Hated by the Right. Mocked by the Left. Who Wants to Be ‘Liberal’ Anymore?

After decades as a target of Republican abuse, liberalism is back in the middle of American politics, criticized on both sides and short on defenders.

Comments: 197

  1. Wow. This article sure does try to redefine a perfectly good word beyond any kind of reality.

    Why not take a moment to actually look up the word "liberal," and to see where it comes from, what it means, and what words relate to it?

    It comes from the Latin, for "free man." or a free thinker.

    It also means generous.

    Liberals were the revolutionaries who fought the English Conservative Redcoats.

    Liberals are the ones who want progress, and believe in a more open, advanced society, with more fairness and justice, who are open to new ideas.

    Here are some synonyms for "liberal"

    Bountiful, copious, full, generous, luxuriant, avant-garde, breakthrough, cutting-edge, excellent, exceptional, first, foremost, forward, precocious, broad, expansive, plentiful.

    Those who seek to redefine such a powerful word are just the opposite.

    Let's look up some antonyms to "liberal."

    Regressive, intolerant, limited, narrow, greedy, lacking, mean, narrow-minded, ungenerous, wanting.

    What's interesting, is when you shine some reality onto a word, by actually going to a real dictionary or thesaurus, and especially in looking at the history of a word and where it came from... one can get quite a different impression than what the propagandists want you to see.

    Personally, I prefer the light side, to the dark side, so you can always call me a proud Liberal.

  2. Do you even see that writing 3 lines of self-congratulatory adjectives is exactly what this article is about?

  3. Nope. It's simply what the word means. Haters will hate, but that's just English.

    Ever since I was a kid, it was all about "good" vs. "evil." Reagan was a very evil person, who wanted to redefine good, though. he would disparagingly call good people "do-gooder goody two shoes" and similar derogatory variations.

    Everybody wants to appear to be good and to justify their ways, especially the selfish, evil ones who would gladly see harm come to many, like the Republicans in Congress, who want to throw millions under the bus when it comes to health care.

    So rather than accept the fact they are simply evil, they prefer to rationalize their philosophy and redefine what is good and liberal in the world instead.

  4. And you are proving the author's point, by missing the point of the article.

    Its not just those on the right who are using liberal as a pejorative, its those on the left as well.

    Words meanings change over time, thats just English.

  5. This is one of the most interesting--and enlightening--articles I've read in some time.

  6. Well, Medicaid says you have to be totally destitute to get it. The poor on welfare usually were able to get Medicaid, which also meant you went to clinics that were no so fancy and very furgal practitioners. So even so people with bad health conditions had to race to the bottom losing everything to get their health care covered, and then the environment for their care felt shabby.

    That is where Hillary Clinton came in when Bill was president trying to implement universal health care. Well, Companies love when government is will to step in and cover cost. When has the government ever been good at staying on budget or getting a good deal? When government pays private companies directly, cost shoot up drastic consistently in every industry.

    We don't need government in health care for the masses. We do need laws to protect people with pre existing conditions. We do need to educate people about the consequences of not having health insurance, but then let them free to chose how they would, increasing competition and driving down cost. When government is involved it also stifle competition. So yes, although it seems scary government needs to get out of healthcare insurance industry and keep it for the most needy. ford Obama Care and what is the point of working if someone on welfare, like 50% of the US get it for free, dragging the middle class back into the same financial situation as though that don't work. How is that fair.

  7. I seem to recall the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s disliked liberals, too.

  8. Somewhere along the path of political history, the true definition of Conservatives & Liberals eroded to a point beyond recognition.

    Historically, Conservatives we're fiscally conscious people - those who believed in the betterment of their country, through fiscal prudence, strong budget management, and lower taxes (balancing budgets and managing debt we're imperative to a country's 'go-forward' agenda).

    Liberals, have typically held themselves along advocacy lines of social & economic equality (including programs like universal health care, equal opportunity/inclusiveness).

    This is where the historic party lines used to be drawn.

    The politics of today, however, has morphed into a structure that 100% services special interest groups. Gone are the days where politicians worked across party lines for the betterment of their country and people. Today, your job is to pander to small, niche groups, that hold a bizarre level of power in the political system.

    Think the NRA, or the pro-life movement. The tea party, fossil fuel industry, wall street or uber wealthy super PACs.

    17% of Americans identify as Tea Party supporters - yet they yield the power to ruin a Republicans career.

    60% of Americans believe abortion should be legal - and 70% support Roe v. Wade.

    True Conservatism & Liberalism are dead in this country - what's left are small, selfish groups, shamelessly pedaling their own interests via the threat of career ruination, or political financial destruction.

  9. Attacks on liberals and the ideology of liberalism from the right and left of the political spectrum is nothing more than destruction of the center. If the "center" cannot hold then you are left with two polarized factions antithetical to each other, with no common ground for compromise...what we are seeing develop today. I think most present day Americans are liberal to one degree or another and that is the true center of American politics. Destroy it at your peril.

  10. Sorry, but I don't hear progressives beating up on "liberals." As a progressive myself, I embrace the term. I do, however, hear people rightly beating up on "Neo-Liberals," "Blue Dog Democrats," and "The Democratic Establishment" who are rightly criticized for weakening the Democratic brand. True progressives and liberals alike are sick of triangulation, sick of "Republican Lite" politics and demand that the Democratic Party get back to truly LIBERAL values like those espoused by Bernie Sanders -- and FDR!

  11. "Liberal bashing"? "Mocked by the left"? What sort of delusional world does the author live in? You have 95% of all mainstream media pushing a liberal ideology 24x7. An ideology that makes it very clear that as long as you follow the party line, without question, you will be taken are of. There will always be a warm. friendly excuse for every shortcoming, failure or bad decision you make. It will never be your failure and you will never be responsible/accountable.

  12. What the word liberal means and what those who say they are liberal are seem to me to be two different an opposing things.

  13. I believe a lot of people are fed up with today's liberals because they can't stop telling other people how to act, what to say, how to think and what to do. We can manage on our own, thank you.

  14. America's Founding Fathers were the liberals of their day. That would be classical liberals. The Progressive left continues to define itself today, rather hesitantly as liberal and one hundred years ago were roundly rejected by the American people. Learn American history..real history and the one you've managed to indoctrinate yourself into believing. We are doing it again by whatever definition the progressive left defines itself. The right does not hate liberals. It never has. Conservatives reject an ideology that bases what they think and do on emotions and feelings. There used to be a time when there was a conversation between both sides and agreement in the main for our mutual love of America arrived at in different ways. No longer. There can't be a dialogue when the progressive side would rather suppress free speech than either be around or even listen to an opposing view (i.e. the average college campus snowflake with their safe spaces, BLM and OWS) That's the position of the left and where it is today, by enabling, endorsing and inciting criminal violence of these very groups. Also when the left aligns itself with Muslims who want and prove they are perfectly willing to murder infidels, including and especially those practicing what progressives are and do, there will ultimately be a parting of the ways. It will not be beneficial to those who claim to be progressives and also distain religion. You're in for a huge wake-up call.

  15. Yes we avoid the word liberal (and all labels) for a number of reasons one of which their meaning is not apparent to everyone and is misused by most. Not to be insulting (just realistic) but Americans are not well educated in this regard. The average person cannot properly define Socialism and that's a problem.

    Progressive only means Not Regressive now (going backwards) = not much at all. I detest the word. It has gotten us nowhere.

    Republicans have set the agenda/terms/dialogue since ReaganDemocrathave gone along with it. Have moved with great accommodation steadily to the center and allowed the country and themselves to be redefined for political expediency. Hence the reason for this article's existence.

    What's left of "the left" has little trouble understanding what has happened.

  16. This is just another way to demonize and discredit the left. It's too bad so many who like to call themselves "progressive" have fallen for this. As for Clinton, many have forgotten that when he left office he was referred to as "the best Republican President ever!" He was hardly a liberal and we all knew it.

  17. Liberals have had a hard time of it lately. Liberalism has run directly into reality and reality always wins.

    Real people want real solutions and all that liberalism offers is thoughts about what to do with the money that others have earned.

  18. I think we need to be clear about what liberal means. If it is really classic liberalism which I understand to be liberty based, I believe it is consistent with our founding values. My understanding is that under classic 19th century liberalism government lets you make your own decision as long as it does not violate the rights of others, and does not move individual material resources to a central government that decides to redistribute them. I believe a classic liberal would believe you should be able to smoke pot, or go without health insurance without other tax payers being forced to financially bail you out of either decision turns out to be a disasterous one. I expect the classic liberal would see such a bail out the role of private and individual charity.

    I think many progressives who do not believe in classic liberalism have taken and damaged the good name of liberalism. Progessivism seems to be largely the opposite of classic liberalism. It seems to move decisions from the individual to a central government. It also tranfers financial resources from individual to a central government which decides how they should be spent for redistribution.

  19. Does this mean I need to stop calling leftists "libtards" and begin calling them "progtards?" I want to stay current.

  20. I don't agree with all your views, John, but I believe that you have expressed your preferences and values clearly, with logical consistency, and in good faith.

    I do believe in some degree of redistribution, especially with regard to the redistribution of income that is required to provide a backstop of universal, catastrophic health insurance to all citizens.

    I agree with you that we should - in addition to providing universal, catastrophic coverage - allow the private sector to provide optional, supplemental health insurance plans that allow citizens if they choose to "top up" or extend their coverage via voluntary agreements with these providers of private health insurance plans.

    Where we disagree on the private health insurance marketplace is whether those private plans should be allowed to make a profit. Every advanced western nation has agreed that, given the problem of adverse selection, it makes no sense to allow for-profit private health insurance and that private insurers should be heavily regulated not-for-profits.

    This is the case in those advanced capitalist nations, Switzerland, Holland and Germany: all of these liberal capitalist nations accept the fact that health care is different and that private health insurance plans are fine so long as 1) they are backstopped by state-guaranteed universal catastrophic insurance and 2) they are forbidden from making a profit and are heavily regulated.

  21. Uh Oh!
    The ruling party in Australia (which holds the center right position) is called The Liberal Party of Australia!

    I wonder how much that confuses Republicans when our two countries work and deal with each other as we do?

    Perhaps we should have it's name changed?

  22. Those on the left prefer the use of neo-liberal as their favorite form of vitriol, and the Clintons and third way centrists are the main targets of abuse.
    I am in this camp, with the (typically liberal) admission that it is not a perfect philosophy; this may be another reason that the left and right, who display breezy confidence, regardless of what the facts say, despise liberals' flexibility.
    So what makes a liberal today? A belief in free markets and free trade, with appropriate regulation to curb the worst instincts of capitalists, fiscal conservatism - the belief that deficits, left untamed - are a bad thing; liberal on social values and civil rights including free speech; respectful of individuals' privacy and the rights for adults to make their own mistakes, tempered by regulation when they may harm others; in foreign policy a belief in institutions and alliances to solve problems together with a willingness to intervene where necessary; and perhaps above all, a belief in the importance of using facts and data to determine good policy, regardless of its source
    The last decade has not been a happy one for liberals. Free markets were contaminated with myopic greed and collapsed, foreign interventions have not been successful (Libya) causing a reluctance to intervene to stop the slaughter if innocents (Syria) and institutions are under attack from the left and the right.
    But the pendulum swings and people stop at the precipice. Liberals will adapt and recover.

  23. It's good to know I'm not the only one confused by modern liberalism. I can't help but align liberalism with neoliberalism in my head: and basically agree that it is abhorrent. The idealism of the 1960s (the dream of a world without borders and without hate) has been proven deeply flawed, and used for personal gain by very wealthy elites. Yet there are still liberals who cling to it and react with anger against anyone who speaks against it.

  24. There is nothing liberal about liberals. Progressives are equally regressive. It's much easier just to identify who is a leftist. My moniker really should be leftistslayer but libslayer has a better ring to it. "Leftist" says it all. Notice that anyone who believes in civil society that is not dominated by intrusive central govt. is labeled by the left as "far right" even though the "Founders" of this country were all believers in the principles of the "Enlightenment" which is exactly what conservatives believe in.

  25. There is no shame in being a liberal or the values it represent, including decency, fairness, justice, openness, tolerance and accommodation. These are wonderful human values of a society in which I wish to live.

  26. This article reminded me of the late New York mayor Ed Koch who used to claim that he was "a liberal with sanity" and stated that hopefully the listeners to his radio program would agree with most of his opinions but never all of them (lest they be considered insane)
    He is surely missed these days

  27. So the Right and Left are united in their hatred of some concocted yet elusive enemy they both like to call "Liberal". Interesting. And what a waste of time and energy.

    Perhaps I'm hopelessly outdated or "out of touch", but the (layperson) spectrum/terminology I'm familiar with and use as a basic guide is: Leftist--Liberal--Moderate-Centrist--Conservative--"Hard Right".

    "Moderates"--Fence-sitters who tend to lean a bit Left/Liberal in their views, whether they realize it or not.
    "Centrists"--Same as "Moderates", only leaning a bit Right/Conservative.

    A lot of evidence acquired through many years of reading, listening, and observing has led me to conclude that a lot of what is called "Progressive" is actually Leftist, a lot of "Conservative" viewpoints are actually "Hard Right", and many (lay) people who identify as "Moderate" or "Centrist" aren't actually Moderate or Centrist, but are just too intellectually lazy and conflict-avoidant to learn about various issues, form an opinion, and engage in discussion/debate with others.

    Instead of picking on Liberals for not being far enough to the "Left", it would be far more productive and worthwhile for Leftists/Progressives to focus their time and energy on getting Moderates off the fence. For a democracy (or even a Democratic Republic) to properly function, *all* of the People must engage.

  28. It seems like everyone assumes that if you're a conservative, you voted for Trump. I wonder then, why anyone wants to be "conservative" anymore. Call me liberal, I'll take it as a compliment.

  29. Who wants to be a liberal? Frankly, it should be everybody, because "liberals" gave us everything good that we take for granted.
    Freedom of speech? Brought to you by liberals, because we believe the state has no right to dictate what you think and what you can say.
    Freedom to worship whichever deity you see fit? Brought to you by liberals, because we know no one has a monopoly on truth.
    Being the citizen of a nation, rather than the subject of a king? Brought to you by liberals, because we believe that government derives its power from the consent of the governed not by the divine right of monarchs.
    And that's just for starters. Pretty much everything we have been taking for granted - a free public education, a 40 hour work week, the host of public goods which form the basis of our neglected infrastructure, social insurance which sees to it that once you can no longer hold a job and must retire you don't die penniless, ill, and on the street, civil rights so that all of our citizens can participate in deciding our country's current and future direction, regulatory agencies which rein in capitalism's tendency to trample over the rights of the citizenry in its quest for profit - are ideas which liberals fought for, and in some cases died, to obtain. These were fought against tooth and nail by the conservatives who believe that only the few should be allowed such rights, or that the state should control what is permitted. All Americans should be liberals.

  30. Too bad you can’t mandate that all Americans follow in lockstep, but then, that would truly make you a liberal.

  31. Perhaps liberals have evolved unlike the "principled" ones on the left and right fringes. The term progressive is fine and captures that liberalism is ever evolving in response to real life applications. I prefer to adhere to liberal principles of openness and generosity while accepting the necessity for pragmatism in the pursuit of the greater good. Frankly, a real liberal accepts those on either extreme of the spectrum as ideology who are the truly elitist.

  32. To me, Liberalism means "open to differences, recognizing diverse points of view, respecting the positions of others." Conservatism, on the other hand, stands for "bias against opposing views, ridiculing those who don't agree with my view, starving our common government in the name of freedom - which allows social darwinism to divide and reduce society to a competition, rather than a collaboration. Call me idealistic, naive, weak, soft - and I'll tell you not to forget to call me "liberal" too.

  33. The word "liberal" definitely has its ambiguities now, but the actual situation is more complicated than just left, right, or center. Saval is correct to note that early "classical liberalism" emphasized individual freedoms and free trade that dominated the UK and the US into the late 19th century. Modern liberalism started to emerge in the late 19th century as a middle position between the individual-and-market-first classical liberals and the radicals (Marx and others) who wanted revolutionary reform. Modern liberals agreed (with classical liberals) about individual liberty but also were concerned about market failures and their attendant social destructiveness (as were radicals), as well as, later in the 20th century, by the exercise of social power in various exclusionary practices.

    So now the left in the US is an alliance of progressives (the US version of radicals) and modern liberals, as exemplified by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The right, however, has its own conflicting tensions, too, between classical liberals (the extreme version of which lies in some forms of libertarianism), and traditional social conservatives (which includes the varieties of race-supremacists in its extreme versions).

    Personal disparagement, character attacks and highly charged moral language are routine. Ronald Reagan didn't start it; he just picked it up and dusted it off. Our historical roots still influence what we do and say today.

  34. To clarify modern liberalism's central principles, they are mainly twofold:
    1. Left to itself, the market will undergo boom-and-bust cycles that will repeatedly wreak social havoc. This calls for two responses: regulation to constraint market behavior (constrain, not direct) and a social safety net to ameliorate the economic damage to the worst-off.
    2. Government and law is not the *only* possible source of tyranny. Social practices of exclusion can rise to that level too. Brutal enforcement of social norms can be an infringement on liberty.

  35. To be Liberal is to be progressive in thought and deed. I've never seen or heard a conservative idea that moved our country forward. Conservatives have no understanding of future, only that of the past. They fear change that advances equality at the cost of individual sacrifice. They all want to be a country of one.

  36. There’s that smug elitist attitude the author referenced. Thanks for the pointed example.

  37. Why do we call people Liberals here when the majority of what modern Liberals stand for would be called Socialist or Social Democrat at best, everywhere else in the world.
    The article is right, being Liberal in Europe is the equivalent of being Libertarian in the States.

  38. If "liberalism" is coming under attack from the Left, that, in my view, is because the election proved it to be rather weak. But the Left has been pushing against the Democratic Party center for a long time: witness Occupy Wall Street and Bernie Sanders' campaign itself. Plus, both the statistic that family income has not moved since the 1970's, and the observation that millennials are living with their parents after college, is cause enough to see that "liberalism", as understood up until now, is not doing something. I think Mr. Saval is underlining something that has been underway, from the Left, at any rate, for some time. In other words, from both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, as taken shape today in Mr. Trump, there is not just objection, but strong objection to the economic situation. Mr. Trump may represent the working class, but Mr. Sanders represented the millennial interests, and both of them are strong for reform of the present situation. That is ground for common effort. In my view, It would strengthen liberals, too, if they would stand for something robust in ordinary politics, namely free speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press, and, to add another, free trade. Such a defense, a strong one, would give more definition to the word liberalism, and one would think and hope, more love from the American people.

  39. Liberal to most people basically means that the government is the solution not the problem. It also means that people answer to the government and not the other way around. That is what it means today. Doesn't matter what it meant a long time ago.

  40. Of the scarlet letter L, in the immortal words of the great Declan McManus: "I'll wear it proudly."

  41. The author returns to the argument of Louis Hartz, author of "The Liberal Tradition in America," which is required reading for all American history graduate students. Hartz argued that the liberal frame of mind is the American frame of mind. I see liberalism not as a location along a left-right continuum, but rather as a way of thinking that seeks to balance the twin ideals articulated in the Declaration of liberty and equality, which are always in tension. Socialists generally emphasize equality, while economic conservatives generally emphasize liberty. Liberals may lean in either direction while seeking to preserve both. Liberalism seeks to respect majority rule and minority rights at the same time. Liberalism seeks to promote democracy while guarding against the excesses of democracy. Liberals are, I think, the guardians of checks and balances. Liberalism is not easy to defend, because liberalism seeks to preserve what people on both ends of the political spectrum view as good. Liberals are the guardians of the republican values of the American founders.

  42. The label does not matter to me, the substance of the platform does. Whether I call myself democrat, liberal, progressive or whatever. People who care about any stigma attached to a term should be looking deeper. Whatever I am, it is not conservative and what that term represents.

  43. The problem started when liberalism was hijacked by communists and socialists, and re-branded as "progressive". Instead being the philosophy of freedom and individual rights liberalism became associated with equality and Marxist dogma. Tolerance became twisted into identity politics, which are only another iteration of the politics of class resentment. Individual rights and freedoms were distorted into something called "social justice", a concept which, like equality, can only be enforced by tyranny.

  44. Progressivism never fit the left-right division. During the Populist and Progressive eras, progressive policies were supported by people across the political spectrum. FDR's New Deal would never have been possible without the support of conservatives, especially the religious right. Progressivism today is not any different than it was in the past. Sanders is advocating what once was mainstream politics earlier last century.

  45. I will never, ever call myself, or align myself, with either conservatives or the far left progressives. I don't know what those terms mean anymore, either. But I know that I do not like what they stand for right now, and that I am happy to call myself a liberal.

  46. I think most Americans are, "classically liberal" and right leaning. The problem is that the modern democrat party has become the party of the elites and some kind of pseudo communism that only really appeals to the fringe coasts extremists and a few middle America cities like Chicago, Madison, Iowa City, Austin, etc, but most people don't want anything to do with it.

  47. In that case, you think wrong. Decades of polling and surveys show the American public to be very far to the political left on many major issues. And the majority keeps moving further left. The problem is that your views are promoted by the plutocracy that suppresses the silenced majority. This is why people like you can't understand the reason for Sanders being the most popular politician right now, even though he represents what once was mainstream politics earlier last century.

  48. I'm a liberal and proud of it, but I am not corporate democrat. The Bill Clintons of the world sullied liberalism, rather than defending and embracing it.

  49. In the end, corporate liberalism always wins on that side of the political spectrum. Example one: Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and the DNC fixing the nomination process so corporate liberal, Hillary Clinton, beat Bernie Sanders.

  50. Corporate liberalism is not classic liberalism. Recall FDR's famous quote about entrenched economic interests: "I welcome their hatred."

  51. Liberalism is the ideology of the governing elites. Liberalism is the ideology of the elites that took power from the old Estates system of Medieval times. To help prevent elite predatory behavior, the monarchies/aristocracies and clergy were forbidden to engage in commerce, manufacturing, or finance. Since these things were not forbidden to commoners, the most ambitious commoners soon had far more money, and thus political power.

    Another huge difference is that in pre-liberal times, the old ruling class did nothing to earn their prestigious positions, and so had a moral obligation to look after the interests of the common people. Liberal elites tend to be self-made and owe nothing to anybody, and that's the way they govern.

    Populism, on the other hand, is the assumption that a legitimate ruling class has both a moral and legal obligation to look after the interests of citizen and nation. The fact that only liberals would consider such a populism to be "controversial" explains exactly why they are so unpopular with We The People.

  52. An excellent examination of the trees, but missing the forest. Our Founding Fathers were and called themselves Liberals, what today we term "Classical Liberals" and whose political philosophies are today Center Right.
    Progressivism, introduced with the election of Teddy Roosevelt and given structure by Woodrow Wilson, was a new philosophy further left and in most ways antithetical to Classical Liberalism.
    Progressives, especially after WW2, undertook to quietly supplant Liberalism with Progressivism as the dominant force in the Democrat Party. And slowly but relentlessly, they have done so. Progressivism has become the dominant philosophy of the USA.
    But today, the fruits of the Progressivism of Wilson and FDR are being seen in the fiscal and cultural failures of all levels of government and society, rightly or wrongly.
    We cannot sustain the cost of Progressive policies nor can our society cohere under Progressivism's identity politics. This is an existential moment for the USA experiment. We must unite as one thing or the other, but as yet, we can't define either the one thing or the other. Time is running out, and the debate has yet to begin.

  53. Well, talk to some of the Anti-Federalist founding fathers (Jefferson, Paine, etc) who criticized Christianity, plutocracy, corporatism, and centralized government. Some of them went so far as to advocate for social democracy, universal suffrage, black rights, and even economic redistribution (e.g., Paine's citizen's dividend). FDR's proposal of a Second Bill of Rights was partly inspired by Paine.

  54. That Bernie Sanders is popular shows that liberalism is alive and well in the U.S.; this also shows that liberalism is not well-represented in the U.S. Congress.

  55. Over the years liberalism has addressed some vital societal issues with political action resulting in legislation and supreme court decisions. However like the fireman who hasn't had a true fire to put out for so long that he questions his legitimacy, he begins to start fires so he can still be a the hero that puts them out. The neighbors are watching and they see the hero has become the arson and they are looking for a different kind of fire fighter.

  56. I have described myself as a liberal since I first voted for Sen. George McGovern for President. I am proud to be a liberal and am concerned about divisions in the Democratic Party. Those divisions partially resulted in the election of Trump. Despite philosophical differences and the distaste of many for Trump, Republicans turned out in big numbers to vote for him. Many Democrats stayed home. Despite differences in income, education, race, etc., we should band together for the common good of defeating Republicans in 2018 and 2020.

  57. The 2016 election proved true the saying: Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line. Newsflash to Democrats: you won't fall in love with every candidate. Vote anyway. We can't always count on a young, charismatic leader to appear and excite the base a la Obama or Bill Clinton. If you stayed home because you thought Hillary Clinton was a boring, dull candidate, you may as well have voted for Trump.

  58. There are a number of interesting insights here, but no coherent definition of "liberal". Great example of why we need to drop the term, as well as "conservative" from political discourse. What I find interesting is that the nonsense--whatever you call it, my choice of a label is not polite--peddled by Ronald Reagan is still the dominant theme in American politics in spite of doing such damage to the majority of Americans. This is why, I think, that the two most successful Democratic politicians of the post 1980 period, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, were not ideological, but cautious and pragmatic. They understood the climate.

  59. "Progressive" makes better sense to a lot of us on the left, though that's the case partly because the right has done such an effective job over a period of decades of turning "liberal" into an all-encompassing curse word, as if to utter it condemns the person at whom the label is directed. Perhaps what's more important is for the Democratic Party to return to its strong roots in the eras of FDR and LBJ and take stand that honestly pursue the best interests of the the average American, i.e., "the common good."

  60. Similarly, those on the very right, or on the alt right, disparage mainstream republicans and conservatives. I think it's a phenomenon in American political life where people on both extremes think that a perfectly harmonious society can be crafted if all of one side's talking points can be enacted and anyone closer to the center are sellouts for causing the dream to fail.

  61. Liberals were once the vocal defenders of free speech--flag burning, Nazis marching in a Jewish neighborhood, pornography and obscenity, etc. Liberals understood that for free speech to exist, reprehensible speech (real or perceived) must be defended. Sadly, today's liberals are now the suppressors of free speech on campuses and in all forms of media. They are also fully wedded to political correctness, which itself places limitations on free speech through liberal constructs and personal prisms, while also fostering a very thin-skinned hyper-sensitivity. Additionally, modern liberals no longer practice tolerance in it's traditional form (i.e. respectful disagreement). For many liberals today, tolerance often means, "agree with me or you're intolerant." And from there they typically descend into hyperbolic name calling--"Nazi, fascist, sexist, homophobe, Islamophobe, etc."--which is either historically insulting or simply vapid. Until liberalism returns to open and intelligent discourse on all issues, and embraces a rigorous defense of free and diverse speech, it will remain an embarrassment.

  62. Free speech: yes. Criticism of that speech: yes. Having the right to say reprehensible things only seems to be protected from criticism by those who share those points of view.

  63. Good job! Your broad, over-generalized vilification perfectly exemplifies the author's point.

  64. Reagan once said, after being a Dem for so long, "I didn't leave the Democratic party, the Democratic party left me." I think a lot of Americans felt that way during this past election cycle. That's why you had so many blue states, and former Dems, vote for Trump.
    When I hear the word liberal, I think of FDR, John Maynard Keynes and Barack Obama. I guess things are changing. Someone like JFK and even Bill Clinton are considered moderates by today's Dem standard.
    When the head of the DNC comes out and defiantly states that if you don't support abortion, then you can't be a Democrat, then you know the values of the party are shifting farther to the left.

  65. The majority of Americans support pro-choice. As I recall, even most on the political right don't want to overturn Roe vs Wade.

    Sure most Americans want some common sense limitations to abortions, just as they want common sense controls of guns. But that doesn't change that Americans remain steadfast in their support of individual rights.

    Abortions were common in the early to mid 20th century. It only became a major politicized issue in recent history.

    The Democratic Party, along with the Republican Party, has shifted way to the right on many issues such as economics, crime, and military.

  66. Not so long ago, a liberal in US politics was one who stood up for a sensible, balanced approach between two poles:

    1. law and order + support for the weak against the strong;

    2. support for progress around the world + fierce opposition to revolutionary authoritarianism;

    3. an ethos of broad social provision + respect for work and disdain for the dole;

    4. commitment to legal immigration + rock-solid opposition to illegal immigration.

    This was the ethos of Jack and especially Bobby Kennedy. Bobby was a tireless advocate for the poor, but also opposed welfare; he championed civil rights, but opposed any kind of disorder and was a fierce champion of law enforcement and rule of law generally.

    The Democratic party's leadership, up through Bill Clinton, opposed communist regimes abroad and signaled their commitment at home to Americans who "work hard and play by the rules."

    All of the above collapsed in the Obama era when the Democrats cynically decided to embrace identity politics as a political strategy.

    Instead of commitment to rule of law and support for law enforcement, we have "Black Lives Matter."

    Instead of Atty. Gen. Kennedy flying to the scene to _oppose_ local/state defiance of federal law, we have Democratic _support_ for the idiocy of "sanctuary cities."

    Instead of support for people who work hard and play by the rules, the party's in thrall to virtue-signaling billionaire oligarchs who thumb their nose at the rest of us.

    I want my party back.

  67. I enjoyed your commentary--excellent and insightful.

  68. Let me start with "support for progress around the world fierce opposition to revolutionary authoritarianism."

    For those who know their history, the US government of neither party has genuinely supported that vision. Since the beginning of the Cold War, the US government has regularly supported and even put into power authoritarian governments (fascist, theocratic, etc), by revolutionary coup and other means including assassination. The US helped take out many democratically elected leaders in secular governments.

    Legal and illegal immigration is largely an issue of definition. Mid-20th century saw changes in immigration laws. Most of the immigrants today called illegal were called legal back then.

    Besides, we have the lowest illegal immigration right now than has been seen in a long time. Also, Obama deported more illegal immigrants than any president of either party in many decades. No major Democratic politician is advocating illegal immigration or open borders.

    Yet people like you act completely clueless about all of this.

  69. Advocating "work hard and play by the rules" makes little sense in an economic system where hard work isn't rewarded and the rules are tilted toward the rich. The Democratic party establishment switched it's loyalties from New Deal social democracy to New Democratic neoliberalism.

    Job security is gone along with good benefits. Unemployment and undermployment is high because of neoliberal globalization, offshoring, deindustrialization, etc. Wages have been stagnating or dropping for most Americans for a half century.

    The middle class is shrinking and, among what is left, the US no longer has the wealthiest middle class. Economic mobility has fallen behind other countries. Wealth and power has become concentrated into a plutocracy. The inequality that exists in the US is the highest that has ever been seen in world history.

    As for "Black Lives Matter," they too want a commitment to rule of law and support for law enforcement that has commitment to rule of law. That is the problem. Back in the 1960s, the police got out of hand. It led to public outrage and police departments were reformed. The present police departments and people like you seem to have forgotten about that era of reform and what caused it.

  70. My grandparents were Liberals. Back then it was different and for most of the country, respectable. I can tell you as a historical witness that there is almost no resemblance between the so called Democrat party of today, and the one that existed before 1970. None. After McGovern, it's like the whole thing caught leprosy and got progressively worse each year since.

  71. I'm not sure why the Democratic Party gets blamed for everything that has gone wrong when Democrats rarely hold power in this country.
    Try electing Democrats and see what happens - either that or enjoy the world created by Republicans.

  72. I am a classical Liberal and have been all my life, it was the Democratic party that left me. I am not a socialist or a communist, and Identity politics are the worst form of Leftism and racism I have ever seen. People are individual souls and should be treated on their individual actions and merits, not the color of their skin or their sexuality/gender. That used to be a very liberal Democratic stance. Today that is blasphemy to the Left. Every victim group tries to 'out victim' each other now and the left eats its own.

  73. Thomas Paine was a classical liberal too. Yet he was far to the left of the present Democratic Party. It is hard to imagine any major Democratic politician these days advocating, as Paine did, a basic income (i.e., citizen's dividend) as compensation for public land and natural resources becoming concentrated in private hands.

  74. Let's look at liberal's position on poverty: "You need to help folks get back on the job," which is really the same positions the right has, ignore the economic institutions that cause poverty, FIX poor people.

    Liberalis have never defended militant labor or unions, they were part of the death of it. All progress in this country was created by radicals, not by liberals were just jumped on the bandwagon when all the hard work was already done. Liberals always insist on open dialogue, rather than an understanding of how power works.

    Liberals also don't understand how social justice struggle works. Where are the riot cops, the angry business owners, the hedge fund managers in liberal images of struggle? In liberalism, the other side is inherently evil, but this is not really self-evident. Liberalism will always be subservient to capitalism, and it will never be capable of fundamentally challenging it and changing our society in a profound way.

    Join your local DSA, maybe you'll learn a thing or two about the class solidarity that liberals never talk about.

  75. 'If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."'
    - John F. Kennedy, accepting the New York Liberal Party nomination, September 14, 1960.

  76. President Kennedy wouldn't be considered a liberal today. The 35th president was an ardent tax-cutter who championed across-the-board, top-to-bottom reductions in personal and corporate tax rates, slashed tariffs to promote free trade, and even spoke out against the “confiscatory” property taxes being levied in too many cities. His fierce anti-communism, his religious devotion (he gave faith-based speeches that most Dems might consider extreme today) and his advocacy for low deficits, a strong dollar, free trade, tax cuts, free enterprise and individual responsibility puts him at the opposite end of the political spectrum. If JFK were here today, he would either have to renounce most of what he stood for or join the Republican party. Popular mythology has turned Kennedy into a liberal hero. Some of that mythmaking was driven by Kennedy aides, such as Sorensen and Arthur Schlesinger Jr., who had always wanted their boss to be more left-leaning than he was. Some of it was fueled by the Democratic Party’s emotional connection to the memory of a martyred president, and its understandable desire to link their priorities to his legacy. But Kennedy was no liberal. By any reasonable definition, he was a conservative — and not just by the standards of our era, but by those of his era as well. Sorry to burst your bubble but in today’s political environment, a candidate like JFK a conservative champion of economic growth, tax cuts, peace through strength — would be a Republican.

  77. "The Liberals believe in each and every quack who sets up a booth at the county fair, including even the Communists. The Communists have a few talents too, but they always fall short of believing in Liberals."
    - H.L. Mencken-

    Nobody likes a patsy.

  78. Communists and Conservatives falling short together. Guess it must be their mutual cynicism.

  79. H.L. Mencken disliked FDR, who not only saved the nation economically, but also saved the world from the Nazis.

    So much for the "wisdom" of H.L. Mencken

  80. A liberal is someone who favors amnesty for illegals because they can profit from the cheap labor. They pretend to be generous to Mexicans (who they could care less about) while they lower wages and employment for the working class. When confronted they are dismissive, pretending not to understand simple economics while the profits rise and living standards decline. Those who oppose their worsening conditions will be called "xenophobic" to divert attention from the greedy liberal capitalists to the desperate illegals.

  81. There is a farm labor shortage now and no Republicans are running to the fields to take those jobs.

  82. I can't agree. The history of liberalism demonstrates its strong support for workers' rights.

  83. Liberals don't want to be called liberals anymore either. They don't want anyone to accidentally confuse them with someone who actually believes in liberty. They now preferred to be called socialists.

  84. Sounds like only you want to refer to liberals as socialists. Stop parroting right wing talk radio.

  85. roosevelt great president

  86. I proudly defend liberalism every day.

  87. Liberalism has produced every important progressive legislation in modern American history.

    Denigrating liberalism is suicide, and the right wing will be happy to assist you.

  88. It's not that uncommon for words to get redefined over time. That's how languages evolve. So what?

  89. A year or so ago a conservative friend posted some nonsense on Facebook about liberals supporting "safe spaces" in colleges. I wrote back "I'm a liberal and I think that whole movement is nuts. You go to College to expand your horizons not stay within your comfort zone"

    My friend wrote back "You're not a liberal.

    "Of course I am" I replied listing my liberal bona fades. Antiwar, pro-environment, in favor of progressive taxation, single payer health care system, pro-choice, and of course, pro freedom of speech.

    As it turned out she may have been right. A few weeks later I posted the same opinion on a liberal bulletin board thread on a site that I had long been a member of and was promptly and viciously attacked as a racisist, a sexist and a hater of trans, gay and bisexual people.

    Since the Clinton administration Democrats have been decoupling themselves from the liberal economic legacy of FDR and in its place assembled a coalition of interest groups many of which have very little in common with each other. Maybe that's where the nastiness, insularity, the preciousness, the insane notion that nothing can be questioned for to do so feeds the right wing agenda comes from.

    These days I'm no longer calling myself a liberal. My positions on the issues haven't changed and if you call me a liberal I won't argue with but to be honest I don't want to be associated with those people.

  90. "Liberals," the left, and progressives are all quite split on the idea of "freedom from speech." Those that stand rather for "freedom of speech" like Jonathan Haidt, Jonathan Chait, Barack Obama, and others, should be congratulated and supported.

  91. How I'd love to read that bulletin board thread.

  92. Thank you for a very good stable statement (don't let Siri control your words; and I hate to go back and edit, After I get on a good heat prose-wise)

  93. "Liberal: Characterized by policies favoring progress or reform; not intolerant or prejudiced, broad-minded; characterized by generosity..."

    From reading this column, one would have NO idea of the true definition of 'liberal,' as given above. I guess that's what happens when a term becomes a punching bag, devoid of all meaning, vilified by its detractors to the point of no meaning at all.

    A formerly proud word, plundered and raped, left for dead - just like the USA.

  94. It's so easy when liberals write their own definitions for the word "liberal" isn't it? Just like the liberal socialists in America who always reply, "But I'm a "democratic socialist!" trying to somehow claim a mantle other than "socialist"..... until you go to the "democratic socialists" website where they openly wish Karl Marx a "Happy Birthday!" with a huge banner across the page and try to convince each other that it really is finally time to drop the word "democratic" and come out of the closet as what they truly are .... simply "socialists".

  95. Great op-ed. I agree with word of it. I am so glad that I don't embrace any of their values any more. I came to my senses in 2000 when Gore started dong the Macarena and pay Naomi Wolfe a fortune to advise him on earth-tone shirts. That's when I realized the liberals were flakes. The last 8 years confirmed that realization and HRC brought it to a new level of absurdity if not insidious.

  96. Anyone who calls themselves a "southern boy" and gripes about the last 8 years wasn't ever a liberal.

  97. Liberal = Left
    There is no difference anymore. Any politician knows they must
    tow the leftist line or they will be outcast. Money dries up and
    attack ads ran against them. Liberal = Left.

  98. The profane manipulation of the photograph of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a wealthy New Yorker who gave his life in the service of his country, illustrating an article that addresses, in part, another New Yorker who has most certainly not served his country with such honor, devotion, and dignity, is disgusting. Derek Brahney should be ashamed.

  99. Laughable, and typical of the comments I routinely see on this forum.

    Has Donald Trump so much as attempted to:

    1. Round-up people of a particular race, based on race alone, and put them in concentration camps; US citizens included?

    2. Create a House committee based on ferreting-out "Un-American Acts" or political affiliations?

    3. Used the IRS as a political weapon?

  100. How could you not be the One to provide the most insightful biting comment, thank you… And you even got one in on old 45 at the same time!

  101. This article is should be a starting point for anyone interested in history or freedom, but it tries to tell a confusing story and omits the most crucial thing about an actual "liberal." There is an excellent book out called "For a new Liberty" that will walk people through this devolution.

    The closest thing we have to a 'classical liberal' or 'real liberal' today is a libertarian. And Libertarians had to choose this name because everyone was misusing the term liberal. I find it very odd that the writer chose this significant omission.
    Communists and socialists of the early 20th century did a phenomenal marketing job in somehow pitching their ideas a liberal. Basically, they said that only way to achieve freedom from monarchies is to give power to a different type of government that would stand up for your 'freedoms.' I ask you now to reflect on how that has turned out (Stalin, Hitler, etc).

    I've always found it funny that 'Progressives' and 'liberals' could ever be united under a single political party in the US as they are fundamentally opposed. 'Progressism' is in fact just another form of statism touted by socialists and communists that was a bit more palatable to Americans.

    'Liberals' have a terrible reputation these days, because unprincipled and illogical people have been wrongly selling their ideasemselves liberals for the last hundred years.

    Liberalism is truly at the foundation of American Politics and this is a correction that needs to be made.

  102. I believe Milton Friedman considered himself close to a liberatarian / classic liberal. He, with his wife wrote the book "Free to Choose" which shows how programs that move spending and decisions to a central government can and often do have unintended negative conseqences. How the market as a whole working as a system has knowledge that no one person or beauracracy can ever had. If disciplined centralized planning and redistribution of wealth worked, the defunct U. S. S. R. would have been a great success. Instead it failed.

    Freedom provides for wealth distribution. One form is called charity. With charity, the receiver is less likely to be damaged by the benefit. A parent, taking care of an impoverished adult single mother may have lifestyle expectations. A parent might take them in and NOT provide cash that could get spent on drugs. A parent might discourage a lifestyle of having child after child the single mother can not support.
    Justice Clarence Thomas had the good fortune of being raised by his gradparents rather than his impoverished mother. His grand parents ended up raising a judge.

  103. Yes, we are some guilty of being "big spenders" while simultaneously somehow abandoning our New Deal and Great Society heritage. Apparently, people across the political spectrum expect something for nothing from us.
    We ought to consider the possibility that the arrogance the liberals are perceived to affect is the product of the frustration that others feel when their own ideas and ideals are exposed as fallacious and wishful thinking. Ours is the Era of Guano in which liberalism is made to be the piñata for those who are sure we won't hit back. So much easier (and safer) than going after the root causes suffering and economic failure.

  104. Dave Kliman, you probably know my Brother in Law Mack?.......I continue to believe, "Liberal" means one thing.........Generous.........with other people's money!!!!!

  105. LIberalism gets bashed, in part, because of its past successes. Sure, we need to take a long hard look at how it can serve all the people, but lets not throw away the baby with the bath water. I still don't see an attractive alternative.

  106. How about social democracy, aka. soft capitalism?

  107. Yes, i think that is what I am, Milad, but can you please define it more specifically?

  108. From the online etymology dictionary...

    Liberal (noun)..."from liber "free, unrestricted, unimpeded; unbridled, unchecked, licentious."

  109. Many terms have various senses, and usually few apply in a given context. True of the political liberal.
    Liberals want certain checks on access to guns.
    Conservatives launched an unimpeded, unbridled and unchecked, but also unprovoked, invasion of Iraq.

  110. in my country Australia, the current government Liberal Party is more right wing than the leftie Labor Party - and has been associated with neo-Liberal privatisation agendas - lower taxes by reduced government spending by giving major infrastructure projects to (friends') private companies - how do you like those tri-state tollways brought to you by Australian Toll Holdings or Macquarie (I forget which) ? I heard they were very unpopular.

    Now with repeated failure of those privatised major projects falling back to big debts on public taxpayers - suddenly the neo-liberal privatise-everything agenda is (cough) quietly disappearing - to be replaced by - yes government should take on debt as a responsible lower cost borrower - to build and maintain necessary infrastructure like roads and bridges.

  111. Obviously not the folks I want spending my money.

  112. I grew up a Jewish kid in an Italian Catholic neighborhood and all my friends had God up on the wall. We didn't, but we had a picture of a man with deep eyes and I stared at that picture and decided that that must be God. Now, sixty years later, I still believe that Franklin Roosevelt was God. That makes me a Liberal and proud of it.

  113. I'm a Jewish kid who grew up in an Italian Catholic neighborhood too! Likewise they kept one of their interpretations of G-d up on their walls too! More importantly for most they treated me with honor and respect, as I would expect G-d would want! I conducted myself as G-d through Micah asked: And what does the Lord ask of the; To Do Justice, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly...We all with our different interpretations got along quite well...We didn't need FDR to realize that...Liberal or not...G-d Bless America, our home sweet home.

  114. I prefer Robert Frost's definition, " A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel." When I was a young liberal in College I don't remember the vitriol against all things republican I see to today. There seems to be a lot of Freudian projection of hatred on the left these days. Obama was a terrible president for me and I went backwards economically because of the terrible ACA, which could only be passed as a TAX law. NO wonder it stinks and is costly. However, I never hated Obama, I just didn't agree on policy. Can't tell you how many times someone on the left declared my opinion as closeted racism or hyper partisan or some other nonsense. My Cancer surviving MOM had her insurance cancelled( she is okay now) and I was told several times by liberals that I was lying about it because I hated Obama. What happened liberals? You used to be nice people!

  115. Most liberals are pussycats compared to commenters on say, Breitbart, and better versed on policy. The Trump phenomenon has pushed some people too far. Maybe it's not all things Republican, but all the things Republicans are trying to do that bother good liberals.

  116. Could you please explain how you went "backwards" financially because of the ACA and why your mom had her insurance "cancelled?" Both claims have a ring of hollowness.

  117. The right-wing invented polarization and hatred.

  118. Liberal = Enlightenment, Age of Reason

    Few things bother me more than the ignorance ''educated'' people demonstrate about where our government comes from and how it works.

    Anti-liberal (conservative? reactionary? just greedy?) forces demean and diminish public education, including science, history and civics. Many Americans amble about with just a vague understanding of our history, the founding, our great struggles. NPR tweets out the Declaration on July 4th and is accused of radical agitation.

    Our great leaders understood that all must be educated, informed and engaged if our liberal experiment in democracy is to survive. They could take a punch and accept it as part of our great dialogue.

    We are all in this together and will reason it out together. Or we won't.

  119. Very well put

  120. An old friend of mine, who is a major Trump supporter, had taken to starting sentences with, "you liberals," and proceeding to lambast liberals and me for everything under the sun. Although I never broached politics with her and tried to keep our increasingly strained relationship intact for old times sake , this became a pattern. One day I stopped her and asked her to define what she meant by liberal - she couldn't. My response: if believing in the rule of law, the Constitution, civil and human rights, and operating under the principle of "doing to others as you would have them do to you" makes me a liberal, I am, indeed, a liberal. We don't see each other much anymore, but the venom has stopped when we do.

  121. I've had similar experiences. It's tiring to always probe more deeply and get a blank response.
    Because humans are clannish, everyone wants to belong and then we get this kind of tribal behavior. We're not better than other countries we look down on...we must be more thoughtful about our beliefs.

  122. Trump believes in the rule of law. Especially immigration law. None of the big parties seems to believe in it anymore. they seem to disrespect and spit on our laws. That is why Trump was elected. Glad that you support the second amendment though.

  123. The definition of liberal democracy is a form of representative government based on a constitution or set of laws, fair and free elections, separation of powers, respect for a free press, transparency, etc. The form of government desired by Trump would be referred to as "illiberal", like that of Russia. Hence, the conservative party in Canada is called the Liberal Party.

    A better way to distinguish Democrats from Republicans is as progressives vs conservatives.

    In the US, "liberal" has oddly become an epithet, evidence of our deeply irrational partisanship.

  124. Liberals care about others. Liberals care about ALL Americans and ALL human beings. If that's a "bad" thing count me in.

    Of course, some people go too far. That is what we are witnessing and living with the Koch brothers engineered takeover of OUR governments around the world, at all levels, by radical right-wingers - the International Mafia. We do not want to go too far left as Bernie Sanders and his supporters want.

    The Koch brothers world is one of destruction and war fueled by hate/anger/fear propaganda. That is not the kind of world the vast majority of human beings want. Nor do we want to create a full-dependency welfare state. The vast majority of us want something in the center, without wild swings either way and that is why nearly 40% of us remain independent of "party". WE hold the key to centering America.

    Liberal/progressive means having a social conscience and believing in and working for social/economic justice for all. It's a wonderful thing.

  125. Bernie isn't far-left, though... His policy platform when running for President was social-democratic, and he's even dropped pushing for some of those positions since. Social democracy is a moderate center-left on the international spectrum. It's the Washington spectrum that's skewed to the right.

  126. Bernie isn't so far to the left, it's that the center has been moved to the right. Compare Bernie's policies to FDR. Not too much different.

  127. Being a classical liberal and being a progressive are closer to being opposites. The article is trying to educate you on the subject but it doesn't appear to have made an impact. Your stated definitions are in no way accurate and are a regurgitation of the speech that has been used to divide us.

    Saying 'Liberals care about others' misses the most important part of Liberalism and implies that Liberals are the only ones who care about others. Divisive.

    Being a liberal means caring about the FREEDOM of oneself and others. This includes the freedom of self-determination for all. Even if you may not agree with their choices and think you know better.

    Calling yourself Liberal/progressive is what has smeared the term 'liberal.'

    Its just as ridiculous and giving directions that say "take a left/right on Main St, then go up/down a hill and over/under a bridge. Then turn onto the road before/after the sign.

    This article is about you.

  128. The research in the wake of the 2016 election proved one thing: the division is not actually "liberal" or "conservative/right wing" but education.

    I do have concerns that these terms, especially "liberal," are being weaponized and used to draw tribal boundaries, however. One thing we can all do is stop mocking/labeling each other and instead get down to specifics: What are your concerns about Issue X? What are your views on Issue Y? Hey, we actually agree on something!

  129. This is nothing new. From Phil Ochs to Carl Oglesby, "the left" has been trolling liberals for decades.
    If you can't stomach "liberals," perhaps the current zeitgeist is more to your taste.

  130. Based on everything I've read so far it would seem that everyone is liberal on some things and conservative on everything else. So , lets stop usingthe words liberal and conservative.
    I classify myself as a progressive, not a liberal and from what I've read the "conservatives" would be classified as regressives. Far better descriptors because the conservatives don't conserve anything and the liberals don't seem to know what they are. It's like he term "right to work" a colossal misnomer, it really means that you can be fired without cause. Something the republicans love and the Democrats not so much.
    So there you have it, progressives go forward and regressives want to go back, at least to the 1920's.

  131. I too am a proud liberal, but hasten to agree with those readers who have distinguished the terms "liberal" and "left." At the core of its meaning, a liberal mind is an open mind. JS Mill laid this out brilliantly in On Liberty, but Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell captured it in a paragraph.

    As Russell wrote, what marks a liberal is not what he believes but how be believes it. Tentatively, like a scientist, a liberal believes that for which he has the best evidence, but he's always willing to be talked out of his views. This is because he is not attached to his present views so much as to getting at the truth of the moral, legal, and political issues that concern us in all its complexity. Unlike those on the rigid, intolerant right and the rigid, intolerant left, thus, a true liberal not only tolerates those who disagree with him and can give reasons for their views. He welcomes them, even seeks them out, so that he may come to know his own views on public matters more accurately.

    To be sure, there are practical limits: I'm not going to waste my time with someone who says "sit down, let me show you why Hitler was a great man." Yet most of the public issues we face going forward are more contestable than this. In any case, Socrates may have been the ultimate liberal. He knew that he didn't know, and so admitted that fact up front in seeking to learn from those who claimed to know. This gave him a freedom that most do not have, but it also eventually got him put to death.

  132. I have been a liberal as long as I remember. I am an adult and will die with these values; liberty, equality, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, civil rights, gender equality, freedom of religion, secular government! I am proud to be a liberal!

  133. "Liberals" need to spend some time and study FDR. He was a popular President for many years. How did he do it?

    He found a way to connect with ALL segments of the population; he was perceived as a proponent for EVERYONE.

    Study his speeches, his actions. Then you'll have a pretty good idea of what works for a "liberal".

  134. True enough. Ditto Harry Truman, especially HST.

    Except for one in the FDR punch bowl. To get his programs through Congress he caved far too many times to the Southern Democrats where race was concerned. One example: To get the nation's first minimum wage passed, he agreed to exempt farm workers and domestics their fair share.

    I'll take it that latter day Roosevelt-Truman to indeed include everyone below the elite top and "give 'em he'll" early and often.

  135. How did he do it? He married Eleanor.

  136. The best way for liberals to get in touch with their roots, to get a sense of clarity and purpose, is to read "Homegrown Democrat," by Garrison Keillor. Better yet, get the audio version. Also read FDR's "second bill of rights." At its core, the modern liberal believes that we need big government for protection against exploitation and to provide a safety net. Liberals who are too far to the left are not liberals, but radicals.

  137. You cite FDR as a role model, but deride those who would fight to enact his vision radicals?

  138. As the arc of recent history has demonstrated, America does better when a broad safety net is provided.

    I don't see the value, economic or otherwise, in the growing concentration of wealth in just a few hands and the accompanying anger and alienation.

  139. I have always called myself liberal without shame. Today, though, the sands feel like they've shifted underneath me and what it means to be liberal may have changed. If the term has come to identify the "Bernie or death" faction emerging at the fringe, then count me out. One thing I can definitely identify as is anti-extremist.

  140. Being considerate of others, offering equal opportunity to all based on achievement without prejudice is not identity politics it is being moral, just and kind. The hateful rhetoric from the right wants to glorify rudeness, vulgarity and violence. The same thing was done with the word feminist. It is all a propaganda game to gain power and back people down for standing up for what is right. Their mistake will be confusing kindness and integrity with weakness. "Pride goeth before a fall."

  141. Well thought out comment, except the part where you think liberals are identified as standing for equal opportunity based on achievement. It’s the opposite of the identity politics left and espouses exactly what conservatives have stood for for decades.

  142. Great illustration!

  143. I'm pleased with being a liberal. I don't care what others think. I vote liberal - not extremist.

  144. Yes OK, but the point is, being a 'liberal' is no longer what it used to be. It is now firmly associated with imperialism, war, and putting corporate interests before people. 'Liberal' has gradually come to mean the liberation of corporations and finance more than the Liberty and freedom of people.

  145. No, Bobo C, not at all. You have simply accepted the stilted argument put forth for such a new, hateful definition. Those who are liberal, will not accept that new definition, because we will not support such things, even on our worst day. Above all, liberals are for the little guy.

  146. Labels and name tags are for the intellectually lazy. What's important are specific philosophical, political, and policy positions (e.g., gun control, abortion, taxes, healthcare, military spending, environmental protection, job growth, etc). Simple labels tend to obscure and confuse voters as to what politicians specifically believe and support.

  147. John F. Kennedy said very well why he was proud to be a liberal .... perhaps you may want to revisit what he thought of the "Liberal" label ...
    “If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people-their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights and their civil liberties-someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal", then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal.”

  148. As a native New Yorker being labelled a Liberal is not something to be embarrassed by or, for that matter, unusual. It is rarer not to be. It is why conservatives decry metropolises like ours in Blue States. We represent to them people who hate American. Nothing could be further from the truth, but don't try to explain that those steeped in Right Wing propaganda.

    We Liberals are labelled unpatriotic, un-American because we choose to criticize US when we err. What is so unpatriotic about that I never got. To criticize is to care, to want to correct, to do as the Founders hoped, to form that more perfect Union. Since no one is perfect why not at least strive to perfect what we can through our endeavors, to improve upon the foundation laid down some 241 years ago. What's so wrong with that?


  149. It's in fact conservatives who hate America, since they insist that the liberal majority are not "real Americans." That's why they see nothing wrong with their voter suppression campaign. They don't think the voters who are suppressed are really American. They think only white conservatives are "real Americans."

  150. Anyone who accepts the modern American definition of liberalism is a fool unworthy of attention. Belief in liberty has been perverted into belief in government. While in graduate school studying French Liberalism, I roomed with a Turkish sociologist who opposed G.W. Bush because he was "too liberal." I always start with that comment when I teach US political history and enjoy the consternation it creates among my students.

  151. My impression is that modern liberalism is like classic liberalism with much of the liberty taken out. Modern liberalism trades liberty for promised security. This is especially true of economic liberty. (see below).

    Economic liberty is a potential employee deciding on the lowest wage they will work for, not the government. Economic liberty is deciding what, if any health insurance you will buy, and not being forced to buy what the government tells you too. Economic liberty is having whatever retirement savings plan you like, and not being forced to participate in social security.

    How could a liberal who truly believes in individual liberty accept any of the above? They can't, and as you pointed out many liberals believe in government coercion especially in economic matters, which is the opposite of root of liberal, liber (free).

    Whether or not one things such coercion is a good thing, the word liberal should not be used to describe a philosophy that is based so heavily on such coercion. It should be used to describe beliefs based on freedom.

    "Classical liberalism is a political ideology, a branch of liberalism which advocates civil liberties under the rule of law with an emphasis on economic freedom. It is closely related to libertarianism and to free market capitalism.[1][2]"

  152. Liberty does not mean government stepping back and allowing oppression to happen.

  153. "Liberty does not mean government stepping back and allowing oppression to happen."

    From https://www.google.com/#q=liberty
    "the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one's way of life, behavior, or political views.
    "compulsory retirement would interfere with individual liberty""

    There are many definitions. The test in this one is oppressive restrictions imposed by authority.

    I think you can have liberty and material poverty. I don't think we should stand by and let people starve or die in the street either. Much of peoples material state comes from their decisions. Decisions to drop out of high school, have children as a single parent with no means to support them, choosing not to buy insurance.
    There is the trade off between liberty and security. I believe in a great deal of liberty and a great deal of accountability for your own decisions made with that liberty.
    That may mean if you choose not to buy health insurance, and get cancer when you are 35, you may have to sell your house to pay for your treatment, and incur future debt.


  154. One thing is certain after reading this article and the comments. Right wing propaganda from the 1880s so tarnished and confused people about liberalism (and conservatism for that matter) that these words no longer have any consistency of meaning. We are lost in a sea of partisan tribalism, with the Right hating the Left and the Left hating parts of the Left and the Right, but no one discussing actual policy or how to get things done or make things better. Name calling and demonising have replaced discourse and compromise. .

  155. Today's America: "Liberals" are not liberal, and "Conservatives" are not conservative.

    IMO, the early 20th progressives did a lot of damage merging big business, intellectual academics, and the state. Everyday people, regardless of political views, generally don't like that.

  156. You're conflating "liberalism" (in the American tradition, a combination of classical economic liberalism with a robust Keynesian vision for state intervention to combat inequality, or what we think of now as social democracy) with "neoliberalism", a term that surprisingly does not appear in your piece. Neoliberalism is corporate capitalism, and describes the trend on the Left (brought to the fore under Clinton) to tack right on business and finance and embrace aspects of the properly conservative agenda (fiscal austerity, deregulation, etc). It is liberalism stripped of its egalitarian ethos, and narrowly returned to an individualistic vision of capitalism that even Adam Smith wouldn't recognize.

    We rightly critique neoliberalism, both its conservative champions (its intellectual antecedents include Hayek and Friedman) and its "liberal" followers (Clinton most prominently, but even Obama as this article rightly notes). What is needed is not a return to Keynesian liberalism (that day has passed) but a bolder agenda to replace the failed ideology of neoliberalism. You can't find defenders on the Left because we recognize that it's failed. But we have yet to articulate a coherent ideology to replace it: one that acknowledges what liberalism (and social democracy) got right but updates that narrative to the challenges of the 21st century.

  157. I'm a liberal, but one that realizes that the label is now a negative--and likely to remain one for many years to come. We have allowed this to happen by not defending our positions--or even offering fixed positions on anything. We will strengthen the safety net and pay for it by taxing the rich. We will provide improved education by taxing the rich. Provide affordable housing by taxing the rich.

    You get the idea. We will do wondrous things without costing the poor or middle class a dime. It is no wonder no one takes us seriously anymore. We need to tell the public that fiscally some desired programs are not feasible. And that although we strongly support immigration, there must be some control of our borders and there need to be some consequences. We need to tell folks that although we support a separation of church and state, we will not automatically oppose anything religious.

    We need to offer reasonable policies----supportive of common folks and the working class, but not weak and impossible to fund. Can we do this?

  158. It's clear from the comments on this article that self identifying liberals have a very different understanding of the term "liberal" than do anti-liberals (whether as conservatives, progressives, or otherwise).

  159. I'd gladly accept all the liberal critics if only they would give up their government assisted housing in the form of mortgage interest deduction. Otherwise they act like comrades, not conservatives.

  160. Donald Trump's followers now label anyone espousing traditional American values as "liberals," as if those values--once thought to be part of the American psyche--are now nothing more than a political ideology rooted somewhere on the left side of the political spectrum. Those values include free elections, the courage to stand up to tyranny, equality for all citizens under the law, respect for the separation of powers, the equality of all three branches of government, and respect for the United States Constitution with the Bill of Rights, which includes the First Amendment rights of free speech and a free press, Americans have fought and died for those values, and the American flag is their symbol. His supporters are trading those values for the pie-in-the-sky materialism promised by Trump, along with a self-defeating “America first” outlook and a return to some mythical time of past prosperity and greatness.

  161. @Carl Walter: The "past prosperity and greatness" of the United States of America is no "myth." It was, and remains the greatest nation ever formed on this planet. And if you don't believe that, look at past human history, and then look around you. There is no "myth" in reality.

  162. The phenomenon described in this article is what has allowed the last 40 years to be dominated by Conservative rule. The Right finds creative ways to bash the Left, and both the Right and the Left, especially newcomers who recognize imperfection over positive accomplishment, become a chorus of anti-Left acrimony.
    Circular firing squads are nothing new on the Left, which works in harmony with the Conservative approach of divide and conquer.

  163. I don't know who came up with the definition: "The liberal is pious about diversity but ready to abandon any belief at the slightest drop in poll numbers — a person who is, as the folk singer Phil Ochs once said, ‘‘10 degrees to the left of center in good times, 10 degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally.’’ IMO, this is totally off the mark. This is more in line with what I've seen in Conservatives. What is referred to as the "European version" is more accurate: "a preference for things like limited government, separate private and public spheres, freedom of the press and association, free trade and open markets (classical liberalism)’’.

  164. The classic example of this hypocrisy is the many Democratic politicians who send their own children to elite private schools such as Sidwell Friends in DC. Public education for thee - but not for me.

  165. I'm a post-war conservative. That means I believe in well-established ideas like Wyatt Erp (as opposed to the gun totin' cowboys), equal rights, unions, progressive income tax, regulated capitalism, social security, medicare, medicaid, and if I must choose between "the railroads running the government," or the opposite, I choose the latter.

  166. I wish we had less historical amnesia.

    Many classical liberals from past centuries, including among the American revolutionaries and founders, were radical left-wingers. They criticized Christianity, theocracy, monarchy, plutocracy, authoritarianism, centralized government, concentrated wealth and power, corporatism, big biz, etc. They did this while often advocating for democratic process, social democracy, universal suffrage, women’s rights, black rights, abolition of slavery, basic income/citizen’s dividend, progressive taxation, public schools, separation of church and state, separation of business and state, etc.

    Not every classical liberal agreed with all or necessarily even any of those exact positions. And it is fair to point out that some classical liberals were what today we would call reactionary conservatives, as opposed to traditionalists defending the ancien regime. But among classical liberals, this represented the leftward range of ideas and values under discussion. Classical liberalism meant many things to many people, ever since the beginning of the Enlightenment Age. It always had immense diversity and inconsistency.

    Why can’t we begin discussions like this with a basic acknowledgment of historical facts?

  167. Liberalism didn’t change that much. 20th century liberalism was a direct continuation of ideas and policies first formulated and advocated centuries earlier.

    FDR’s Second Bill of Rights was inspired by Thomas Paine. The critique of big biz and corporatism goes back to a central reason the American Revolution was fought, as the founders were mistrustful of the corporatist collusion between big gov and big biz. That was what the whole tax issue was about, as big biz was being given preferential treatment by big gov.

    Many of the founders didn’t just want to bust up monopolies but to create laws that would prevent them from forming. That is why they put severe restrictions on corporate charters. That remained the predominant US political position until the 20th century neoliberal corporatists gained power.

    As for legalizing unions, the fight about organized labor goes back to the ending of feudalism, the enclosure movement that stole and privatized the commons, and the attack on the rights of commoners (what later would be referred to as the rights of Englishmen). Thomas Paine witnessed organized labor and the early labor union movement in London, before coming to the colonies.

    The only reason the US government had to legalize unions in the 20th century was because corporations had gained power to essentially make them illegal prior to that. Legalizing them was removing interventionist government in its suppression of organized labor in the defense of big biz.

  168. Liberals do make compromises and are often percieved as being in the middle and afraid to take a stand. Which raises the question: Is the middle, or center, a bad place to be? It seems to me that it's the true believers on either end of the political spectrum who pose the greatest risk to our democracy.

  169. It is interesting that in continental Europe a Liberal stands for a free market economy, limited government intervention, and opposes the relentless push for e er more social services, like a 35 hour work week with 6 weeks vacation per year. The opposit of the traditional meaning in the US.

  170. Perhaps the reason that the American definition of liberalism is so difficult to grasp is that it has for the past century been synonymous with "Democrat". As we have only two major political parties, those parties are bound to be the very definition of "big-tent party", with a wide range of views fighting for control within. Therefore, what liberalism is has been defined by the politics of those in power in the Democratic Party. That has been at times those who bordered on socialism (FDR) and at others those who embrace corporations and the free market (Clinton). Economic policy is used here because it is easier to define as left or right than cultural.

    Note: I do not call myself a liberal.

  171. The critique of what passes for liberalism from the left is valid. Liberals for the last 40 years have championed war while disavowing the broadly beneficial economic policies that brought liberalism into prominence in the first place. Both parties have moved to the right to such a degree to serve the oligarch class that neither would be recognizable to the previous generation. This shift has produced rampant inequality, hollowed out the middle class, and made Trump possible. Trump will either be the wake up call for liberalism to return to its egalitarian roots, or the final nail in its coffin. It's up to liberals, classical or otherwise, to decide.

  172. "This is a time when it actually requires a certain courage to declare oneself a liberal, even among presumptively like-minded people. ... A great part of learning the argot of a peer group, which is a great part of claiming and assuming membership in it, is the self-editing that deletes disfavored language. All of us learn this skill in adolescence — learn it so well, perhaps, that we practice it unconsciously through life. This editing reaches deeper than mere language, and of course there is no such thing as mere language. The banishment of the word “liberal” was simultaneous with the collapse of liberalism itself. And however these events were related, the patient smile that precludes conversation on the subject means the matter is closed. To be shamed out of the use of a word is to make a more profound concession to opinion than is consistent with personal integrity. What is at stake? Our hope for a good community. Liberalism saw to the well-being of the vulnerable. Now that it has ebbed, the ranks of the vulnerable continuously swell. If this seems too great a claim to make for it, pick up a newspaper." --Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought

  173. Classic liberalism has a strong economic freedom component. See wikipedia definition below.
    From: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_liberalism
    "Classical liberalism is a political ideology, a branch of liberalism which advocates civil liberties under the rule of law with an emphasis on economic freedom. It is closely related to libertarianism and to free market capitalism."

    I would LIBERalism to refer to the philosophy with its roots i, LIBERty and freedom. The modern liberal seems to reject classic liberalism's core principal of economic freedom and the free market. When people are not free to decide individually on the minimum wage they will work for, that is not economic freedom. When people are forced to invest in social security, or buy health insurance, that is not economic freedom either. Voluntary charity is econmic frredom, forced wealth redistribution through social welfare. These all may be good things, but as soon as government coercion is involved, I Dont think the word liberty, and by extension, liberalism apply.
    Modern liberalism does include liberty such as in deciding whom you marry. However, there are many areas where liberty is replaced with coercion. Whether or not that is good or bad, I would argue those things are not consistent with liberty and the original meaning of liberal which embraced freedom and liberty.
    In short, modern liberalism has a strong aspect of trading liberty for security.


  174. There is something to be said that as women entered politics and political leadership fully in the late 20th century, and typically became liberals, men started to see it as weak rather than as speaking truth against power. Now we seem to default to fascism - that problems are solved with intimidation and rules and symbols rather than public ownership, teamwork and tolerance (in the old sense). American 'small s' socialism (big unions, big taxes, big govt, public health care of the 50s and 60s) isn't losing to capitalism, it's losing to feudalism. Cities with their own rules and 'soft' walls erected against outsiders, rural localities dominated by local billionaires, imperial forts, substance abuse and superstition.

  175. How is it possible to talk about "contemporary liberalism" when we can't agree on what it means? The same is true of the plethora of other labels that political analysts like to deploy these days. For example, "populism" is applied in many different ways, and the only thing upon which there is apparently a consensus is that it is very, very bad (although Steven Spielberg has been referred to as a "populist filmmaker").

    But liberalism used to mean something. In the 1960's, it had at least three central principles:

    1. It believed in freedom of speech for everyone.
    2. It worked toward eliminating restrictions on personal behavior.
    3. It championed the interests of the poor and working people against the rich and powerful.

    Today's left is committed to none of these. It insists on "acceptable" behavior and "appropriate" speech, and it promotes the interests of the cultural elite and their adopted minorities. Working class whites (at least the male ones) need not apply.

    It would be just as well to retire the term "liberal" to its place in history and to accept the emerging label "progressive" for what the left has become.

  176. To be a liberal means changing with the times. That may be why conservatives can't get a grasp on what liberalism means. As we as a nation progress we've learned more about ourselves and others. And we respond to our current environment so we are not so rigid and regressive in our policies and platforms. Just because it's difficult to label simply enough for low information citizens doesn't mean that our policies are not well thought and responsive. Our leaders seem to lean to the right when they should be leaning to the left which is why we lost the last election. And survey after survey show that liberal policies are popular with people across the spectrum. When they learn that this policy or that platform is "liberal" then they hated it.

  177. When it's time to actually legislate, neither "Democrat" nor "Republican" means much of anything. There is only one party, The Money Party, and it answers only to the wants and needs of those who have lots of it.

  178. Adam Smith was against high economic inequality, for progressive taxation and public education, and regularly spoke negatively of corporations.

    Yet the political right proclaim him as one of the main founders of free market capitalism. Perhaps free market capitalism isn't what they think it is. What Adam Smith and many others have understood is that a market can only be free to the extent that all of the people are free.

    Also, Adam Smith has been held up as a classical liberal. His criticisms were far from new. Those criticisms were already well established by prior generations. Heck the criticisms of economic inequality go back to Aristotle.

    None of this was invented by 20th century progressive liberals.

  179. I was a liberal most of my life and was proud of it. I even voted for Ralph Nader for the same reason that people voted for Bernie Sanders in the last Democratic primaries. In liberalism I saw a deep and rich intellectual tradition of moderation, common sense and selfless ambition to cure the ills of the world. But that form of liberalism no longer exists and the term liberal has been appropriated by an amalgam of special interests that are focused on their own liberation and social standing. While much of their basic aims are justified, their impatience and intolerance of the socialization process necessary to change cultural norms has radicalizes their supporters and put them at odds with society at large. Even President Obama did not support gay marriage until his second term and for all the rhetoric and protesting, their right to marry was not won on the streets but in the courts of law. Their lack of faith in our system of government and their lack of respect for the American people as a whole created a deep fissure between old liberal like me and neoliberal that have appropriate our banners but not our cause. Today I find myself engaged in active opposition to their condescension of Trump supporters and hatred of all things conservative. I also oppose their intellectual laziness and absence of a cohesive ideology that unifies their highly fragmented aims. These are not Liberals. Liberalism is dead, it died of a bleeding heart.

  180. Started reading this, but as an 84-year old liberal - at least what I thought was "a liberal" - I just don't have time to finish this article. Who writes the definition for different words anyway? Those of us in the real world often don't even know what the definitions are to what we think of ourselves!

    At the end of the article it states Saval last wrote about the trend of "turning abandoned railways lines into urban parks." He is advised to stick to that kind of article!

  181. I consider myself a liberal and have no idea why it's mocked. One of the qualities of a liberal is having an open mind--seems like we could use a bit more open mindedness!

  182. "For the committed leftist, the ‘‘liberal’’ is a weak-minded, market-friendly centrist, wonky and technocratic and condescending to the working class."

    No, Mr. Saval, you have it backwards. The problem is that "weak-minded, market-friendly, wonky and technocratic and condescending to the working class CENTRISTS" have appropriated the word "liberal" to describe themselves, when they are no such thing. A centrist is a centrist. Claiming that a centrist is really a liberal is no different than claiming that 2 + 2 = 5, or that down is up. It is factually incorrect, BY DEFINITION.

    "As the insult gathered steam in the ’90s, Bill Clinton was studiously aiming for the political center"

    Exactly. "Aiming for the center" is, by definition, NOT "liberal". Just because the Clintons and the rest of the Democratic Party establishment persist in calling themselves "liberal" doesn't make it so. The "far left" does not oppose them because they are "liberal" - it opposes them because they are not.

  183. Once upon a time being a Liberal meant being for Free Speech and discussion and debate: "the remedy for bad speech is more speech" was a common Liberal refrain.

    BUt not anymore. Critics of Liberalism on the Left have no problems rioting to prevent an opponent from speaking. Our colleges and universities have Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings. Liberals in our corporate media, instead of shaming this behavior, tolerate these developments and cover for their Far Left critics.

    Once upon a time Liberals stood up for working men and women. Then in the 90's they began to throw them under the bus with outsourcing and by turning a blind eye to illegal immigration, with the help of their friends on the Right.

    Once Upon a time Liberal meant embracing Reason and Science. Now the same Liberals tell us their are 72 genders.

  184. Ah, sir, you speak of leftists, not "liberals."

  185. Conflation can be such an effective tactic when it is aimed at those with short attention spans.

  186. Free speech means the government cannot restrict speech. I don't know any one on the left who is proposing state censorship or book burning. What they support is public shaming and ostracizing the Milos, the Coulters, and their ilk. Just as I'd kick someone out of my house for spouting racist, homophobic ideas, these people are being told loud and clear, "You're not welcome in our community. Go visit the Fox News studios, they'll love you there, but get out of here."

  187. When I was in high school, a classmate was a Goldwater conservative Republican. We went with him to hear Goldwater in the old Madison Square Garden, which shook as Goldwater spoke. A few weeks later, our friend`s father was called on the carpet by his union and told to rein in his son. Almost everything Goldwater stood for, I despised. Yet I believed that he and my friend had every right to say whatever they wanted. It was that simple.
    I participated in one of the first welfare rights` marches and watched in horror as the union hardhats along with the Wall Streeters cursed and derided poor people of color and whites who were only demanding their right to be treated with dignity. In `63, I was against that horrible Vietnam War which saw millions die - including my best childhood friend. Fast forward - forget labels this 74 y.o. believes that "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself/herself and of his/her family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his/her control.
    Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection." UN Declaration of Rights - December , 1948. I would add the importance of a free well- rounded education.

  188. The reason "liberal" has became an epithet is that it has devolved into feel-goodism and "look at me-ism." Just say you're "for" the environment, poor, immigrants, LGBTQ, public education, daisies and sunshine, and that's enough. Actual outcomes or methods of your proposed policies are besides the point.

    Go ahead and bankrupt your local municipality by voting against necessary cuts to government workers and social programs to show that you're "for public workers/services." Vote for raising the minimum wage by 200% to show you're "for working people," though it's those same working people who will be priced out of a job, and small businesses which will go out of business. Etc., etc.

    It's really quite easy to be a liberal: loudly claim you're a Good Guy who wants Good Things for others and you're done. Your good intentions are an end in and of themselves.

  189. "Vote for raising the minimum wage by 200% to show you're "for working people," though it's those same working people who will be priced out of a job, and small businesses which will go out of business. Etc., etc."

    Name one place in the U.S. Where such a thing happened.

    Hasn't ever. Just another lie from the fascists.

  190. The meanings of words have always drifted, and the word "liberal" is no exception. Dictionaries and adults are usually slow to catch on to new twists or whole new meanings, but youths jump on the new bandwagon right away. When we discuss the word " liberal", you must consider who is the speaker, who is the listener or the intended audience and when, where, and in what context we are discussing it. There is no use longing for a mythical time when words had rock solid meanings that everyone understood; that time never really existed.

    Republicans, and more specifically the hard right, have taken the ideas of Lewis Carrol, Goebbels, and Orwell to heart and learned to use them very effectively. Democrats still function on the absurd idea that real facts do indeed exist and all they need to do is present them logically to the electorate. They have been wrong for generations now. "I have a 40 point program for that" will always lose the argument to "make America great again", whatever that may mean and periodically shouting " corrupt Hillary" and "fake news". It really doesn't matter what label the Dems choose, the are gifted at losing under any of them until they accept and use the linguistic rules of the game.

  191. Post war western liberalism did not rely on big financial firms or billionaires for their funding. Liberals did not serve wealth - they served the people.
    Corporate concentration, think tanks in the service of the 0.001% churning out propaganda, super pacs, Citizens United, ..., have captured the Democratic party and turned it into a neoliberal party. Neoliberal does not actually mean new liberal, it means a corporate takeover of the party to achieve illiberal goals.
    Bernie was correct - the Democratic party (the people in administration in the party, its bureaucratic leadership) is not liberal and that is the problem.

  192. "Liberal", like "feminist", has had its definition redefined by right wing media propagandists (of which there is an overstocked lot).
    Don't be fooled. Controlling the words and their meaning is known as "doublespeak" in George Orwell's 1984 and other dystopian examples.
    Critical thinking is needed now more than ever.

  193. Yes. The same has happened with the term "fake news," at breakneck speed. In November 2016, it referred to false stories created knowingly by a few people, who posted them on social media for tremendous ad profit. These people largely saw themselves in much the same way writers at The Weekly World News must-entertainment, making a buck. Pedophile Pizza Parlor, anyone? Surely they thought most of their stories wouldn't pass the sniff test and overestimated our skepticism; at least one lukewarmly atoned for his role in the election outcome. But the more clicks and shares, the more dollars rolled in.

    Within a couple months, Trump and his backers turned the term "fake news" on its head by applying it to professional news outlets. They are masters at distortion, confusing people so much that they are grasping for true North-and then offering a simple narrative that flatters the self-described everyman.

    Whatever your political or ideological stripes, the speed of this language-flipping should be of note. As a school librarian I feel compelled to archive the thread for a complete understanding, to keep track of how and why labels and shorthand are created. One to watch: alt-right. White supremacists are wearing it like a hipster lapel button.

  194. I'm an FDR/Truman/Kennedy/LBJ liberal and proud of it.

  195. Kennedy was more center-left if anything though. Not saying it's a bad thing, but LBJ was certainly more left-tacking than him.

  196. "Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."
    "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
    "If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity."
    "The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were."
    Zhang, all these quotes are from JFK. ..Sounds pretty liberal to me.

  197. Disagreeing with someone's stated and put forward point of view is not "abuse."