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Liberal? Socialist? And all the best to you, too!

October 12, 2009

I have always proudly called myself a Liberal, and have never understood how the label came to be such a dirty word for so long. (Well, actually, I do remember the Reagan 80’s, but I try to block it out.) I got on-board when the term “Progressive” was coined, but still, asked to label myself politically, I’ll not hesitate to say “Liberal.” (Yes, with a capital L.)

For years, the Republican party has had great success by naming this or that opponent as “the most liberal in the Senate”, for example. Liberal meant extreme, and by casting their opponents as such, they sought to depict their own rather extreme positions as moderate. Sadly, it worked; but it could only work for so long. As we saw last November, the “liberal” smear, just isn’t much of a smear any more. Especially with younger voters.

These thoughts were running through my head, when suddenly I realized what’s been going on the last few months. Until now, I’ve been dumbfounded by the insane level of vitriol and hyperbolic labels being thrown at our (pretty darn moderate) President. But now I think I’ve figured it out: those opposed to Obama (the losers of the last election) have also figured out that “liberal” is no longer much of a smear. So they kicked it up a notch: “Socialist!”

On it’s face, the charge is laughable and demonstrably untrue. President Obama is no more a socialist than he is a Nazi; but, well, you know… It’s a desperate attempt to resuscitate a tactic that no longer works. The Nazi charges don’t play well with anyone but the rabid far-right base. (And the LaRouche nuts.) Perhaps, though, the socialist thing will gain some traction? Not so much.

The funny thing is, the majority of Americans just can’t get worked up about charges of socialism, while they watch the unraveling of an economy ruled by the ugliest brand of crony-capitalism. Plus, when we look at those younger voters again, they tend to have no negative views of the idea of socialism. (That’s the benefit of missing out on the Cold War and the Reagan years.)

If you, like me, are not only Liberal, but harbor a few socialist thoughts, I have a plan. Let’s take back the word! Just like the Gay pride movement took back the word “queer”; and just like African-Americans took back the use of the “n-word,” let’s lay claim to the word “socialist.” I’d like to see the United States be more of a social democracy that cares for the least among us and strives for the betterment of all. Does that make me a socialist? If yes, so what? It’s just another label. I’ll apply it to myself and take away it’s power.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Steven Harris permalink
    October 13, 2009 7:49 am

    OF course you’re right. John Lennon knew this years back ‘Everybody’s talking bout this ism, that ism, ism, ism, ism. All we are saying, is give peace a chance.’ Or, give Obama a peace prize? (a whole new topic I know).

  2. Steven Harris permalink
    October 13, 2009 1:32 am

    Personally I always thought Socialism got a pretty bad press. Sure, some Socialist were extremists, but most political viewpoints can be taken to extremes. But the core values of (small ‘s’) socialists spring from a desire to improve the lives of human beings by addressing serious discrepancies in wealth distribution across the planet and by advocacy of such things as health care for all. Hardly Stalinist, whatever the Republicans in America, or the Conservatives in Britain might claim.

    • October 13, 2009 7:43 am

      The real problem is that we live in a world of isms, which in the abstract are ideals. In practice, they never look like the theory; and yet people still insist on applying them. Just about any ism, in theory, looks good:socialism, communism, capitalism (maybe not fascism.) The trouble comes with human nature and the way it warps and limits the implementation.

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