Conservatives spend a lot of time talking about freedom. They seem deathly afraid that government is going to take all their freedoms away.
Progressives don’t talk about freedom nearly enough, even though it is the cornerstone of what we want in society. For too long, we have let conservatives go on and on about it without saying very much on the subject ourselves. That needs to change.
At the heart of the matter is how we define freedom. Conservatives are obsessed that government might actually keep them from mistreating their workers, worsening climate change, or cheating their clients and gaming their taxes. Some of them even glory in their freedom to harass the women in their workplace and say racist things to people of color. In other words, what they seem to treasure most is the freedom to be an a-hole.
Progressives define freedom differently. We want the liberty to pursue our happiness in our own way, live a good life, and contribute to society without being controlled and dominated by the powers that be. We want to live without the ravages of poverty even when we are working full-time, or at two or three jobs. We want the security of knowing our family’s finances won’t be destroyed if we or one of our kids gets sick. We want the freedom to band together with other workers and bargain for better wages and working conditions without getting fired. We want to know the food we eat is safe, the water we drink is clean, the air we breathe won’t make us or our families sick, and that the planet won’t get so cooked that our grandchildren won’t be able to have a good life. We want the freedom of knowing that whatever our race, sex, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation, immigration status, or religious beliefs, we can get equal rights and not have people discriminate against or be nasty to us.
That’s the debate: the freedom to pursue happiness and build a good life versus the freedom to be an a-hole. You choose which side you want to be on.