Maryscott O'Connor

Reclaiming The Word Liberal In the Age of Obama

Promoted.  Image adjusted (shrunk) by GreyHawk to preserve page space.



The topic below was originally posted on my blog, the Intrepid Liberal Journal.

Words matter. Labels matter. Although it has become vogue to say, "Voters are tired of labels" they remain powerful. How we define the meaning of those labels is critical. Those of us who call ourselves "liberal" have learned this the hard way. As a liberal activist who slogged, blogged and endured, I find myself reflecting about the word "liberal" and the abuse it's absorbed with Obama's inauguration less then three weeks away.

It seems like only yesterday I volunteered for the Dukakis campaign in college as my candidate defensively denied he was a liberal. At the time voters associated the word "liberal" with convicted rapists. In the last days of the '88 campaign, Dukakis finally declared himself a liberal and attempted to define it on his own terms. Alas, it was too little too late.

From 1968 through 2004, predatory conservatives successfully defined liberalism to mean unpatriotic intellectual elites living in ivory towers, spewing hate America first diatribes while celebrating permissiveness over responsibility, trashing God, empowering welfare recipients over those who work and advocating surrender to America's enemies. In other words, to be a liberal was to be un-American. This past year, liberalism wasn't necessarily made "cool" but the right wing's ability to distort it was undermined following eight years of George W. Bush's reign of indecency.