Local Author’s Journey Through Liberal Thought

Warning: If you are a “Tea Party patriot” with high blood pressure, do not buy “A Liberal Mandate.” Keith D. Martin would love to change your mind on past, current and future political issues, but he would rather not be responsible for your heart attack. The medical bills would cost too much, he might say.  

On the other hand, if you are left leaning and want a conversational overview of the United States’ most significant political debates of the past 50 years, this read may be worth your time. It certainly won’t take long to get through, but it will undoubtedly take a while to process.  

Image of Kevin D. Martin’s book, “A Liberal Mandate”

Like some Washingtonians, Martin has fixed political opinions and is anxious to share them. Covering the role of political partisanship, illegal immigration, health care, sexism, “going green,” gay rights, globalization and affordable housing and homelessness, Martin analyzes the United States’ failings in a book that takes less time to read than it would to argue any one of these topics with a stranger on the Metro.  

According to its cover, Martin’s book is about current affairs, politics and U.S. history. It certainly fits securely into all of these categories, but it is also a captivating look at the way an individual is shaped and reshaped by the growth and change of his fatherland.  

Part op-ed, part open letter to President Obama and all bound by themes underscored in the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution, the book is witty, forward and at times, extremely funny. It cannot truly be called a postmodern work, but “A Liberal Mandate” is certainly a book written for this specific time and place.  

Dotted with pieces of Americana that will pique the minds and memories of baby boomers and the children of Generation X, the work is accessible to anyone who was even remotely keyed into United States’ news from 1940 onward. To Martin’s great credit, neither his overwhelming amount of subject matter nor his tongue-incheek humor take away from the fact that “A Liberal Mandate” deals with sensitive, and sometimes upsetting, human problems.  

What can and will be highly criticized about this work is that it does, for the most part, draw distinct moral lines. Martin paints liberalism as an ideal. However, when he does so, he does not always mean liberalism as it is, but rather liberalism as he thinks it should be. To Martin, liberals are people who wish to design a society that will work for the welfare of all. Conservatives, on the other hand, are self-interested.  

He is keen on this point, giving due credit to moderate Republicans and having no hesitation to criticize Democrats when he finds it necessary. Martin strongly disagrees with the idea that there must be haves and have-nots, and he thinks that with focused systemic change, the gap can be diminished.  

If “A Liberal Mandate” is starting to sound like “The Communist Manifesto,” it is because both works share a strong focus on human equality. It is only fair to note that Martin is far more cued into current events and current humor than his predecessor. However, like Marx, he is a grand idealist.  

Of course, this will raise the question of just how liberal Martin is. Does his desire to live in a closer, community-oriented America make him a socialist? A communist? Does he mind being deemed either? In the end, these questions are a matter between Martin and his readers. You will have to become the latter if you wish to engage in the debate.  

More on Martin.  

Martin, 70, spent more than 40 years living in Washington, D.C., and lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his wife, Marge. The two of them have a 14-year-old son, and Martin has two older children from a previous marriage.  

Martin is semi-retired but teaches part-time at Montgomery College in Rockville. He has a B.A. from Harvard University, a Ph.D. in international relations and a master’s of divinity. He spent time in ministry and continues this work by volunteering at the Potter’s House and Ten Thousand Villages. He has also spent time working for the U.S. government, both stateside and abroad, a fact he attributes to President John F. Kennedy.  

“Kennedy inspired me to go into government service, as he did a lot of people then,” Martin said. “Now people just read about him as a president who got shot.”  

When asked why he wrote “A Liberal Mandate,” Martin said that it is “a mystery.” He began writing the work during President George W. Bush’s administration because he was “angry” and “embarrassed,” particularly around people from other countries. He finished the work recently because he is “a general Obama fan,” a fact he mentions several times in the book before critiquing Obama as well. “I think this is still a conservative country,” Martin said. “Obama is trying to move us left of center, but it’s difficult. I hope this can help. Hopefully it is more of a motivator than a cause for despair.”  

“A Liberal Mandate: Reflections on Our Founding Vision and Rants on How We Have Failed to Achieve It” (2010). Weit Press. 8 January 2010. ISBN: 978-0-578-04365-4. 

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