This one is an "oldie but goodie" from years ago. Mike Silverman, host of the now-defunct TurnLeft.com, answered the all-too-common demagoguery equating "liberalism" with "communism", "euro-socialism", and all other negative caricatures showing liberalism is rarely, if ever, a good thing. In response, Mike wrote this article on his website. His copyright notice is included below, per his insistence that credit for this article be given to him.
Accomplishments of Liberalism
So what have you done for me? If you are an American citizen, liberalism has done a lot for you. This list is nowhere near complete, but it touches on the highlights of liberalism's proudest accomplishments. Also, notice how many of these have the word "present" for the time frame. This shows that we are still reaping the benefits of these liberal programs today, in 1996. If you have an addition to this list, please send me e-mail.
Interstate Highway System
Proposed by Roosevelt and erected by Eisenhower (a Republican), the Interstate system was a big government project. As much as anything else in the post WWII era, the Interstate is responsible for tremendous economic growth, prosperity, and has spawned an entire culture.
This act of Congress enabled millions upon millions of Americans to get college educations, something that most Americans had never had the opportunity to do previously. An entire generation of leaders, scientists, and business people owe their education to the GI Bill.
An end to child labor, 40 hour work weeks, the right of employees to collectively bargain, overtime pay, workplace safety, all of the things we take for granted today are thanks to liberal laws passed in the first half of this century. It was the conservatives who fought tooth and nail against the end of sweatshops and exploitation.
era: late 1940's-1950's
Foreign aid is a popular scapegoat these days. Those who would cut it should look back at the Marshall Plan, which rebuilt Europe, and is the major reason that Communism never made it past East Berlin.
The environment has gotten much better in the last 30 years thanks to liberals. Bald Eagles fly once again thanks to endangered species laws, most rivers and lakes are clean again due to anti-pollution laws, and frequent smog days are a thing of the past in most big American cities.
Food safety laws
Ever read Sinclair's "The Jungle?" That's what things were really like before food purity laws were on the books. Today cases of food poisoning are rare, and consumers know that whatever they buy is safe to eat.
Workplace safety laws
Long hours in unsafe conditions are much rarer today than in the past. Tragedies such as the Triangle Shirtwaist fire and child labor have been eliminated by liberal and progressive legislation.
This program has provided three generations of Americans retirement benefits, and nearly eliminated poverty among the elderly. The program is weakening now, but for 50 years it did its job to a T.
Liberalism and economic prosperity go hand-in-hand. Unlike the pseudo-boom of the 1980's, the 1950's and 1960's were a period of sustained and real growth for all sectors of the economy and all social classes. Taxes were fair, government worked, and America prospered under both Democratic and Republican administrations
It was Kennedy who challenged us to make it to the moon, and it is under his and Johnson's administrations that the space program took off, with numerous benefits to American industry and peoples' standard of living, not to mention national pride. If you are reading this on a computer, thank the space program and the liberals who got it going.
Kennedy inspired thousands of Americans to ask what they could do for their country, and the Peace Corps is his most visible and effective legacy
Civil rights movement
Liberal ideals drove the biggest change in American society since the Civil War, the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. All Americans who believe in freedom and opportunity cannot help but be inspired by the valiant struggles of MLK and others. Also recall if you will that the major opponents of civil rights were conservatives.
The fight against Totalitarianism
World War II was fought by all Americans; liberals and conservatives fought together the evil of Nazism. The ideal we fought for was freedom and the dignity of the individual against totalitarianism. Under the leadership of Roosevelt and Truman, we won. But the battle is never over, so we must remain vigilant.
Not a liberal program per se, but rather a government one, which many equate as the same thing. The internet is a good example of what a government program can do when allowed to work.
The Tennessee Valley project
The Depression-era government program bought electricity to thousands of impoverished families in Appalachia, prevented floods, and created thousands of new jobs.
Women's right to vote
Before 1920, half of America's population could not exercise the essential duty of citizenship.
Universal Public Education
The reason America is so strong economically is because we have a well-educated citizenry. Public schooling is the true melting pot of America, where every student, regardless of economic background can be taught the basics of citizenship. It is no coincidence that in the last 20 years, as conservatives have greatly weakened the public school system, that American students have scored lower on tests and our civic society has started to unravel.
National Weather Service
This is one of those things you never think about, but you are glad its there. Far from just forecasting the weather, the NWS also provides vital data to pilots and sailors, and the NWS satellites and observation posts provide the raw data that all other weather forecasting services (private ones too!) depend on.
Much of the great discoveries in science have come about through grants from the government. This is not to say that scientific genius depends on Washington, but the fact remains that pure science is expensive, and private industry will often not fund experiments which don't have a direct commercial potential. From Salk's polio vaccine to todays Human Genome Project and Hubble Space Telescope, the government is an important partner in scientific discovery.
Product Labeling/Truth in Advertising Laws
We take it for granted that if a claim is made publicly for a product, it's reasonable to assume it's true. Plus, every time we check the ingredients on a can or package of food, we should mentally call down blessings on the liberals who passed the necessary legislation over the anguished howls of the conservatives, who were convinced such info would be prohibitively expensive, and too big a burden on business.
Government funded water and sewage systems are an important part of modernity. In addition, organizations such as the National Institute of Health and the Center for Disease Control play an important part in maintaining the national health and preventing epidemics through research, vaccination programs, etc.
Morrill Land Grant Act
era: late 1800's
This act is the reason why nearly every state in the Union has a large public university. These centers of learning have educated untold millions of Americans. If you went to a school with a state name in it, then you were helped by liberalism.
This is not to say that Liberalism is perfect. Far from it. Like any ideology, it must be constantly on guard for signs of internal decay, and must embrace change in order to remain relevant in a changing world.
This document was written by Mike Silverman (firstname.lastname@example.org), and is from Turn Left, the liberal home page on the World Wide Web located at http://www.turnleft.com. Redistribution is encouraged, provided this notice remains intact.