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Embracing Liberals

There is no shortage of support groups in our society. There are groups for people with various addictions. There are anger management groups. Some groups are very specific, such as the support group for Gay and Lesbian Former Jehovah's Witnesses or the one for people who had controlling parents. Some are more general like the men's and women's support groups. I guess I'll have to wait for a "Why Are Gasoline Prices So High" group as well as an "I Hate Artificial Turf and Indoor Stadiums" support group. But there is one segment of society that won't have to wait any longer. A support group for certain people who have worked hard, been frustrated and discouraged, and are often belittled began this past February. It's a support group for dispirited liberals.

Not surprisingly, this support group is located in Southern California. The Activists' Support Circle is the brainchild of Santa Monica's Jerry Rubin (same name as the famous member of the Chicago 7, similar politics, but a different guy). Its purpose is to give liberals "emotional rejuvenation."

Nobody gets up at these meetings and says haltingly, "My name is John Smith and I'm a liberal." It's not a 12-step program. In fact, it's really the opposite of programs that help people control their addictions. This support group tries to give its members encouragement so they'll remain addicted to political activism despite all of their recent discouragements.

The last several years have been difficult for committed liberals. They're still reeling from what they see as the disputed 2000 election, their hard work didn't pay off in the 2004 election, a war that many of them disagree with still seems to be raging, and national politicians are calling for the end of the separation of church and state. No wonder they need a place where they can vent, listen to other similar-minded people and, yes, get some hugs.

Being for unpopular and seemingly hopeless causes can be tiring and discouraging. But unpopular causes are probably the only ones worth fighting for. The popular ones don't need your hard work and blind optimism.

So, if a person's been crying cries out against civil liberty abuse under the guise of the "Patriot Act" only to feel that his words have fallen on deaf ears, he can talk about his frustration at the group meeting. If a woman has been teased because she's still for the Equal Rights Amendment, these folks will feel her pain. Those who spend their days urging health care for poor people, the closing of tax loopholes for the rich, or trying to get our country to join other nations in a search for peace can talk about how discouraged they often get. If you drive by the place maybe you'll hear people wailing, "Why couldn't Clinton just keep his pants on?"

But don't expect conservative Republicans to have meetings like this. Matthew Knee, a conservative activist and chairman of Bruin Republicans says, "A support group seems very touchy-feely and un-Republican ..." So, I doubt that in a few years you'll be able to overhear discouraged Republicans shouting, "Why did we mess with Social Security?" Conservatives generally have very little sympathy for those who wallow in their problems.

Knee adds that Republicans didn't fall into emotionally-needy doldrums during the Clinton years because they controlled Congress. And then those impeachment hearings bolstered conservative spirits. Conservatives often see liberals as "cry babies." When they don't get their way or their candidate in office, they continue to complain instead of just accepting reality. So, it probably won't surprise them that some liberals who just won't let go of their causes need a support group. But before conservatives get too condescending about this, I think I should remind you of something. Conservatives also have a support group they run to when things aren't going their way. It's called the Supreme Court.

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver