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JFK: What It Means To Be A Liberal


JFK explains what kind of liberal he is, and presents his vision as a candidate.

Acceptance of the New York Liberal Party Nomination
September 14, 1960


“What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label “Liberal?” If by “Liberal” they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer’s dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of “Liberal.” But if by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

But first, I would like to say what I understand the word “Liberal” to mean and explain in the process why I consider myself to be a “Liberal,” and what it means in the presidential election of 1960.

In short, having set forth my view — I hope for all time — two nights ago in Houston, on the proper relationship between church and state, I want to take the opportunity to set forth my views on the proper relationship between the state and the citizen. This is my political credo:

I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man’s ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.

I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.

Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies. And the only basic issue in the 1960 campaign is whether our government will fall in a conservative rut and die there, or whether we will move ahead in the liberal spirit of daring, of breaking new ground, of doing in our generation what Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson did in their time of influence and responsibility.

Our liberalism has its roots in our diverse origins. Most of us are descended from that segment of the American population which was once called an immigrant minority. Today, along with our children and grandchildren, we do not feel minor. We feel proud of our origins and we are not second to any group in our sense of national purpose. For many years New York represented the new frontier to all those who came from the ends of the earth to find new opportunity and new freedom, generations of men and women who fled from the despotism of the czars, the horrors of the Nazis, the tyranny of hunger, who came here to the new frontier in the State of New York. These men and women, a living cross section of American history, indeed, a cross section of the entire world’s history of pain and hope, made of this city not only a new world of opportunity, but a new world of the spirit as well.

Tonight we salute Governor and Senator Herbert Lehman as a symbol of that spirit, and as a reminder that the fight for full constitutional rights for all Americans is a fight that must be carried on in 1961.

Many of these same immigrant families produced the pioneers and builders of the American labor movement. They are the men who sweated in our shops, who struggled to create a union, and who were driven by longing for education for their children and for the children’s development. They went to night schools; they built their own future, their union’s future, and their country’s future, brick by brick, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, and now in their children’s time, suburb by suburb.

Tonight we salute George Meany as a symbol of that struggle and as a reminder that the fight to eliminate poverty and human exploitation is a fight that goes on in our day. But in 1960 the cause of liberalism cannot content itself with carrying on the fight for human justice and economic liberalism here at home. For here and around the world the fear of war hangs over us every morning and every night. It lies, expressed or silent, in the minds of every American. We cannot banish it by repeating that we are economically first or that we are militarily first, for saying so doesn’t make it so. More will be needed than goodwill missions or talking back to Soviet politicians or increasing the tempo of the arms race. More will be needed than good intentions, for we know where that paving leads.

In Winston Churchill’s words, “We cannot escape our dangers by recoiling from them. We dare not pretend such dangers do not exist.”

And tonight we salute Adlai Stevenson as an eloquent spokesman for the effort to achieve an intelligent foreign policy. Our opponents would like the people to believe that in a time of danger it would be hazardous to change the administration that has brought us to this time of danger. I think it would be hazardous not to change. I think it would be hazardous to continue four more years of stagnation and indifference here at home and abroad, of starving the underpinnings of our national power, including not only our defense but our image abroad as a friend.

This is an important election — in many ways as important as any this century — and I think that the Democratic Party and the Liberal Party here in New York, and those who believe in progress all over the United States, should be associated with us in this great effort. The reason that Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson had influence abroad, and the United States in their time had it, was because they moved this country here at home, because they stood for something here in the United States, for expanding the benefits of our society to our own people, and the people around the world looked to us as a symbol of hope.

I think it is our task to re-create the same atmosphere in our own time. Our national elections have often proved to be the turning point in the course of our country. I am proposing that 1960 be another turning point in the history of the great Republic.

Some pundits are saying it’s 1928 all over again. I say it’s 1932 all over again. I say this is the great opportunity that we will have in our time to move our people and this country and the people of the free world beyond the new frontiers of the 1960s.”

Bullying The Poor And The Weak

bullyMost of us woke up to the news that once more the poor had benefits cut. Since they have few advocates anywhere in our governmental system this is hardly a surprise. As a group the poor are beat up day in and day out on right wing media. One thing they always point out is that a job is the best poverty program. What they fail to point out is that Republicans in congress have obstructed multiple jobs bills. Yesterday Paul Krugman pointed out in his New York Times column that there is an out and out war on the poor. After discussing the current state of Republicans shredding the safety net, Krugman goes on to say:

“So what’s this all about? One reason, the sociologist Daniel Little suggested in a recent essay, is market ideology: If the market is always right, then people who end up poor must deserve to be poor. I’d add that some leading Republicans are, in their minds, acting out adolescent libertarian fantasies. “It’s as if we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel right now,” declared Paul Ryan in 2009.

But there’s also, as Mr. Little says, the stain that won’t go away: race.

In a much-cited recent memo, Democracy Corps, a Democratic-leaning public opinion research organization, reported on the results of focus groups held with members of various Republican factions. They found the Republican base “very conscious of being white in a country that is increasingly minority” — and seeing the social safety net both as something that helps Those People, not people like themselves, and binds the rising nonwhite population to the Democratic Party. And, yes, the Medicaid expansion many states are rejecting would disproportionately have helped poor blacks.

So there is indeed a war on the poor, coinciding with and deepening the pain from a troubled economy. And that war is now the central, defining issue of American politics.”

It is not just a war on the poor but also a war on those who may be loosely affiliated with the poor or subgroups within the poor.
- There is a very open and ugly war on women. This includes the war on abortion which just adds to the need for a safety net.
- War on the elderly that has been in the background for many years is slowly coming into the open.
- War on immigrants. This has really escalated. The immigrant group is one group that is fighting back.
- There has been an almost open war on workers for a long time which has lead to lowering wages in general and many full time positions not even earning enough money to get out of abject poverty working for major corporation ( hint: McDonald’s and Walmart)
- And the granddaddy of them all – the war on unions that is well into its second century. Strong unions could help in resolving many of these problems.
- Finally the new war on those groups likely to vote for Democrats. These are the new restrictions on voting that seem to be aimed at groups mentioned above.

As I mentioned, the immigrant group is showing signs of working as a block. One of the tactics that Republicans have perfected over the years is to split groups apart with wedge issues to keep them from forming a block to go after their issues. If they are to have any form of success, they need to get by the wedge issues and join with other groups to elect representatives to work for all the “other” groups.

If you take all those in this country that either are a member of one of the groups mentioned above or have a loved one who is a member of one of those groups, I would estimate it would cover nearly 80% of Americans. Imagine, just imagine if 80% of Americans banded together to focus on electing and pushing representatives who would work for a better life for all. Those votes would speak very loudly. So loud they could win the Wars!

Who Owns the Earth?

email inboxThis article by Noam Chomsky, emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, came from Truthout this month. It is relevant to the current conversation about immigration, borders, and protecting the commons. Read the entire article here. Following is a brief excerpt.

“Few borders in the world are so heavily guarded by sophisticated technology, and so subject to impassioned rhetoric, as the one that separates Mexico from the United States, two countries with amicable diplomatic relations.

That border was established by U.S. aggression during the 19th century. But it was kept fairly open until 1994, when President Bill Clinton initiated Operation Gatekeeper, militarizing it.

Before then, people had regularly crossed it to see relatives and friends. It’s likely that Operation Gatekeeper was motivated by another event that year: the imposition of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is a misnomer because of the words ‘free trade.’

Doubtless the Clinton administration understood that Mexican farmers, however efficient they might be, couldn’t compete with highly subsidized U.S. agribusiness, and that Mexican businesses couldn’t compete with U.S. multinationals, which under NAFTA rules must receive special privileges like ‘national treatment’ in Mexico. Such measures would almost inevitably lead to a flood of immigrants across the border.”

For more of Noam Chomsky’s article, click here.

Don’t Build the Danged Fence

immigrationThe U.S. Congressman from Iowa’s fourth district made some comments about immigration recently. Actually, he’s made a lot of them over the years. We can’t let him frame the discussion or worse, re-distribute his memes. For why, read Mark Karlin’s interview with George Lakoff, “Progressives Need to Use Language That Reflects Moral Values.

The idea of building a fence around the U.S. border is as lame as a joke about corn at a 4-H meeting, funny though those jokes may be. Proponents of what Senator John McCain of Arizona called the “dang fence” across the southern U.S. border, don’t get the humor. In 2010, I wrote about immigration,

The author believes that as long as we maintain borders, we create a form of apartheid where the haves (in the U.S.) will use the have-nots (in Mexico, China, India and Africa) to do their menial work here or in their countries, largely without social justice. The borders serve to keep them out, when we should be letting them in. America will grow stronger with open borders, even if most Americans and some Arizonans don’t believe it.

Troll activity on Blog for Iowa was heavy after that post, mostly from organized groups who favored restricting immigration, illegal immigration particularly. The same folks who gave us Arizona’s SB 1070.

To deny the global reality of population growth is plain dumb. To think the U.S. can keep everything to ourselves reflects a lack of understanding about who we are as a people, and how we fit into the global village.

To deny the effects of our wars on the creation of conflict migration is to ignore the vast amount of U.S. blood and treasure invested in our endless wars.

To deny climate change is to lack an understanding that it will impact not only small island nations like Tuvalu and the Maldives, but will result in tens of millions of people needing someplace to go.

To deny the economic reasons why undocumented people from Mexico, Guatemala, and other places in central America come north is evidence of a misunderstanding of the role U.S. policy and the North American Free Trade Agreement played in creating economic reasons for the migration.

There is nothing new in these denials and a lot to learn.

What we learned in grade school that applies is from the Great Wall of China. Our teachers taught us that while the wall may have been successful in keeping nomadic groups and warlike people out of China, the unintended consequence was that Chinese culture calcified during the period. Whether what our teachers taught us is historically accurate, I can’t say, but it makes sense. The United States will be the less for building a fence to keep people out.

So as we hear outrageous comments about immigration in the media, and in conversations in society, I urge you to refrain from repeating their memes. Instead, work toward solutions. There is no single resolution to the need for immigration reform in this country. But it begins with each of us, individually and collectively.

While you’re at it, and while I’m being a bit preachy, read Derrick Jensen’s article in Orion Magazine, “Forget Shorter Showers: Why personal change does not equal political change,” and get involved in local politics.

Dream For ALL Rally Immigration Reform



Ok – Steve King Is Nuts

object of Steve King's fear?

object of Steve King’s fear?

With a common name like Steve King, you would think a headline like that might cause some confusion. “Which Steve King” you might think, “there are many of them.” But in conjunction with the word “nuts” the likely Steve Kings are narrowed down to one. That is the King of the Crazies from Northwest Iowa, the one and only congressman Steve King.

Now, one would think with a reputation such that the words nuts and crazy are frequently associated with your name it would be somewhat difficult to first be elected and then be re-elected several times. But King’s constituency is such that getting re-elected is not that hard. In his area he is considered a moderate. At least 50% +1 or more think so. So he actually represents the majority of his district. Think what that says about his district.

One of his major quests has been to keep our borders safe. Well at least one of them anyway. The southern one. Not sure if I have ever heard him call for closing the northern border. If he has, I apologize and thank him for being consistent. But for some reason I think there is only one border he is interested in closing. Anyone want to venture a guess as to why?

Over the years King has made some truly memorable statements. His suggestions for an East Berlin style wall between the US and Mexico was a thing of - well I would say nightmares – when dealing with a country that is one of your two major trade partners. King speaks in code words and thinly veiled racial terms. His tweet Wednesday – “brazen self professed illegal aliens have just invaded my DC office. Obama’s lawless order gives them de facto immunity from U.S. law” (10:42 AM – 13 Jun 2013) shows with little left to the imagination the total disgust with which he holds humans in contempt who are not like him. Simply stated, King was the original tea party before anyone else had even conceived the idea.

He also claims to be Christian, but where Christ taught love for your fellow man with a command to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, heal the sick and visit those in prison, King dumps on that with little but scorn for the hungry, the naked, the sick and the poor in general. He is what I term a christianist – someone who claims to follow Christ but only uses the facade of religion to further his or her own goals.

Whenever the name King is invoked in the news you can bet it will be another big embarrassment for Iowa. As pathetic as Chuck Grassley has become, he at least makes a cogent statement every now and then. King doesn’t even try. He is the arrogant middle school bully who is in a position of being almost untouchable. His district seems to love his little bully act. They seem to live in a bubble where reality seldom penetrates and Steve King is a hero.

Iowans in the other 3 districts can’t defeat him. So in the mean time I wish newscasts could somehow run a disclaimer prior to a story about Steve King something to the effect that “Steve King only represents a very small section of Iowa. The rest of Iowa is sane and wants nothing to do with him.”

"aliens" in Rep. Steve King's office

“aliens” in Rep. Steve King’s office

Walk For Immigration Reform To Be Held In Des Moines

email inboxFrom BFIA’s inbox today, a note from Bob Krause:

Dear Democratic Friend,

We as Iowa Democrats need to to consider ourselves as Latinos for just one day on Saturday, June 15. That is when people from across Iowa will gather in Des Moines to take a short walk in support of Iowa’s Latino/Latina community. The walk, called the “Walk for Immigration Reform Now,” will start in the Des Moines Latino Business Corridor near E. 16th St. & E. Grand Ave and end at SE 9th St. & Scott Ave, beginning at 1 PM.

Unfortunately, Iowa is developing a national image problem by being home to one of the most vociferous and visible anti-immigrant politicians in the nation. And last week, Congressman Steve King, 4th District of Iowa, did it again!

He set the image of Iowa as an anti-Latino State by proposing and passing an amendment to a bill in the US House. The amendment was so horrible that, according to the US House Hispanic Caucus, it treats “DREAMers and undocumented spouses of service members in the same way as violent criminals.”

‘Dreamers’ is a term used to define adults who were brought to the United States as children by their parents, but do not have immigration papers. Many have graduated from Iowa high schools, and have even attended Iowa colleges. But, Steve King’s amendment would actually place these individuals on the same priority level for deportation as criminals.

I can still remember how upset I felt at Rep. King when I discovered in 2009, that he worked to kill the opportunity for overseas nationality spouses of US soldiers KILLED IN ACTION, to come to the United States as permanent residents. To me, it seemed the ultimate slap in the face for someone who had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. This is a second, unpatriotic slap from a person who has neither felt the sting of battle nor volunteered for service.

Iowans need to let America know that we welcome Latinos in Iowa.  We do not need Iowa known as the state that hid the welcome mat.

bob krauseYours,

Bob Krause

Krause for Iowa Exploratory Committee for Governor
2127 High Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50312



Postville Immigration Raid 5 Years Later

postville pic

Click on the image for more information about this event in Cedar Rapids today at noon.




When Immigrant-Bashing Became A Political Liability

immigrationThe Bipartisan Immigration Overhaul Bill

The 2012 elections saw Latinos, the nation’s fastest growing electoral group, overwhelmingly vote for Obama.  This result caused a Republican awakening as the party’s immigrant-bashing became a political liability.  It now appears that a compromise bill with immigration reforms may become the framework for a new law.

The recently released Senate bill attracts the most attention while the House continues to work on its own version.  Using complicated procedures, the proposed Senate legislation offers the hope of citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants.  The main features of the bill include border security, visa guidelines, employment verification, and the much-debated path to citizenship.

The bill calls for tightening border security at the U.S.-Mexican border even though the Obama administration spent $18 billion on enforcement last year and deported a record 400,000.  Border enforcement comes in the form of more surveillance, fencing, and patrols.

The reform bill creates a “registered provisional” status which allows undocumented individuals to stay in the United States without risk of deportation.   This status requires paying a fine and back taxes, holding a job, and having a clean criminal record.  After ten years, those who meet these criteria can apply for permanent resident visas, known as green cards, followed three years later by citizenship eligibility.  The bill also increases the number of green cards for those stuck in backlogs for ten years or more.

The 13 year path to citizenship would be reduced for DREAMers, those who came without documentation before age 16, graduated from high school, and stayed in the U.S. for at least five years.  DREAMers could apply for permanent residency after five years and citizenship immediately thereafter if they served two years in the military or completed two years of college.

The bill also creates three new worker programs for agricultural, “low-skilled,” and “high skilled” workers.  More workers in these categories unlock the potential of the immigration system.  They must, moreover, be paid at the same wage as other employees of similar experience or at the prevailing wage, whichever is higher.

The bill includes expanded workplace verification and entry/exit visa systems. Employers would be mandated to use an improved electronic system for determining the legal status of current and perspective employees.

The proposed legislation would profoundly affect the American economy.  New jobs will be created and filled, new patents will be granted, and new businesses will be opened.  The U.S. Treasury will collect more taxes, and younger, healthy workers will pay into Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

The proposed legislation, however, faces treacherous legislative challenges.  The only immigration reform some members of Congress would approve is improving border security.  Others remain steadfastly opposed to any hint of what they call “amnesty.”  Finally some will object to the cost, mostly for enforcement, estimated at $17 billion over 10 years.

The excitement generated by the comprehensive reform bill is tinged with disappointment caused by the length of the 13-year path to full citizenship and leaving out those who arrived after December 30, 2011.  Others worry about scraping together enough money to pay taxes and fees needed to receive legal residency.

The reform bill fails to cover the 4.3 million LGBT people awaiting family reunification and wanting a chance at citizenship.  Immigrants with provisional status would be subject to a punitive clause that makes them ineligible for any federal means-tested public benefits, such as food stamps.

The bill’s complicated provisions will ignite heated debate and passage remains uncertain.  Still Senator Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) argues that citizenship for immigrants without papers reflects four realities:  “Americans support it, Latino voters expect it, Democrats want it, and Republicans need it.”   The bill is a beginning, something to be nurtured and improved.

Ralph Scharnau teaches U. S. history at Northeast Iowa Community College, Peosta.  He holds a Ph.D. from Northern Illinois University.  His publications include articles on labor history in Iowa and Dubuque.  Scharnau, a peace and justice activist, writes monthly op-ed columns for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.

A New Opportunity For Young Undocumented Immigrants

by Ralph Scharnau

The United States is a country in the midst of a seismic demographic shift.  According to some estimates, those with Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders heritages will together outnumber whites by 2040.  The Census Bureau recently announced that for the first time in the country’s history white births no longer constitute a majority.

Given the historically contested intersection of race and class in the U.S., immigrants without papers bring highly charged debates over immigration restriction.  Undocumented immigrants in the United States number around 12 million people.  The vast majority of them have been living in the U.S. for seven years or longer.  Though roughly 60% of these folks are from Mexico, the rest come from Asia, the Pacific Islands, South America, Europe, and other places.

Undocumented immigrants are in many ways already citizens.  They hold jobs, pay taxes, and consume goods and services.  They live in our communities as family members, friends, and neighbors as well as co-workers, schoolmates, and fellow worshippers.   As President Obama stated, “They are Americans . . . in every single way but one: on paper.”

In 2010, undocumented immigrants paid over $11 billion in local and state sales and property taxes as well as paying into Social Security and Medicare.  They hold agriculture, meat-processing, construction, landscaping, hospitality, manufacturing, or wholesale and retail trade jobs.  Their consumer spending helps produce jobs.  Their compensation, however, usually falls under that of other workers, and they are more likely to be victims of wage and hour theft.

In 2010, a bill called the DREAM Act, short for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, would grant permanent resident status for young people who came to the United States undocumented but graduated from college or served in the military.  The DREAM Act received majorities in the House and Senate, but a minority in the Senate that included 36 Republicans and 5 Democrats blocked it.

In fiscal 2011, the Obama administration deported a record of nearly 400,000 people.  At the same time immigrants’ rights activists continued to push for the DREAM Act.  In the face of congressional inaction, they won a major victory on June 15 of this year when President Obama announced his administration will halt deportations of undocumented youth.  Nearly two-thirds of likely voters indicated they approved his executive decision.

Under the new policy, DREAM-eligible individuals, called DREAMers, will be eligible to receive “removal relief” for two years (subject to renewal) and work authorization if they meet the following criteria:  arrived in the U.S. before age l6: are younger than 30; have been in the U.S. for at least five continuous years; graduated from a US high school or earned a GED or served in the US armed forces; and have not been convicted of a crime or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

This plan will impact an estimated 800,000 individuals who came to this country as children, in some cases infants.  Many came through no fault of their own and without a real understanding of their undocumented status.  For years, DREAMers lived in constant fear of deportation.

The President’s executive directive, based on prosecutorial discretion, is a temporary measure.  It grants no legal status or pathway to citizenship.  Only Congress can confer these rights.  Yet it allows DREAMers to continue living and working as Americans in the only country they call home.

Although a step in the right direction, Obama’s executive authority is no substitute for comprehensive immigration reform.  We need an immigration system that addresses fairness and adequacy issues by cutting the visa backlog, increasing the number of green cards, and overhauling the naturalization process.

Ralph Scharnau teaches U. S. history at Northeast Iowa Community College, Peosta.  He holds a Ph.D. from Northern Illinois University.  His publications include articles on labor history in Iowa and Dubuque.  Scharnau, a peace and justice activist, writes monthly op-ed columns for the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.