Charles Kesler, author of "I am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism," told the West Liberty University Economics Club on Thursday that said liberalism is on the verge of a fundamental crisis.
Liberalism, he said, is in danger from both a fiscal and a philosophical viewpoint as the federal government struggles to afford the rising costs of government benefits and liberals attempt to pinpoint a solid political philosophy.
"The fiscal crisis, I think, is the obvious one. We cannot afford the state, the state is broke. We cannot afford to pay all the promises that the liberal welfare state and the regulatory state have made. The fiscal cliff negotiations are the opening shot at what's going to be a generation-long series of crises about funding modern government and I don't think these crises will come out well for liberalism," Kesler said at River City restaurant in Wheeling.
Photo by Sarah Harmon
Charles Kesler discusses his book “I am the Change: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Liberalism” at the University Economics Club Thursday at River City Restaurant.
"From a philosophical standpoint, if you look at the most 'liberal liberals' you will find they are relativists, they believe all values are equal and that it's hard to distinguish what is right from wrong," he said. "Now liberals understand that liberalism has no basis in reality. If all values are relative, then relativism is relative - there is nothing to stand on. If liberals can't believe in liberalism, who can?"
Kesler said the future of liberalism depends on the actions of President Barack Obama in his second term in office.
"We are going to see just how liberal Obama is," he said. "All of these major pieces of legislation like Obamacare ... don't really become effective until his second term."
Kesler also discussed the general election, saying conservatives and liberals have conflicting interpretations of Obama's re-election regarding which party is in power. Kesler said Democrats interpreted his win as a "confirming election" that signals the end of Reagan-era conservatism and the re-emergence of Democratic ideals.
In contrast, he said conservatives view the Obama's victory as an anomaly in a Republican-controlled country.
"If the Democrats win in 2014, then I think you can say that something has changed," Kesler said. "If Republicans surge again in 2014, it looks like a 50/50 country, it doesn't look as if something fundamental has happened."
Kesler is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute, editor of the Claremont Review of Books and professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.
He contributes regularly to the opinion pages of major publications. He is a native of Oak Hill, W.Va.