Your article on liberalism revealed more about a segment of American society than it did about a social philosophy. This segment is composed of middle-class, economically successful voters. Especially in this election year, this group has been continually courted. Its needs and concerns have been given high priority. Candidates recoiled at the thought of offending its members. They spent time and money appealing to its fears, prejudices, and greed. It is the new powerful interest group in America.
It is interesting that a member of the Democratic National Committee said that liberals have lost touch with ordinary people. Who in the campaign mentioned the small farmers who have been dispossessed? The crime of illiteracy? The stranglehold of poverty? The tragedy of homelessness? The rise of discrimination against immigrants? The exploitation of labor and "union busting"? The epidemic of AIDS? The continuing struggle for equal rights for women? I submit that these are the concerns of the ordinary people whose causes liberals support. Why do the ordinary people see their problems ignored? Mainly, it is because they are politically expendable. However, like the national debt, the numbers are growing. Not much longer can the mainstream consider their brothers and sisters as a "fringe element."
The question is one of attitudes. With whom does the sacrosanct middle class identify? Nowadays, many people want to maintain their life style at the expense of others. Because it is more difficult to achieve the American Dream, a fortress mentality exists among the group of Americans who vote. Many people identify with the rich and well-off and are willing to sacrifice to attain a comfortable existence. It is difficult to think of the plight of the victims of society when many households are trying to acquire more material goods. The needs of the less fortunate become low priorities. Altruism becomes a luxury.
To me liberalism has always appealed to what is good in each of us. It challenges us to be better and to do more in the legacy of Robert F. Kennedy. It seeks justice and equality for all because each person has worth. One person's success should not limit the success of another. To paraphrase a description of Pope John XXIII, I believe that liberalism promotes love that is neither naive nor politically disastrous.
PATRICK J. MURPHY