Via Charles Cooke’s Twitter feed, I found this finely cultivated obtuseness from Richard Trumka. I particularly like the end:
When politicians on the right talk about the “freedom” to replace Social Security with vouchers, what they really mean is freedom from a secure retirement income. The “freedom” to get vouchers for retraining is actually freedom from unemployment compensation’s safety net when your job is shipped overseas.
The “freedom” of cutting local government translates into the freedom from having the help of a cop or a firefighter or EMS tech in your time of greatest need.
Let’s call this right-wing “freedom” catch phrase what it really is: a grossly political strategy to dupe the public, which holds the word “freedom” as something sacred.
This Independence Day, I say let’s go back to a truer use of the word “freedom.” Let’s start with President Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. I would add the freedom to bargain collectively.
Those freedoms are under attack today. We all will pay a heavy price if we don’t stand up and fight for them.
It is impossible to catalog all of the ways this is ridiculous. But let me focus on one of the less than obvious ones. Trumka makes it sound like FDR’s definition of freedom is the more authentic version. But FDR was in fact guilty of precisely what Trumka projects on the Right. FDR’s “freedom” was a grossly political strategy intended to dupe the public.
FDR’s definition of freedom was fairly novel, though it did go back to the progressives who wanted a new American founding. Hence it was deliberately antithetical to the traditional Anglo-American conception of freedom. The freedom from want and freedom from fear portion of his Four Freedoms is a carte blanche argument for social justice. See FDR’s “Second Bill of Rights” State of the Union Speech in which he fleshes out this vision and proclaims the actual Bill of Rights is now “inadequate.” He proposed instead a new system of positive rights of the sort found in socialist constitutions and charters.
FDR ended that speech with one of the most disgusting exhortations against his political foes — and liberty itself — ever offered by an American president in a major address. He said, in part:
One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis-recently emphasized the grave dangers of “rightist reaction” in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called “normalcy” of the 1920′s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.
Ah yes, if we go back to the 1920s, an era of rampant prosperity and expanding liberty we will have surrendered to Fascism. That is grotesque.
Anyway, back to Trumka. It seems to me, given his support for Obamacare and its assault on religious freedom, his opposition to political speech he finds inconvenient, and his thumbless grasp of liberty in general, he should really stick to bullying and rabble-rousing and leave the high-minded sanctimony to others.