Sens Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd are the last Great Liberal Senators (capitalize and say it with Pride!) we’ve got. Up to now, Byrd has been the orator, Kennedy the workhorse, banging away at procedure and leading the charge to keep extremist right-wing wackos off the Federal bench. But on March 1, Kennedy crossed over into Byrd territory and delivered a passionate, watershed speech that puts the liberal/progressive scorecard right out there where everybody can see it. It’s about time somebody said we did OK.
For much of the past century, American policy has been driven by a broad-based national commitment to expanding economic opportunity and enlarging the circle of those who share in the country’s prosperity. There was a widely held understanding that government had an indispensable role in preventing abuses of private economic power and opening the door to economic progress for more Americans.It began in the Progressive Era, when the federal government first challenged the robber barons, setting limits on the concentration of economic power, and establishing minimum standards to protect industrial workers and consumers.
It came of age in the New Deal, fashioning a new social contract setting forth government’s responsibility for the economic well-being of its citizens – helping to create an economic climate in which they could prosper, and providing a safety net in times of adversity.
It flourished in the post-war era exemplified by the GI Bill. Government programs made it possible for millions of veterans to enter the middle class – helping them obtain an education and purchase a home.
It took on new dimensions in the New Frontier and Great Society, seeking to lift up those trapped in a harsh underclass by prejudice and intractable poverty. Civil rights laws removed legal obstacles, and the war on poverty sought to break down economic barriers.
This national commitment to expanding opportunity produced extraordinary results. It transformed America – moving generations of low-wage workers, immigrants, and subsistence farmers into the middle-class, where stable jobs enabled parents to build a better life for their children.
CUNY (the City University of New York) has the whole thing on its website. Go read it. It’ll make your day.
(Thanx to No Fear of Freedom)