals also support equal opportunity: an individual shouldn't be held back because of their gender, race, ethnicity, or what side of the tracks that were born on. Liberals believe that all children need to be brought up in safe households with enough food to eat and access to quality schools and medical services. We believe that government must set limits, proclaim that all Americans have inalienable rights that must be guaranteed.

Liberals believe in government as a force for good. It is the US government rather than the corporation or the church that guarantees our human rights. It is the government that levels the playing field. And it is the government that protects us against the excesses of capitalism, against those who engage in fraudulent business practices, charge excessive interest, abuse their employees, or pollute the environment. Liberals believe that the government must provide a social safety net to protect Americans' human rights.

The Benevolent Community is the second cornerstone of American liberalism. "The story of neighbors and friends who roll up their sleeves and pitch in for the common good." One of the early mottos of the United States was E Pluribus Unum, "out of many, one." Liberals believe in citizens working together to better our communities: to ensure quality schools, safe streets, comprehensive transportation and energy systems, and clean water and air.

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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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