Say what you want about their redistributionist agenda, at least there was a time once when you could count on liberals to be fun. These were the guys who celebrated the profanity of Lenny Bruce and inanity of Mad Magazine. These were the guys who baked marijuana into brownies for the church fundraiser. In one of the most pointed pranks of all time, it was leftist anarchist Abbie Hoffman who caused a near riot by dropping fistfuls dollar bills onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Even when they grew up, liberals invented the wine and cheese party, which Beth Fallon, the New York Daily News columnist, once wrote, was their one indisputable contribution to Western civilization. So what happened? During the presidential campaign, in a candid moment from Barack Obama’s two young daughters, we learned the president-elect avoids ice cream because it’s too fattening. Goes to show how far liberal lifestyles have come from the tradition of the free love, bongs, rock-and-roll, and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Being liberal today is all about self-denial, repression, censorship and control, albeit disguised as cultural or gender sensitivity, or that more annoying catch-all, “protecting the children.” The party that once embraced the non-conformist (and self-destructive) rebellion of Randall Patrick McMurphy has become an army of Nurse Ratcheds. My Reason colleagues have covered efforts to ban or curtail smoking, fattening food, gambling and topless dancing. From my vantage point, mediaÃ¢â?¬â??new and oldÃ¢â?¬â??has not been spared the glare of liberal disapproval either. While ordinarily a shift in political winds toward the Left might mean more tolerance for all things anti-establishment, and maybe a bit more gratuitous nudity in the movies (c’mon, even Jane Fonda made Barbarella), the growing trend of liberal Democrats to pander to all manner of groups seeking to reduce grown-up entertainment to political and socially inoffensive drivel suitable for seven-year-olds has me worried that we’ve exchanged one bunch of crotchety Mrs. Grundys for another. Recall the Family Entertainment Protection Act. This would have stepped up regulation and enforcement video game ratings, despite the fact that the video game industry has proved among the best of new media industries at preventing sale of adult content to children. FEPA was hatched by Sens. Hillary Clinton, Joseph Lieberman, Tim Johnson and Evan Bayh, Democrats all, and would have allowed the government to review the industry the age-appropriate ratings of all published video game software. Lucky for gamers the bill died in committee back in 2006. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Democrat from West Virginia, sought to pressure the MPAA to give any movie that smoking an automatic R rating. And rather than stand up for free speech on the airwaves, Democrat FCC Commissioners enthusiastically joined their three Republican colleagues in attempting to broaden the scope of language restrictions on broadcast TV. That case is now before the Supreme Court Don’t forget the push to restore Fairness Doctrine, a favorite of both the House and Senate leadership, the aim of which is to knock conservative commentators off the air because they are funnier and more entertaining than their liberal counterparts. Which brings us back to the beginning. Liberals: if you’re going to run the country, at least rediscover the open-minded spirit for free expression that drove your one-time passion for Lenny Bruce’s routines on the Catholic Church, Jimi Hendrix’s version of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and films like Bonnie and Clyde, whose titular protagonists, as the film’s promotional tag bluntly put it, were young, in love and killed people. Any one of these examples, if they appeared today, would likely receive their loudest condemnations from the Democrat quarters as, respectively, religiously offensive, unpatriotic and glamorizing violence. Lighten up. Make a promise to yourself today to download a photo from FHM.com, play Grand Theft Auto or rent a movie with no redeeming social value. What’s a party, even a Democratic one, without a little ice cream?
Steven Titch served as a policy analyst at Reason Foundation from 2004 to 2013.