Liberals must not say: "liberal," "left," "progressive" or "populist."
First, of course, liberals must not say "liberals." (Duu-uuh!) Remember the BCTYAI (Big Club That You Ain't In), including, of course, the PPC (Politician Pundit Complex)? Well, the BCTYAI launched an attack on "loony," "moonbat" liberals (as distinguished from "pragmatic" liberals). That Luntz-like maneuver seemed relatively effective: In the U.S., which is more conservative in some ways than many other nations, "liberal" became a slur word. Even many liberals treated the word "liberal" as though it were the ebola virus. Then, the BCTYAI divided all politics into conservative or liberal, which pretty much concealed the existence of two very different factions within the Democratic Party.
Your foreign policy can make neocons salivate; you can tell unions to take a walk (without comfortable shoes); and you can put "entitlements" "on the table," from which you just cleared impeachment and prosecution of war criminals. You can even offer a Constitutional amendment to overrule Roe v. Wade, provided the health of the mother is an exception. (IOW, a woman without enough money to get to Canada would avoid prison if her court-appointed lawyer convinces a jury that carrying to term or giving birth would have killed her. Yeayyy!) You can even expressly state on national TV that your policies are those of a moderate Republican of 1980s. (Note: Not a moderate Republican of the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s, but of the 1980s, after the Republican Party had looped to right of Goldwater.) As long as you stick a (D) after your name, Baddaboombaddabing! (Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo? Coocoocachoo?) You're "a liberal!" Easy peasy, Sleazy!
Recently, no less a wordsmith than Harvard Law School professor, Alan "Flies with Wolves" Dershowitz, oxymoronically dubbed himself a "centrist liberal," demonstrating just how much meaning centrists had sucked out of the word "liberal." (http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/national-party-news/321040-i-will-...) Same for "left," BTW. After all, if you are not technically right, you are technically left. Right? And "leftist" may soon go the way of "left."
One good reason to lose "liberal:" It's too easily confused and conflated with "neoliberal," a word likely destined for obsolescence as neoliberals morph into neocons. Another good reason: Describe yourself as a liberal to Europeans and they may assume you to be a corporatist.
Next, liberals must no longer say "progressive." Whaaa? Whatchoo talkin' 'bout, Wallace? What was a liberal to do, after the word "liberal" was off the table for...reasons? "Progressive!" Hmmm. Originally, the "progressive idea" was that humans could control their destinies, as opposed to being ruled by monarchs claiming Divine Right and the appointees of those monarchs, such as colonial Governors. The US declaration of independence is a prime example of that kind of progressive idea. (As it happened, the Constitution of the United States replaced Divine Right with White Monied Male Right, but that's a different issue.) Then, "progress" came to mean scientific and technological progress and social progress as well. What's not to like? Isn't that how we got from quill and parchment to laptops for everyone with money to buy?
Well, for one thing from what does being a political progressive distinguish you? The opposite of progress in even one area would be either standing still in all areas, or going backward, things promised by no politician, ever. (Obama's 2012 slogan was "Forward." However, Romney's was not "Backward.") Also, using "progressive" in that sense tends toward members of the BCTYAI's claiming victory upon passage of any bill that includes an incremental improvement of any kind.
An environmental provision in the TPP that will likely never be enforced anyway is an example of progress. Perhaps a better example: the delusional claim of Dembots that Obamacare was but the first step in what would be an ever-improving national health care system that would ultimately give us Medicare for All. Ta Da! (Had Obamacare given us Medicare for All effective 2011, with sensible sliding scale premiums, do you think anyone could repeal it? But again, it's all because of liberals, not New Democrats, that we can't have nice things anymore./sarcasm)
The Progressive Party, of course, was comprised of members of the left wing of the Republican Party who broke away to run former Republican President Teddy Roosevelt for President against incumbent Republican President Howard Taft, Democrat Woodrow Wilson, and newer party candidates who did not have a prayer. The schism, however, handed Woodrow Wilson a historic win (and a watershed Democratic victory in the Northeast). Only four years later, TR endorsed the Republican nominee, Charles Evans Hughes. Not only did the Progressive Party then implode immediately, but the entire Progressive Era drew to an end. Not especially inspiring, even if one does not mind being associated with the left wing of the Republican Party. (And this one, unlike New Democrats, does mind.)
Next, take Al From, the creator of the Democratic Leadership Council (Please!). The DLC, of course, was the organization that ate the Democratic Party from the inside, like a tapeworm stupidly consuming its host. The results were that (a) 1994, the first midterm under the first New Democrat President, marked the end of an era during which Democrats had held one or both Houses of Congress most of the time since the New Deal; and (b) the still-worsening state of affairs in which we've been since the midterm election of 2010, the first midterm under the second New Democrat President. Of course, centrists blamed liberals, but do the math.
From claimed that he had tired of having the DLC described as conservative (IOW, poor baby had tired of the truth). Consequently, when time came for the DLC to spawn ideological progeny, Al chose the name "Progressive Policy Institute" because referring to it as "the conservative Progressive Policy Institute" would have been difficult. (http://www.democraticunderground.com/10027191121) In other words, the cluck deliberately confused an issue that affects all Americans and was proud enough of that to write about it!
PPI's home page used to read something like, "The Progressive Policy Institute, home of pragmatic liberals," a term that (rightfully) became a laughingstock among liberals after Tom Tomorrow's "Chuckles, the sensible woodchuck." For a while, PPI boasted no subtitle. Now, it's "Progressive Policy Institute (subtitled) Radically Pragmatic." IOW, the intentionally misleading (oxy)moronic woodchuck replaced the "sensible" woodchuck. (It's nearly impossible to deal with PPI's calling itself progressive, liberal and/or radical without resorting to the No True Scotsman logical fallacy, which, of course, is precisely why PPI calls itself those things.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman)
From acolyte and beneficiary, Hillary Clinton, shuddered visibly when Chris Matthews referred to her as "liberal." However, the Democrat proudly described her political self during the primary variously as (a) rooted in her father's (Republican) conservatism; (b) a moderate; and (c) a progressive. The combination outraged those who equate progressive with classic liberalism. However, if a progressive is one who favors progress, regardless of kind or quantity, no contradiction inheres in claiming to be all three simultaneously.
Obama, who equated his policies with those of a 1980s moderate Republican, also referred to himself as a progressive. Yet, some people who refer to themselves as progressives intend "progressive" to be understood as a synonym for classic liberalism. Hence, I consider "progressive" to be the Chance the Gardener of political terms. (While this may not be a popular view, it has been, is, and likely always will be, my view.)
As for "populist:" Reviving that term was, I think, intended to convey having a heart, mind and wallet for those who are not plutocrats, without the baggage of internment, de facto segregation in the federal workforce, including the military, etc. Centrists, of course, attached that baggage to the New Deal and FDR as soon as "the left of the left" began comparing FDR and the New Deal favorably with President Obama. (Remember things from 2009 like, "We needed FDR but we got Hoover?")
Similarly, as soon as "populist" began enjoying a renascence of sorts, the BCTYAI got busy associating populism with racism, as though one cannot and would not pursue both economic justice and social justice. The claim was that the New Deal worked only because it excluded so many--as if the entire pie can never be cut differently than it was in 1934. While cynically cloaked in justice to women and minorities, it's really always about the Benjamins of the plutocrats.
Bottom line: We may need to choose, or invent, a new word for ourselves. Preferably, it will be a word whose meaning will withstand the inevitable slings and arrows of those with outrageous fortunes. Any nominees or neologisms?
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