I was just reading some comments to blog posts about the debt ceiling showdown, and it struck me that liberals are really glum about the direction of American politics. They feel defeated and outraged. One I remember said, "Until somebody in the Democratic Party grows a backbone, nothing will change." I seem to recall that just recently Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid managed to enact a major reform of our health care system over united Republican opposition, and despite Scott Brown's Massachusetts win. Lots of backbone there. And what about "nothing will change"? Here's a thought experiment for you: compare the America of 2011 with the America of 1911. See much change? Pick almost any topic liberals care about -- racial discrimination, sex discrimination, provision of health care for the poor, protection of workers' safety, protection of the environment -- and we have made gigantic progress in the past century. The only major exception I can think of is our undiminished willingness to go to war, but then a big faction of liberals supports wars in places like Kosovo and Afghanistan, too. No, America is not a liberal paradise, and we could do a lot more to help poor Americans, but we do a lot more than we used to.
The world has been changing very rapidly for the past 250 years, which means that for 250 years now liberals have been winning almost every fight and conservatives losing. Yes, there has been some backsliding on certain liberal goals over the past 30 years, like high taxation of the rich and access to abortion. But that's how history works; nobody ever takes three steps forward without taking one back.
Look, people, we have a half black President with a Muslim name, and his main rival for the Presidency was a woman. And you're upset because we didn't get a public option in health care reform, or a $400 billion tax increase?