It's official, conservative's now have a handbook. As a liberal, purchasing "The Conservative's Handbook," by Phil Valentine wasn't too much of a stretch. I figured what better way to get a handle on where these folks were really coming from. While I haven't read all of Valentine's book (and to be honest, I may never read it all), The portions I have read have proved eye-opening. As a foot soldier in the "Kulturkampf" that exists between liberal's and conservatives in America, I think I may purchase many similar books in the future. What better way to ferret out the many weaknesses inherent in the conservative program, and to find common ground, assuming it still exists between the camps.
Conservative's who wish to become equally educated about the ideology of the left may have their work cut out for them. Even I struggle to recall ever seeing a compendium of liberal thought that exists under the title say, of "The Liberal's Handbook." I haven't found one yet, but I do own a copy of Eric Alterman's 2008 book, "Why We're Liberals," which bills itself as a political handbook for a "Post-Bush America."
Then there is Ted Rall's entertaining "Wake Up...You're Liberal!" which purports to show independents and even many Republicans just how unwittingly liberal they actually are. Neat trick, I'd say.
There are more such tomes weighing down my shelves here at the homestead, but I'll only mention one in passing since it probably hasn't seen a lot of publicity due most likely to it's admittedly wonkish presentation and the general anti-intellectualism that prevails in our time. The book is "The Second Bill Of Rights," by Cass R. Sunstein and it offers a compelling argument in support of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's rarely discussed, though brilliant State of the Union address of January 1944.
I suppose my point here is that while conservatives have had the commendable foresight to compile their ideological touchstones in an accessible volume and in clear, simple terms, liberals have to search far and wide to piece together the core beliefs that drive their movement. George Lakoff has done much to crystallize these ideas through such books as "Don't Think of an Elephant," "Moral Politics," and "The Political Brain," but more needs to be done.
While we await our one volume compilation of all things liberal, maybe we should be about the business of identifying and codifying them for ourselves. Conviction however, need never wait upon finding the right book. Our liberal values are inscribed in our hearts and minds already. Just look to the basic morality, fairness and compassion that characterizes humanity at its best. Surely our values as liberals are enshrined there at least in rudimentary form. Not insignificant is the fact that the word humane has as its root "human."