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Thank The Liberals For Saving Americaby Alan Colmes
In Thank the Liberals, political commentator and Fox News radio host Alan Colmes explains how people who fight for liberal ideals help our country move forward. With his trademark humor and wit, Colmes walks readers through the founding of our nation and shows how America was based on a liberal idea. Our very founders were progressives, and it’s/i>
In Thank the Liberals, political commentator and Fox News radio host Alan Colmes explains how people who fight for liberal ideals help our country move forward. With his trademark humor and wit, Colmes walks readers through the founding of our nation and shows how America was based on a liberal idea. Our very founders were progressives, and it’s progressives who have led America to be the country it is today. Through legislation, constitutional amendments, Supreme Court decisions, and the actions of grassroots Americans, we see that it is liberal efforts that are responsible for programs intrinsic to our American DNA—programs like Social Security, Medicare, assistance for the needy, and the government safety nets that have saved us during the recent economic downturn.
Colmes’s goal is to show not only where we are today, but also where we as a nation are going and how it is liberals who will get us there. The divide between conservative and progressive aims has gotten ever more stark, and it seems that many conservatives are trying to take us backward, revoking or rolling back hard-won rights and impeding progress, which at best keeps us stranded in the status quo. This continual push to the right is something liberals must fight, and fight they do. On everything from preserving the separation of church and state, to climate change, regulating immigration, caring for the poor, and making peace, not war, Colmes shows how liberals are leading the way.
Thank the Liberals will open readers’ eyes to some of the battles that will help define our nation as we move forward. Colmes boldly shows that as America progresses, it will become more liberal—just as it has done throughout history—and that this will enable us to continue to stand out as a beacon of freedom and democracy for the rest of the world.
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THANK the LIBERALS FOR SAVING AMERICA (AND WHY YOU SHOULD)
By ALAN COLMES
HAY HOUSE, INC.Copyright © 2012 Alan Colmes
All right reserved.
Chapter OneYOU'RE A LIBERAL (BUT MAY NOT KNOW IT)
You're a liberal. If you think you're a conservative, this assertion is surely quite shocking. You may even be so upset upon reading this that you're considering either throwing this book down, shooting a hole in it with your shotgun, or, even worse, burning it the way Florida pastor Terry Jones burned the Koran. Or you may feel the need to toss this book aside, even temporarily, and find solace in the Bible. However, that's a fairly liberal book, too, so it may not help you get any more comfortable than this one will. The very fact that you haven't done any of these things (yet) shows how open-minded you are. So don't disappoint and go all Terry Jones on me here.
If right now you're saying, "But Alan, there's no way I'm a liberal," just do me the favor of hearing me out. Exhibit A to prove my point that you're a liberal—maybe in conservative clothing—is that you are an American. (If you're not an American, keep reading; you'll discover how great it is to be one.) As an American, you're free right now to put down this book (don't), go outside for a walk, take a drive, or head for the nearest airport and fly anywhere in the world (except some non-liberal countries). Or, you can stay home, go online, and get almost any information you want without it being firewalled by the government. And that's largely because liberals have stood up against such regulations as the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) that would have squelched free speech on the Internet and made criminals out of innocent content creators. This doesn't mean the government hasn't already overreached. Even if the government knows what websites you're going to because of the very unpatriotic Patriot Act, they're likely not paying too much attention to you and won't do anything about it. You want to leave your job, start a business, go to a food court and gorge out, or just goof off—this is the land of the free, so go ahead (after you're done with this book).
The United States Constitution has proved itself the most marvelously elastic compilation of rules of government ever written. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt
America was founded on a liberal idea. The concept of a representative democracy without a state religion was a move leftward from the motherland, where the Church of England dictated certain laws and mores. Our forefathers thought that a state religion was repressive, and so they established one of our key tenets: freedom of (and from) religion. There can be no religious test to hold public office in America. That's liberal. A commander-in-chief who's a civilian, not a member of the military: liberal. Taxation with representation: liberal. A tripartite form of government where no branch can rule the other: yep, that's liberal, too.
Our founders, the ones conservatives revere so much, took these very liberal ideas and made them so much a part of our DNA that America is unthinkable without them.
Let's look at some of the parts of our founding document that don't often get enough press but show how liberal we are simply because we're American.
Article I, Section 8 lays out the rights of Congress, stating in part that they have the right to "lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States." That the government is specifically charged with providing for the "general Welfare" of our population has been much disputed by conservatives. Over time, liberals have fought for numerous items that fall in this category that have greatly benefited Americans, programs conservatives forget they initially opposed. You'll read about them later, in the chapter "Have You Thanked a Liberal Today?"
Article I, Section 8 also guarantees your right to your personal intellectual property by saying that Congress has the right to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." If you invent something or write something, it's not the property of the government. This is why entrepreneurs and scientists flock to America. They know that here they are free to create and that they will get the credit they deserve for their work.
Our founding document establishes our court system, giving us a way to seek redress for grievances. The Constitution establishes the creation of various courts, available for different purposes, depending on the issue at hand. Congress has the authority to create bankruptcy courts and tax courts to handle specific issues. Article III says, "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish," giving us a federal court system and an appeals process.
Article I, Section 9 gives us the right to seek relief from unlawful imprisonment. A prisoner or someone on his or her behalf can petition for a "writ" of habeas corpus—an order from the government that it has the right to detain the person in question. This protects us from being held arbitrarily by the state, without evidence or just cause.
Our entire judicial system, outlined in the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments of our Constitution—is built upon a liberal idea. The focus is on protecting the individual, especially the minority, from the tyranny of the majority. For example, the presumption of innocence, which is implied by the right to remain silent and the right to a jury, places the burden of proof on the prosecutor.
The Fifth Amendment calls for grand juries to protect us from being prosecuted when there isn't enough evidence to bring a case against us. This amendment also guarantees that we can't be tried for the same crime twice and that we are protected from having to testify against ourselves. This was originally written to guard against torture and forced confession. Most important, we can't be deprived of life, liberty, or property without "due process of law." If charged with a crime, there is a process in place to guarantee us a fair trial. This includes being given adequate notice to prepare a defense against those charges. The Fifth Amendment also contains the promise that the government can't take our property away without just compensation. We probably take all of this for granted, but that's probably because we've never lived in a country where a terrifying knock on the door at 3 a.m. could mean a phony trial in a kangaroo court or a demand that we leave our homes because someone from the government needs or wants them.
The Sixth Amendment continues the discussion of our judicial system through the promise that anyone accused of committing a crime has the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of peers, in the jurisdiction where the alleged crime was committed. You have the right to be told the charges against you, to confront your accuser in court, to have witnesses on your behalf, and to have counsel represent you. And if you can't afford a lawyer, the state will provide one. These guarantees, so particular to our way of life, arose from the liberal thinking of our forebears.
In the Seventh Amendment, we are guaranteed the right to a jury trial in civil cases, such as resolving disputes between individuals and organizations. This amendment also tells us that when a jury in one court makes a factual determination, it can't be overturned by another court.
Our Eighth Amendment says the punishment has to fit the crime: there can be no excessive fines or sentences like having your arm cut off for stealing a loaf of bread. Certain kinds of punishment are specifically outlawed, no matter how heinous the crime—that's where the "no cruel and unusual punishment" clause comes in. In America, you can't be hanged, drawn, and quartered (dragged by a horse to your hanging, then cut into four pieces). You can't be burned alive or dissected or disemboweled. Even though an unruly mob may wish it on a despicable criminal, our Constitution guarantees that no person is ever treated with this kind of cruelty. Also, we don't execute the mentally handicapped or those under age 18.
Due process is also called for in the Fourteenth Amendment, which takes the protection of life, liberty, and property guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment and expands it to apply to state and local governments as well. The Fourteenth Amendment also contains the Equal Protection Clause, which extends the same guarantees to everyone, regardless of race, creed, color, or religion. It arose out of the ending of slavery and the overturning of Dred Scott v. Sandford, which ruled that blacks could not be citizens of the United States. With Amendment Fourteen, anyone born or naturalized in the United States is a citizen, and Americans have representation in Congress based on our true population—a population that includes all citizens, not just white men. A number of other liberal ideas laid out in our Constitution help set us apart from other countries. We are not subject to the whims of a dictator who could decide we are acting against the best interests of the country. That is why, in Article III of the Constitution, treason is specifically defined to mean declaring war on our country or giving aid and comfort to an enemy. In America, it's not treasonous to disagree with the powers that be, a protection further enhanced by our First Amendment.
Americans are also protected through specific regulations on our government. Our presidents are term-limited, and they have to report the "State of the Union" to Congress every year. Plus, there is a process to throw the bum out if he (or she) commits a high crime or misdemeanor. But let's not forget that presidents are Americans, too, and they need protection against unjust acts. So, even if a president is impeached, which is simply an accusation, it takes a two-thirds majority of the Senate to convict. This purposely high bar—the ruling supermajority—is required for conviction, to avoid a partisan witch hunt. It couldn't even be reached when a highly politicized Republican Senate voted on whether Bill Clinton should be thrown out of office for lying about a sexual relationship. Our liberal Constitution protects not only private citizens but also elected ones from being unfairly treated. When you celebrate our freedom, it's because of these very liberal considerations that our founders codified. And there's much more.
In addition to the judicial guarantees already discussed, the Bill of Rights establishes our personal freedoms. Empowering the individual over the government was a progressive concept when it was implemented and remains one today. Our First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech and assembly, takes religion out of the state's purview, and further promises a way to redress grievances, is a shining example of what a liberal country stands for, and it has withstood the test of time. Even the right to bear arms is a liberal concept, though some people have gone a bit crazy with it and forgotten that no right is absolute.
Among other liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights: A soldier can't barge into your house and demand shelter. That's a pretty good one that doesn't get mentioned very often, and it's our Third Amendment. The Fourth Amendment guarantees that you are secure in your home, that the government can't randomly check what's in your dresser without a warrant. If someone in a government uniform wants to know what you're up to, you don't have to tell him or her, or let the person into your home without a court order. I have so often heard from conservatives arguments like, "If I've done nothing wrong, I've got nothing to worry about." The better response is, "If I've done nothing wrong, the government has nothing to worry about." If you are okay welcoming uniformed agents into your home at any time, without your consent, you would have been very comfortable living under rulers like Josef Stalin or Saddam Hussein.
One of the wonderful promises our founders made to us is that our rights don't necessarily begin and end with those listed in the Constitution. Thus, the Ninth Amendment says, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Just in case something comes up that isn't specified, we are protected. Our founders were prescient enough to know that not everything could be covered in a relatively short document. They also knew that not everything they wrote would hold for eternity.
Nevertheless, our nation's blueprint was so well devised that it's been altered only a handful of times. And almost every time it was amended, it liberalized our country even more. The Thirteenth Amendment, for example, ended slavery and involuntary servitude, and the Fourteenth Amendment, as mentioned before, made sure that former slaves were recognized as American citizens with all the rights that go along with that. The Fourteenth Amendment has also been cited to make sure that blacks are not kept off juries, to provide equal education for blacks and whites, and to apportion congressional districts to ensure "one man, one vote." Amendment Fifteen ensured that former slaves could vote, and that going forward, neither color nor previous servitude would be an impediment to voting.
The Seventeenth Amendment, adopted in 1913, put more power in the hands of Americans by giving them the power to vote for United States senators. Until then, state legislatures chose the senators. Vesting that privilege in the general population gave us more say about who represents us. The Nineteenth Amendment gave women the vote, further empowering the citizenry. More voting enfranchisement came with the Twenty-fourth Amendment, which did away with the poll tax. Until then, poorer Americans were prevented from voting if they couldn't afford to pay up. Voting rights were expanded again with the Twenty-sixth Amendment, which lowered the minimum voting age from 21 to 18. It was finally determined that those who are asked to serve in the armed forces and die for our country should have a say in who runs it. The Twenty-first Amendment repealed Prohibition, overturning the wrongheaded Eighteenth, which banned the manufacture, sale, and transport of liquor.
See how progressive our Constitution is?
Contrary to what many conservatives would have you believe, our Constitution is not based on the Bible, but rather on English common law dating back to the 1215 Magna Carta. "Common law" means it arose organically from the people rather than being handed down from some higher authority. Pennsylvania's founder, William Penn, had published a copy of the Magna Carta, and the founders of our colonies used rights enshrined in it to organize our first governments. Much of our Constitution comes directly from the Magna Carta, including the right to a speedy trial, the right to due process, and habeas corpus. But we created even more freedoms than our English forebears. Our legal blueprint goes beyond English common law to establish rights that are uniquely American, making us among the most liberal nations on earth. While the Magna Carta gave people rights to protect them from a monarchy, we retained the rights but made sure there was no monarchy. Article I, Section 9 of our Constitution says there shall be "no Title of Nobility," which means that we don't have power centralized in any one, unelected person. "No Title of Nobility" means we don't have kings and queens in America. Well, Ralph Kramden was the king of his castle, and Aretha is the Queen of Soul, but that's because of wonderful comedy and musical acts, not congressional ones. If you want an honorific other than Mr., Mrs., or Ms. in America, you have to earn it at an institution of higher learning.
Without Thomas Jefferson and his Declaration of Independence, there would have been no American revolution that announced universal principles of liberty. ~Christopher Hitchens
English common law didn't go far enough for a people that was more progressive, and that shows in another of our founding documents, the very liberal Declaration of Independence. Here we are guaranteed not just legal rights but also natural rights—rights beyond what any culture or government can give us. The Declaration was our notice of separation from an empire that didn't grant us the freedoms we cherish. It declares that "all men are created equal" and have the "unalienable" right to "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." Key to the thinking that gave us these words is that these rights aren't something granted to us by some noble class or even by our officials. They are "endowed" by a "Creator," whatever you perceive that creator to be. If you aren't a God-believer, you can chalk it up to "Laws of Nature," another way our founders put it in the Declaration. The opening paragraph calls for "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind"—we wanted England to respect our choices, and we need to respect those of other sovereign nations. This is something good to remember when we are critical of other, non-American ways of life.
The Declaration also asserts that for our "Safety and Happiness," we have the right to "alter or to abolish" a government "whenever ... [it] becomes destructive." To this end, the document lists grievances against the King of England, who would not "assent to laws ... for the public good" and who repeatedly dissolved the legislature when it didn't meet his needs, without holding elections to replace it. Judges were dependent on the king for their salaries and length of service, and so there was no true balance of power. And there was taxation without the consent of the governed, which came to a head when Britain forced the colonies to do business with the East India Tea Company and pay taxes on the tea over which the colonies had no control. This became the basis of the Boston Tea Party: the colonists decided just to get rid of all that tea being shipped over to them by throwing it into the harbor. This was the real Tea Party, not the ersatz one created by disgruntled conservatives in the 21st century who already had representation.
Excerpted from THANK the LIBERALS FOR SAVING AMERICA (AND WHY YOU SHOULD) by ALAN COLMES Copyright © 2012 by Alan Colmes. Excerpted by permission of HAY HOUSE, INC.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Alan Colmes is a liberal political commentator, radio host, author, and web publisher. He currently hosts “The Alan Colmes Show,” a nationally syndicated radio show distributed by Fox News Radio. Offering a bold take on the news of the day, with guests ranging from prominent political figures to the biggest names in entertainment and pop culture, Colmes welcomes “any and all opinion, any and all of the time.” Colmes runs the website Liberaland, where he covers the most recent and powerful stories in the news. He is also the author of the book Red, White & Liberal.
Colmes began his career in stand-up comedy, but quickly moved into the world of broadcast news. After several highly rated radio shows, Colmes cemented his reputation as a liberal voice in the media when he served as the liberal counterpart to Sean Hannity on Fox News’s “Hannity & Colmes.”
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