This is a personal account of how FDR made me a New-Deal liberal at the age of 13, that I continued to be through the conservative days of Reagan and his followers, until Barack Obama arrived and converted me to an Obama Liberal at the age of 91.
In the midst of the Great Depression, the rich Roosevelt devoted all his energies to helping the poor - in which class my family belonged. With his first warm, friendly and reassuring "fireside chat," he warmed me and millions of suffering Americans. In the midst of the Great Depression, Roosevelt made me an optimist.
Roosevelt and his brain trust gave us the New Deal: a long list of 3-letter and 4-letter agencies to improve the lot of poor families. Among the 3-letter agencies my family benefited most from are the PWA that put my father to work and the NYA, that put me to work. Among the 4-letter agencies are the FDIC that helped finance and the NLRB that helped labor. And let's not forget Social Security.
The New-Deal Era lasted, more or less, from FDR in the '30s to Carter in the '70s. During this time, the country was firmly on the Left: we improved the lot of the poor, the minorities, the powerless. This advance came to a screaching halt in the '80s. Ronald Reagan, with his "government is the problem" mantra, forced the country to the Right: he favored the rich, the elite and the powerful.
During all this time the Left-Center-Right paradigm defined the political landscape pretty well. The conflict was mainly between the poor and the rich. FDR was definitely on the Left and Reagan definitely on the Right. Most people considered themselves to be on the Left or the Right, with a few moderates in the Center.
But since Reagan's day, the political landscape has been so completely transformed that Barack Obama believes the Left-Center-Right paradigm to be obsolete. During the 2008 campaign he stated over and over again:
"There's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America."
He did not care whether his ideas came from Democrats or Republicans. He wanted to work together with everyone in order to solve tough problems to improve the lives of all Americans.
The Left-Center-Right paradigm has led to the fighting-and-polarizing "US VS. THEM" approach, followed by both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats fight for their factions: workers, minorities, secularists. Republicans fight for their factions: businesspeople, elite, fundamentalists. Both Democrats and Republicans fight for the self-interests of their members. Not for the common good.
Obama favors the "ALL OF US" approach. There's no point to this constant fighting. All it does is tear the country apart. More important, our political problems have become so complex that previous approaches are inadequate. We must all work together and compromise when necessary for the good of the country as a whole.
Politics has been transformed by:
TECHNOLOGY. The Internet, the cellphone, the tablet and the many other technological developments have so transformed society that Obama uses a new way of thinking - systems thinking - to solve today's complex problems.
THE CULTURE WAR.
The "war" pitted 2 irreconcilable groups - fundamentalist factions and secular factions - against each other. President Obama is trying to defuse the tension by encouraging community building among all Americans.
ECONOMICS. In the past, Democrats cited liberal economists and Republicans cited conservative economists. But Obama understands economics as a system. Instead of pushing the economic interests of any faction he plans for prosperity for all.
GLOBALIZATION. Though both Democrats and Republicans have been pushing globalization, they both have been sticking to the "US VS. THEM" approach, where U.S. is "US" and all other nations are "THEM." In contrast, Obama is eager to work together with other nations for the integration of the global economic system so it serves the needs of "ALL-OF-US" nations.
TERRORISM. President George W. Bush emphasized the "US VS. THEM" approach when he declared a "war on terror" and stated that, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." President Obama understands that only with an "ALL OF US" approach, whereby we cooperate with other nations can we prevent the spread of terrorism.
CLIMATE CHANGE. This is the biggest problem we face today. Both Democrats and Republicans insist on confrontational policies. But Obama understands that only through cooperation with other nations can climate catastrophe be averted.
The big political divide today is not between Left and Right but between those concerned with fighting only for their faction and those concerned also with the common good. In the first group are most Democrats and Republicans. In a sense they are all conservatives, since they persist in fighting the same old battles year after year. In the second group stands liberal President Barack Obama.
I'm happy to say I belong to the second group.
I am an Obama liberal.