Friday, May 26, 2023

When Their Idea of Liberty Is Your Idea of Death

This post gives a snapshot of another really excellent Thomas Edsall piece, provided courtesy of Chat GPT-4, making the central points accessible to MindBlog readers who are blocked by the NYTimes paywall. 

In this essay, Thomas Edsall explores the concept of freedom as a contested ideal in American politics, particularly in the run-up to the 2024 election.

President Biden, in announcing his re-election bid, frames freedom as being under threat by MAGA extremists. He emphasizes defending democracy, personal freedom, and civil rights, portraying the election as a choice between more or less freedom, more or fewer rights.

The essay also highlights contrasting views from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who views the threat to freedom as coming not only from government actions, but also from powerful institutions pushing a "woke" agenda. DeSantis criticizes elites in federal bureaucracy, media, Big Tech, and universities for using undemocratic means to impose their ideology on society.

Edsall cites the political philosopher Isaiah Berlin's two concepts of liberty: negative freedom, being free from interference by others, and positive freedom, the individual's desire to be their own master. This dichotomy is mirrored in the divergent notions of freedom espoused by figures such as George Wallace and Martin Luther King Jr.

The essay also examines differing political interpretations of freedom, from Biden's liberal tradition linked to F.D.R., emphasizing meeting material needs and democratic institutions, to Reagan's view of freedom as being largely free from government interference. Smith argues that Trump and DeSantis' notion of freedom is more constrained and restrictive, supporting democracy only as long as it produces the results they want.

Edsall points out that both the left and the right have imposed limitations on freedom. He notes conservative Republicans' restrictions on teaching about race and sex, banning books, suppressing voting, and barring local ordinances. Meanwhile, left-leaning students and faculty have sought to "cancel" figures who violate progressive orthodoxy, disrupt conservative speakers, and restrict teaching material considered harmful to marginalized groups.

Democrats and Republicans are competing to define and advocate for freedom. Isabel V. Sawhill from the Brookings Institution argues that Democrats have substance behind their freedom rhetoric, citing battles over abortion rights and Republicans' changing attitude towards the business community.

Francis Fukuyama highlights the rise of Trumpist populism and the shift of American conservatives towards a more European conservative approach. He argues that the right is using exaggerated fears of the "woke" agenda to justify authoritarian assaults on democracy, but Edsall points out that some voters view liberal policies as infringing on their freedom.

The essay examines homelessness as an ongoing debate over freedom and how progressives historically took the lead in defining and advancing freedom. William Galston argues that progressives lost their command of freedom in the 1960s, allowing conservatives to claim it.

As the 2024 election approaches, both parties have some favorable signs in polls. Republicans can point to Biden's vulnerability and conservative attitudes towards transgender issues. Democrats can highlight the public's opposition to book banning and strict abortion bans. The essay concludes by emphasizing the importance of the election in determining the nation's direction on freedom and liberty, and warns Democrats not to take anything for granted.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:25 AM

    Republicans talk about freedom from government interference. However, that seem to apply as long as you're not a woman. As it is the right of a government, control mostly by heterosexual white, men to allocate how much freedom women may or may not have.