I’ve been re-reading Mead’s article and thinking on it quite a bit. What he is saying is resonating with me. One of my Facebook friends commented that she is disappointed that Mead did not provide any solutions. For my part, I think that outlining the problem is one of the largest parts of the solution.
What I understand Mead to say is that our current society has outgrown the structure of liberalism 4.0 and that 4.1 is working against the true nature of liberalism. The next logical step is to move on to 5.0. He frames his argument in these terms:
A liberal is someone who seeks ordered liberty through politics—namely, the reconciliation of humanity’s need for governance with its drive for freedom in such a way as to give us all the order we need (but no more) with as much liberty as possible. In this sense, liberty isn’t divided or divisible into freedoms of speech, religion, economic activity or personal conduct: Genuine liberals care about all of the above and seek a society in which individuals enjoy increasing liberty in each of these dimensions while continuing to cultivate the virtues and the institutions that give us the order without which there can be no freedom.
The question becomes then, where do we go from here? Many claim that America’s two party system is broken and propose moving toward a more European type system with many parties. That might be an answer. My primary issue with Parliamentary systems is that parties tend to focus solely on narrow wants and desires, rather than seeking broader bases. The American system creates, or used to create, coalitions within the party structure. We see this breaking down as the divide between Left and Right continues to widen. As the two primary American parties now stand, I see and understand why voters feel disenfranchised and unheard by their political representatives.
Have we simply outgrown the two party political model that we inherited?
Mean concludes his article:
Now it has happened again. The success of our institutions and ideas has so changed the world that they don’t work any more. We cannot turn back the clock, nor should we try. America’s job is to boldly go where none have gone before, not to consume our energies in vain attempts to recreate the glories of an unattainable past. We need to do for our times and circumstances what other Americans have done before us: Recast classic Anglo-American liberal thought, still the cultural and moral foundation of American life and the source of the commonsense reasoning that guides most Americans as they evaluate policy ideas and party programs, in ways that address the challenges before us.
For those blue Democrats clinging to liberalism 4.1, this is a time of doom and gloom. For those red Republicans longing for a return to liberalism 3.0, it is a time of angry nostalgia: Ron Paul making a stump speech. This should be a time of adventure, innovation and creativity in the building of liberalism 5.0. America is ready for an upgrade to a new and higher level; indeed, we are overdue for a project that can capture the best energies of our rising generations, those who will lead the United States and the world to new and richer ways of living that will make the “advanced” societies of the 20th century look primitive, backward and unfulfilled.
We’ve wasted too many years arguing over how to retrieve the irretrievable; can we please now get on with the actual business of this great, liberal, unapologetically forward-looking nation?
Perhaps this is what the Tea Party (in its original incarnation as a fiscal movement) and No Labels movements are trying to do: move beyond our current political structure of stiff, ridged parties, and seeking common ground solutions to the problems that our country is facing.
The American Republic is the greatest nation in the history of the world. Let’s find a way to continue that success.