Friday, February 01, 2008

I'm More Liberal Than You!!

Mitt Romney’s main selling point in the primaries is that he’s more conservative than John McCain (and he is – at least this week). McCain defends himself by displaying his own conservative credentials and claiming Romney is just pandering. This seems a wise strategy to most of us. But can you imagine the Democrats doing comparatively the same thing and arguing openly over who is more liberal?

Barack Obama is rated as the most liberal member of the Senate but he’s not using that for bragging rights. In fact, he goes out of his way to portray himself as someone of more moderate instincts. While I have heard some disgruntled lefties say Hillary Clinton is too conservative, I haven’t heard either Obama’s or Clinton’s campaign make “I’m more liberal!” their main or even secondary selling point.

I think this just goes to show you how out of favor being a liberal is. The Democrats, in their own primary, are wary of the word. Is it because conservatives have successfully used deceit to turn the word into a pejorative or is it because liberal ideas are simply outside the American mainstream? A little bit of both, maybe?

When liberal Democrats claim the moderate mantle and moderate Republicans say they are strong conservatives, you know there’s either something funky going on with our language or we’ve completely lost sense of where our nation’s political center sits. Either way, it disrupts our ability to have an earnest debate on ideas.

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Anonymous kranky kritter said...

The demonizing campaign was certainly an enduring success, no question.

Another part of the problem is that many of the "progressive" ideas now held by alleged liberals really aren't that liberal at all.

If you're any sort of old school John Stuart Mill liberal, some of the people and ideas that count as liberal are, quite simply, alien. Things like speech codes and an unwillingness to intervene for oppressed people living under despotism are deeply illiberal.

We're on the verge of replacing liberal with the term "progressive," which matches the basic battle better anyway. Conservatives tend to favor protecting traditional and the status quo, and progressives want change, especially their sort of relatively socialist change.

I don't know whether "liberals"abandoned ideals like free speech and democratic intervention or conservatives co-opted them. Doesn't much matter. Ultimately both terms are problematic.

6:10 PM  

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