S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The word "Liberal"

Claiming that old-fashioned word for myself is the subject of today's post. When I was a little girl I confess that I liked the "L" block best. Growing up during the "Great Depression" and World War II did something to many of us that we never get over entirely. Franklin D. Roosevelt's leadership set a standard that has been hard for subsequent Chief Executives to match.
I am following up on a comment I made to the following post at The Reaction. It is "Reclaiming Liberalism" by The (liberal) Girl Next Door writing for The Reaction. To quote her opening section,
There has been a distinct shift in political rhetoric over the last decade or so, and liberalism has taken a beating for sure. But is that really because, as a society, we made a conscious decision to reject liberalism, or is it a result of a targeted effort by the GOP to sully the word “liberal” and distort its meaning?
Michael wrote a beautiful post here last week about liberalism, and he makes a good argument that the United States has always been a liberal society. Regardless of the gains made recently by neo-conservatives and the religious right, we are already in the process of swinging back toward our more natural liberal center. I hope he is right, but what I got most out of his post is that liberalism is worth reclaiming. The
bastardization of the word liberal that we on the left have allowed to go unchecked for so many years, must finally be countered, and the first step is claiming it for ourselves, loudly and proudly.
There is a reason that the word liberal reminds us of words like liberty and liberate. To be liberal is to give freely, as in “be liberal with the whipped cream on my all-American apple pie.” We exemplify the best of what this country has to offer and are responsible for the history most choose to embrace as the basis for what truly defines us as Americans. Liberal is defined as favorable to progress or reform. We want to continue to move forward, make progress, and reform what is wrong. In other words, we want to be liberal.
Our two comments followed the post:
Carol Gee said...
"Liberal" GND, you make me proud to be one! Thanks for a very inspirational
post. I will link to it tomorrow, and make my own declaration. Just think if all
blogging libs would do this what a groundswell it would become.
7:15 PM

The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...
Carol Gee--Thank you so much for your kind words. It's a label we should all be
proud to wear, especially considering the company we keep. I'll be checking out
your declaration tomorrow.
10:12 PM

The Liberal label is, indeed, one I am proud to wear. No other person is allowed to define who I am or the meanings I ascribe to my own label. Here are some of those personal meanings I attach to it: I think I have a generous spirit. I try to be accepting of differences in people (though our current president challenges me here). "Quirkiness" is attractive to me. Being non-judgmental is one of my goals. I am empathetic towards vulnerability. I would rather be leftist than be self-righteous. I drive in the center lane on the freeway, but I truly like the left one best. Thus I do not try to explain it away when I take a centrist position on an issue.
The political left is my comfort zone. As I have grown older I have become increasingly liberal rather than more conservative, as is more often the case. And I was trained as a social worker. Therefore, I feel that we are judged as a nation by how we treat our most vulnerable citizens. I would favor universal health care, tax progressivity--repealing the recent appalling tax cuts for the wealthiest among us, regulating multinational corporations, strong environmental policies, fiscal and deficit responsibility, unions, and fighting discrimination against all classes of people under the thumb of white males. I f I were forced to choose between saying I am a Liberal vs. a Democrat, I would choose the former appellation. There, I said it all out loud. . . all the verbotens, those "L-word" no-no's and politically incorrect stances.
Value-based Liberals, in addition to conservatives, stand for principles. For me these include freedom of speech, deep religious tolerance, non-exploitation of hard workers, support and sharing for those who are disabled, international alliances, an anti-war stance, bipartisanship when possible, separation of governmental powers, and adhering to the rule of law. And we resent having our patriotism questioned because we stand for any of these principles.
Stickings' entry - The GND blogger referred to a previous post by Michael J.W. Stickings, The Reaction's principal author. His post had a very interesting comment thread with a lively debate between a self-procalimed Radical and a Liberal. To quote from Stickings,
. . . given my own definitely liberal political philosophy, and given my own firm place in the liberal blogosphere, I have often thought about the meanings of centrism and moderation.
They aren't the same thing. To me, moderation is a tone, a temperament, a virtue. Moderation eschews absolutism. It promotes independent thought and calm, reasoned discourse. It rejects knee-jerk partisanship and talking points masquerading as truth. Centrism is, well, an "ism". It seeks to be an ideology of sorts somewhere between what is generally considered to be left and right. But what does that even mean? What is left? What is right? And what, for that matter, is the center? Doesn't the center shift over time, back and forth like a pendulum?
Though the center of gravity in American politics does shift over time, I have long believed (and argued) that America is fundamentally a liberal society. . .

The question for Democrats is this. How do we win in the upcoming elections this year? I would have no problem with anyone who wants to claim the Liberal label. Nor do I feel such a claim would be a liability. For myself I am easily able to be a Liberal with centrist views that are not incompatible with the left. So, too, can the candidates, unapologetically!
References - search results on two liberal-to-centrist sites - A search at DailyKos turned up 234 posts containing the word "liberal," just in the last week. A little poll gave blogger "political Liberal" search at TPMCafe showed 191 pages of results.
My "creative post" today at Southwest Blogger is about a writing life.

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