In this conversation with Bill Moyers, writer Eric Alterman describes the grand aspirations, ambitions, and historical ironies that prompted him to write his new book The Cause: The Fight for American Liberalism from Franklin Roosevelt to Barack Obama. He calls on liberals to regain “the fighting spirit” that characterized Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and to put it in service of new liberal policies for the 21st century. Liberals, he tells Moyers, have overpromised and underperformed, and it’s time once again to make government credible.
BILL MOYERS: So when the proverbial alien from Mars arrives and says, Alterman, how will I know a liberal when I meet one? How do you answer?
ERIC ALTERMAN: You know how you know someone is a liberal? It’s because they believe in the enlightenment. It’s because they believe in reason. It’s because they follow their thoughts to their logical conclusion. And they say, “This is the right thing to do.” Now exactly what policies that leads you to is always changing and always open to argument. But they don’t say, “This is what God told me to do.” They don’t say, “This is what the dialectic of history told me to do.” They say, “This is the right thing to do for the greatest number of people.”
So if there’s one challenge that faces liberalism– liberals today, it is to find a way to revive people’s faith in the ability of government to improve their lives. And that, to me, is the– would be the next chapter of this book.