Liberalism Defined: Mainstream Ideaology
To social scientists, all modern political parties in the United States espouse a classical liberal ideology. But what defines modern liberalism?
How Modern Liberalism differs from Classical Liberalism
The difference lies in “social liberalism,” or the belief that the government should be responsible for social safety nets like healthcare access, strong public education systems, welfare for the poor, and more. Modern liberals unite around people and their ability to be heard, to be treated fairly, and to be supported in their life journey.
In modern liberalism, equality is the ultimate goal, and one’s socioeconomic background, ethnic and cultural background, and family background should not prevent one from reaching his, her, or their full potential. Quite simply, liberalism defined, the government should be promoting and, when necessary, legislating policies that level the playing field and give all citizens equal access to resources, services, and opportunities.
The Right to Access Resources and Services
In modern liberalism, human rights and equality are guiding principles. Every citizen has a right to be safe, to be healthy and receive timely and adequate medical treatment, to be protected by the law, and to receive a quality education that can improve their economic outlook and sense of self-fulfillment. Factors like race, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, and disability do not impact an individual’s rights.
These guiding principles heavily influence how modern liberals vote and engage in civic life. Politicians and local leaders who invest budget dollars in better public schools, work to ensure that healthcare is accessible and affordable to all, and who favor laws that benefit historically marginalized communities, such as ethnic minorities, the poor, and immigrants, are likely to win the support of modern liberals.
Prioritizing the Underserved
In prioritizing the well-being of marginalized, underserved, and at-risk constituents, these leaders often turn to wealth redistribution. Social programming, particularly education and health care, are costly and may require increased taxes on the wealthy or other measures to increase revenue and allow for social investment. To a modern liberal, this is a just course of action and is necessary to achieve equality and build harmonious communities.
The Right to Opportunity and Freedom of Expression
Modern liberalism is about more than just making sure everyone has access to the services and resources they need to thrive. It’s also about the right to be heard – to express oneself in an authentic way without fear of retribution — and the right to opportunity.
Freedom of speech and expression is an important value for the modern liberal and most modern liberals celebrate the diversity of minority and non-conforming groups. For instance, not only do modern liberals feel that people identifying as transgender should be protected by law and served respectfully by civic institutions, they also feel that this population should be celebrated for its distinctive culture and inclusivity.
Likewise, modern liberalism’s dedication to providing opportunity to underserved or underrepresented groups goes beyond simple measures like equal pay and fair criminal sentencing to things like affirmative action and scholarships targeting inner-city kids. A modern liberal believes that the playing field will never be level if historic injustices are not rectified through counterbalancing interventions. Until equality is achieved, some populations need to be given advantages that allow them to overcome systemic disadvantages that have oppressed them, or people like them, for generations.
The Profile of a Modern Liberal
In the United States, modern liberalism’s ideologies can be found in higher concentrations in urban areas, areas with a lot of ethnic diversity, and areas in which the population is more highly educated. Of course, modern liberals may also live in homogenous, rural areas, and there are millions of people around the globe who espouse the same value system as modern liberals in America.
It’s important to remember that people are the uniting force behind modern liberalism and the modern liberal movement. Through the highs and lows of political life in the USA, the modern liberal never forgets the needs of every citizen from every walk of life.