Liberalism Has the Ideas–but Does It Have the Will to Impose Them?

In recent years, the Netanyahu government has snarled the long-standing association of liberalism, The New Republic, Democrats, and Israel by ostentatiously courting Republicans and their allies: American white fundamentalist Christians, anti-immigrant activists, and groups opposing race and gender minorities. In the tragic events of the last many months, the interrelated and seemingly insoluble tragedies of murderous terrorist attack, genocidal bombing, and settler aggression have divided liberals—that is, have divided Democrats. Some Jewish Democratic politicians have denounced Israel’s prosecution of the war, while others continue to offer unconditional support.

Thinking about—talking about—the intertwined conflicts of the Holocaust, nationalism, religion, government, Zionism, settlers, and two-tiered citizenship would seem to be too hard and complicated a problem for twenty-first-century American liberalism to solve. What liberals can do, what The New Republic can do, however, is to continue to use their lofty educations and journalistic prestige to clarify the issues, even the partisan conflicts, and to suggest remedies.

Thinking about how to solve Israel/Hamas/Palestinians is really, really hard. On the other hand, the great illiberal challenge of our times, Trumpist-Republican authoritarianism, is not at all hard. The remedies in law, voting, and political policies are straightforward. All we need to do is add “universal” to the suffrage plank of the 1912 platform of Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party and rally support. Already in 1912, the need for universal health coverage was obvious. Still, in 2024, when the needs are even more obvious, liberalism knows what needs to be done. The American partisan politics around Israel/Hamas/Palestinians is infinitely hard, but if liberalism remains true to its long-standing values—from 1912, equal suffrage, government in the interest of “the people,” for “social and industrial justice”—it can recommend solutions to even this agonizing crisis.