a history of American Liberalism by Julian Oddo, staff reporter

Liberalism based around the word liberty represents freedom, progress to improve the wrongs of society and progress towards a more advanced, fairer and successful society. Liberalism in the United States has a very rich history that has changed the very fabric of America over time and has led us again and again down the road to progress and change.Liberalism in America has been around since America’s foundation. Liberal ideals are one of the key pillars that American society was founded on and without them we might still be a colony of England. Since our country’s birth, liberalism has changed in many ways many times just like America has itself. One thing has not changed throughout American history is that liberals continued to push for justice, liberty and progress in American society.

Without liberal ideas our country would not exist. America was founded by people saying the way the English are ruling over us is not right and they did something about it; essentially they declared independence and fought a war to create freedom. Since then, liberalism has been all about improving the problems in American society and making our society a better place to live.

Back when we were a British Colony, the British were mistreating us badly, giving us taxes which Colonists had no democratic representation to protest and giving soldiers the right to sleep in American houses.

The Declaration of Independence, which declared our freedom from England, as well as the Constitution that made us the first republic in nearly two thousand years both, were written under the premise of righting the wrongs of society and improving it. However as American history progresses, the problems in society differ from generation to generation.

When our country was just starting up, the Founding Fathers were divided into two groups: Liberals who wanted to innovate in the name of liberty and the values this country on, and Conservatives who wanted to keep things the same. These groups were known, respectively,  as the Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton and the Democratic-Republicans led by Thomas Jefferson.

Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton did some great things for our country that put it in the right direction. He made a national bank that combined all the state’s financial standings and collected taxes on goods and tariffs. Jefferson, however, opposed Hamilton every step of the way, claiming that each of the states should be treated as a separate entity under a loose confederation with a weak central government.

Jefferson wasn’t all bad; when he was president he did some great things but this story tells how even in the early days of our nation the evils of conservatism was threatening the progress that American liberalism was promoting.

American liberalism has had some bumps in the road. There have been times when, due to propaganda, conservatives have managed to stop the country from going down the right path. Sadly, during most of the 19th century the echo of progress wasn’t really heard, as many wanted to keep America a backward agrarian state.

The main liberal hero of this era was Henry Clay of Kentucky.Henry Clay proposed the American System designed to pivot america forward. It consisted of a national bank to stabilize and regulate the economy,high tariffs so American products could compete abroad as well as bring in extra revenue to fund internal improvements which would make America the most technologically advanced nation in the world.

The plan was met with resistance on all fronts.The national bank was defeated by Andrew Jackson which would lead to our greatest economic collapse ever in 1837. High tariffs were resisted by the South until during Civil War when, as a result of no Southern resistance, high tariffs were passed that helped initiate the Industrial Revolution in our nation. Internal improvements met the most ferocious resistance of any of the three parts.

While initial improvements were meant to improve the Federal wellbeing in 1833 Andrew Jackson set a precedent for eliminating federally funded internal improvements by vetoing a road project in Kentucky. This ended nearly two decades of progress on these fronts. While in the nineteenth century much of the American system fell through the cracks, it is still one of the most important programs in American history as it was the blueprint for our great American economy.

By the end of WWI, America was arguably the greatest country in the world and many of our military and economic goals had been met and the entrepreneurs of the 19th century became the enemy in the twentieth contributing to the disgusting practice of conservative capitalism. In the 1920’s Calvin Coolidge became the first Fascist to take power in the United States. His agenda while initially ushering in the progress of the 1920s would cause the great depression and lead America into arguably its darkest hour.

Coolidge’s policy’s consisted of tax cuts for the wealthy,support for new industries and virtually no regulation of the economy.Meanwhile Coolidge vetoed bills that would support aid for farmers who had suffered so much to feed the displaced population of europe a decade before.The unregulated Stock Market crashed leading to a chain reaction destroying every aspect of the economy and at one point unemployment was over 33%.

Coolidge’s successor Hoover was unable to fix the problem because like conservatives of the past he refused to innovate and many of his solutions made the situation even worse such as a high tariff that tanked what at the time was a small recovery. FDR came in though and with innovation saved the situation. FDR introduced a program for every problem.To prevent people from losing their savings he formed Social Security.

To light up the south he formed the Tennessee Valley Authority. FDR used a bank holiday to stabilize the banking system and the Stock Exchange Commision was formed to regulate the stock market.The CCC gave people employment and helped the environment at the same time. As a result of FDR’s great policy’s America was slowly able to fight its way out of depression.

Now post FDR the battle of liberalism and progress and conservatism and Fascism has changed alot.Since FDR resistance to liberal policies has never been greater as progress of the greater good has moved very slowly.Sadly many Fascists such as Ronald Reagan and George Bush followed Coolidge’s model of giving taxes to the aristocrats while gutting the great programs that FDR and his liberal successors have fought so hard to promote.

However America has weathered the storm that these enemies threw at us and kept going. Recently the passage of Health Care Reform signed by good liberal Barack Obama symbolizes the greatest victory against the evils of fascism since LBJ instituted Medicare and Medicaid back in 1965.

While steps have been made to defeat Fascism the oil industry is still afloat destroying the environment and the economy and the fascists are still fighting to limit regulations in the banking industry. Like their ancestors before them however it’s still always an uphill battle.

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