From Rick Brown, the News Guy in Atlanta -
Anyone up to the challenge?
Lately I've been wondering if there isn't a way to launch a campaign to bring the word "liberal" back into the mainstream where it belongs. Maybe in the process, also find a way to demonize the word "conservative"?
I was thinking bumper-stickers, which takes the message directly into enemy territory, starting with a message that hits many of them where they live: "THINK ABOUT IT: JESUS WAS A LIBERAL!"
Later, you can put other good-person names in there, such as "GEORGE BAILEY WAS A LIBERAL!" and such.
And you could follow up all that with things like "THINK ABOUT IT: DARTH VADER WAS A CONSERVATIVE!"
Or "THINK ABOUT IT: HITLER WAS A CONSERVATIVE!"
And if you dare deal with really complex concepts (although being complex, they run the risk of not being understood by conservatives): "THINK ABOUT IT: SCROOGE WAS A CONSERVATIVE, BUT WAS CURED!"
Consider this letter to the editor in the Arizona Republican -
Let's hear Bush define 'liberal'
August 5, 2004 12:00 AM
A discussion of they what they mean by the term? Unlikely.
President Bush rarely delves into the vast gray area between the extremes. So when he calls John Kerry a liberal, he is trying to convey that Kerry, and his policies, are less than desirable.
Instead of just simplistically using the word "liberal" to negatively portray Kerry, Bush should have to tell the country in detail what liberalism is and why it is bad.
For too long, Republicans have been able to acquire political power by demonizing liberalism. I'd like to see the candidates discuss their understanding of liberalism during the upcoming debates.
Our founders would be dismayed at the way Republicans today discount liberalism's contributions to the making of a great nation. A shallow-thinking electorate led by shallow-thinking political leaders is a recipe for disaster.
- Robert J. Barboza, Phoenix
It's just shorthand. Just imagine a skinny lesbian arts professor from some minor school in New England driving her eleven-year-old Volvo station wagon, with the required Save the Whales bumper sticker, into Cambridge to attend a rally in support of vegetarian anti-abortionists in Venezuela, sipping a latte as she drives, listening to a biography of Edith Piaf on NPR - who distrusts big business, actually thinking they might take advantage of folks, who thinks the meager amount she pays in taxes should go to schools and the hungry and homeless and all those other lazy losers who just want to use us all so they can eat bons-bons, drive around in a big Cadillac and watch Jerry Springer (the Welfare Queens Reagan identified). Socialist who like the French and want to claim they are better than the rest of us. A lot of words. One will do. Liberal.
Over at Fact Check there's a long page of the history of the term, and after a rundown of British political history, this entry regarding the United States.
Basic stuff. The hypothetical Volvo driver above is certainly overly free-spirited (sexually), unaccountable, and a compromised character, and seems to be someone in favor of vast and needless government intrusion into peoples lives. Someone who does NOT play by the conventional rules - whatever they are.
In recent decades the most common use of the term liberal in the USA is greatly at variance from the use of the term in the rest of the world, and with the historical meaning of the word in the USA through the mid 20th century.
Some think that conservatives have been successful in undermining progressives as 'liberals', by deliberate public relations campaigns, through repeated use of the word, 'liberal', in ways that associate it with irresponsibility.
Some independent leftists and libertarians who dislike the USA's two leading parties allege that since liberal means being in favor of liberty, both parties are telling the truth when they deny that they are liberals.
In the United States, the label of liberal is sometimes used as derogatory or politically undermining label. It can imply an overly free-spirited, unaccountable, and compromised character, or someone in favor of vast and needless government intrusion into peoples lives.
USA Conservatives in recent years, often those of the Republican Party, sometimes use liberal as an subversive adjective for anyone who is a member of or supports any policy of the Democratic Party. Consequently, while far right wing politics often are debated and voiced in the political world, liberalism has been associated with far-left politics, whose agendas are often voided.
Liberals are threatening. They want our money. They like gay people, and black people, and the French! They're always talking about human rights and stuff like that - but they want our children.
In fact, the San Francisco-based conservative talk show host Michael Savage (he was on MSNBC for a bit but is back to radio), on the August 3 broadcast of Savage Nation, took on the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and human rights activists in general, calling them "the worst people in America ... communist or Nazis or both" and he told his listeners, "When you hear 'human rights,' think gays. When you hear 'human rights,' think only one thing: someone who wants to rape your son. ... When you hear 'human rights,' think only someone who wants to molest your son, and send you to jail if you defend him. Write that down, make a note of it." (MP3 audio clip here if you want to listen.)
You've been warned. Liberals.
Then there is this
And here's the t-shirt. But I like Rick's bumper stickers more.
Imagine my surprise when I looked up the word "Liberal" in my thesaurus.
Liberal: ... generous, abundant, lavish, broadminded, tolerant, enlightened, charitable among others. Not bad, eh?
Conservative: ... stingy, miserly, reactionary, regressive, bigoted, prejudiced, biased, narrow-minded and more. Ouch!
Considering that, and the track record of conservatives (anti-women voting, anti-blacks voting, pro-segregation, pro-Vietnam War, anti-Head Start, etc.) you can see why I'd be embarrassed to call myself a conservative.
So with all those accurate, flattering words to describe "liberal"... And all those appropriate, hateful words to describe its antonym, "conservative"...
After I stopped laughing at the irony, I knew I had to make a t-shirt out of it.