It's easy to dismiss modern liberals as bleeding hearts indoctrinated by socialist intellectuals. But, given the history of socialism in practice, how can educated people possibly grant any credence to such a futile and harsh political philosophy? Because socialism in America morphed into a mongrel philosophy which allows liberals and progressives and all forms of statists to deny the most egregious aspects of socialism while retaining the populist aspects which are emotionally seductive. In a country where there is astounding wealth, a large middle class, and poverty, redistributution of wealth, managed by representatives of the people who combine socialism with enough freedom to justify the violation of property rights, is seen as just, especially when the idea of exploitation is accepted.
It appears to be a morally valid position to take wealth from individuals who've amassed wealth through a privileged advantage and then distribute this money according to the needs of the powerless and disadvantaged. This is a compassionate position when we isolate the propositions that a relative few individuals have an excess of wealth, and a lot of people don't have nearly enough. Two reasons the Republican reaction to redistribution of wealth rings hollow are that Republicans have supported the ideas which led to redistribution, and Republicans have been complicit in establishing a State which does indeed offer a relative few in society privileged advantages. The fact that a wealthy few have been given advantages by the State goes all the way back to Alexander Hamilton serving as Secretary of Treasury under George Washington. Hamilton felt that common people could never be trusted with strict limitations on government and a free market of artisans, farmers and small business owners, and that an elite of rich, educated merchants/bankers was the best way to establish orderly progress.
Although political rhetoric was for a long time couched in the spirit of Jeffersonian free markets and limited government, the real movement has been toward a Hamiltonian Merchant-State, and in the last 75 years or so, socialist ideas crept into the rhetoric, even if not explicity. Socialism and communism had a direct impact on American political ideas in the 2oth century and that impact has settled in a mixed economy and political rhetoric made palatable to American tastes. When Joe Biden gives a speech and says he's out to save the middle class, he's implying that capitalism and the "free market" have failed, and that statist measures are necessary to protect the middle class and the poor from exploitation by wealthy capitalists. Thse are socialist ideas made seductive by our State's collusion with big corporations to smother and make a free market impossible -- but Biden won't admit the hand he and others like him have had in perpetuating this ongoing rigged game. Biden and Obama and all the politicians before and present who have perpetuated the powerful State machine will blame the party out of power, and they will blame bad actors in industry. This is close enough to the truth that the public is seducd by the justice of redistribution of wealth.
The truth is that no American alive today, and perhaps no American who ever lived, has known a truly free market. This leads statist apologists and supporters to conclude that a free market is a utopian dream that can never be establsihed in the real world -- just like pure Marxism never materialized. So, we have an odd situation where it's fatalistically conceded that the State will not wither away under communism and the State will not be rendered powerless under a free market and limited government. The modern liberal accepts both these propositions as true, so that leaves statism as the only viable means to organize society and maintain orderly progress.
Most liberals believe the Constitution is a good structure within which to operate our government, but that the interpretation of the Constitution depends on the exigencies of the times in which restrictions are applied. In 21st century complex society, the problems we face have little relevance to the siuation of the orginal handful of states, they solemnly declare, so the clauses and amendments dealing with taxes, regulation of commerce and general welfare are interpreted in light of capitalism's perverse developement and present failures. A liberal, present-day interpretation of the Constitution allows government the necessary latitude to regulate and ameliorate the abuses of industry, to tax income sufficiently to provide for the general welfare of those who are victims of insufficiently constrained capitalism, including environmental protection, financial reform, healthcare delivery and coverage, worker's rights, discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, immigration status and race, and election contributions, among other aspects of industry's and commerce's impact on society which have come to the attention of the State as issues in need of governent regulation.
The libertarian response to these ideas has been effectively muffled in media, the political realm and the univerisities. Hardly ever will you hear the term libertarian used in media, by politicians or by professors, except as a modifier or an historical footnote. You will hardly ever see a fair explication of libertarian ideas as respectable for public consideration, because it's anti-statist. Most people aren't familiar with the word statism, either, because it's a complicated concept that those dependent on the State would rather not clarify. Most people simply think in terms of government, policies and laws that affect them or their special interests. A female teacher will become a Democrat because her special union interests are at stake, and policies have an immediate and direct effect on her life, plus, Democrats support female empowerment in the workplace -- both of these messages are sent from the media constantly, so the messages cement the female teacher's relationship with the Democrat Party. It's unlikely this teacher will expend the energy to study statism, libertarian philosophy and free market principles.
Statism has become the default structure of government, and the predominant argument has been over which political party will apply statism to benefit which group's interests. Because Republicans and the right have used government to push their statist agenda on the public, there's little reason to expect the modern liberal to fight for libertarian principles. Neither party is willing to take the first step toward limiting government and cutting spending, because there hasn't been enough pressure, and they would have nothing to gain by cutting spending and returning power to the private sector. So, the liberal will say that since statism is the only real-world solution, I will support statism to achieve my goals and empower my special interest.
As a nation, we are stuck in a statist system which is self-perpetuating, with no one discerning any benefit in being the first or leading the way to limit government. The Libertarian Party is practically ignored in elections because they have no political power. This inexorable movement of statism, although it's reigned in slightly from time to time, is reaching the point of no return. When Hegel's Absolute State becomes a reality, it will have to run its course to destruction. Liberal positions toward the State are at present gullible, and their faith is unfounded, but the alternative has not been presented. The expectation that Republicans will be the first to revolutionize society and bring about limited government and a free market is not based on anything but rhetoric and the fact they have resisted progressivism as a minority party -- they have said and done these things before, only to pick up the statist mantle when in power.
It also remains to be seen if the limited government movement will remain vigilant if Republicans regain political power. Another question is how will the ordinary liberal react if Republicans do indeed follow through with their stated plans to limit government power? If Republicans establish integrity and fight to end corporate welfare, will liberals support this effort? If Republicans fight to end the wars and re-establish a policy of foreign non-intervention, will liberals support the goals? If Republicans develope solutions to entitlements which are not harmful to those in need, will the liberals consider these solutions and help to creatively save the country from financial collapse due to a crushing and voracious welfare state? If Republicans develope an alternative to failing public education, will liberals respond with energy to help transform education in America for the better?
I'm not expecting Republicans to take drastic measures to cut spending and limit government intervention, but liberals, the libertarian-left, Big Government conservatives and moderates are faced with critical decisions in the next ten years - they can continue to play the game of pretending that a free market we've never had is unstable and requires intervention to smooth out its misperceived defects, and that limited government would be too weak to handle the social problems we face in the 21st century, or they can face the music and courageously admit that statism is illiberal and anti-social, and that the present system leads to collapse -- and this reveals the true viciousness of statism that creates dependency which it can't service, bringing everyone down to a lower standard of living with much less, if any, freedoms left.
This pseudo-religion, the State, is dying -- it's time to move forward.