In my other life, I’m a food writer for The Boston Herald – a cultural raisin in the sun in the far-left world of food journalism here in the People’s Republic of Massachusetts.
So I was shocked, during a dinner the other night with a bunch of folks in the biz, when one local restaurant critic declared that he had “a very illiberal” view of abortion: he was pro-life! Several table-mates nearly spit up their merlot and brie.
I stood by his side, but not by his phraseology. “It’s a liberal view if you’re the baby,” I said, making my point but not many friends in the process.
The incident highlighted an issue that’s been eating at me for quite some time: the misuse of the word “liberal” in the current political lexicon.
As you know, the American cultural divide is defined by two terms: on the right we have “conservatives” and on the left we have “liberals.”
There’s only one problem: the leftists are anything but “liberal.” In fact, I stopped using the term “liberal” to describe leftists quite some time ago. I call them what they are: “leftists,” i.e., people who espouse weakness in the face of dictators overseas and favor a dictatorial big-government doctrine here at home.
Today I’m asking everyone engaged in the cultural battle (you people, in other words) to join me in my crusade to strip “liberal” from the leftist lexicon. We must stop using the word “liberal” to describe those people on the other side of the divide.
Here’s why: the issues that leftists advocate today bear no resemblance to traditional liberalism. By calling them “liberals” we’re ceding a linguistic victory to people who advocate a very illiberal philosophy.
“Liberal,” quite frankly, is a good thing in the traditional politcal lexicon. But, in the 40-year hibernation of American traditionalists that we’re only now awakening from, “liberal” was one of the terms stolen from under our feet by leftists and their allies in the media.
Classical liberalism was crafted by Enlightenment philosophers such as Locke and Voltaire who gave voice to concepts that individuals had rights, for example, and that governments abused their power. Classical liberals were political radicals, actually, who challenged the age-old notion that those of a certain bloodline were deemed by God to rule the world.
The classical liberal philosophers largely inspired the Founding Fathers, who themselves were classical liberals. They carried the philosophy to its historic conclusion and declared to the monarchies of the world that a new day had dawned: individuals would no longer be subservient to the state; instead, the state would be subservient to the individuals.
Weak government and powerful individuals, then, is the very height of classical liberalism.
Leftists today, though, hold a radically different view of the world than the classical liberals. They tell us in every possible way that the state is always right, and that the individual must subjugate himself to the power of the state. In fact, they go so far as to tell us that subservience to the state equals compassion. Hell, taxes “are patriotic” according to Vice President Joe Biden, even as half his administration has refused to pay them.
The subjugation of the individual to the state has completely defined the Obama Administration, the most leftist government in American history. The state will run big business; the state will decide how much money people make; the state will decide when there’s a “time for profit;” the state will decide what kind of care your doctor provides; and, if Obamacare is left to its intended end, the state will decide if you live or die.
So “liberal” in today’s political lexicon is a misnomer. What leftists profess today is the exact opposite of liberalism.
The term “liberal” also implies tolerance – someone who’s open to other points of view. In fact, it was the great classical liberal philosopher Voltaire who said that he might disagree with what you say, but that he would “defend to the death” your right to say it.
Does Voltaire’s position sound like that of any leftist you know? Of course not.
Today’s leftists are tolerant in their minds, but not in their actions. They’re tolerant only of those who agree with them.
Instead of practicing tolerance, today’s leftists practice a rigid, illiberal dogmatism. They throw fits of rage at anybody who deviates from their accepted norms of thought.
Black conservatives like Clarence Thomas or members of the Frederick Douglass Foundation? Well, they deviate from accepted leftist belief, the belief that all blacks should be wards of the state and vote for Democrats. So they’ve been crucified by allegedly tolerant leftists. As the Associated Press noted Wednesday, black conservatives have been called “Oreos, traitors and Uncle Toms.” Supreme Court Justice Thomas is reviled by the left – by people who apparently believe the only good black person is one who agrees with them. Real “liberals” would celebrate the diversity.
Sarah Palin? She raised a family. She rose from nothing. She lived the role of citizen-politican. She fought corruption in both parties in her state. She battled big oil. She brought home the bacon and fried it up in a pan. She’s a symbol of female empowerment to millions of women – but not to the left. See, she didn’t go to Harvard. She hunts. She’s pro life. In other words, she deviates from accepted leftist dogma about the place of women in society. So she’s been savagely attacked and ridiculed by intolerant leftists, including those who profess to advocate feminist causes. Real “liberals” would celebrate the powerful Palin.
Members of the Tea Party movement? They’re nothing more than average, ordinary American men and women, from all walks of life (as we learned in a Gallup Poll this week), standing up for limited government. There could be no more American, no more classically liberal point of view: “the government answers to us, we do not answer to the government.” But the Tea Party movement is, like Thomas or Palin, savaged by the intolerant left: “redneck tea-bagging racists” was the juvenile taunt of one prominent leftist advocate. Real “liberals” would support the Tea Party movement. Leftists oppose it.
Foreign policy? Leftists extend an open hand to the world’s most illiberal dictators (Good Morning, Ahmadinejad!) and slap the hands of those very liberal allies who have stood by the singularly liberal United States through the years (Good Bye, England, Israel and Poland!). Real “liberals” would fight dictators in places like Iran, Cuba and Venezuela with every fiber of their being.
Interestingly, the only people in the United States – perhaps the only people in the world – standing up for classical liberal values these days are the American conservative. It’s ironic, actually: American conservatives are trying to conserve classical liberalism.
I don’t expect anyone to start calling conservatives liberals. It’s too much to handle all at once.
But we can stop pretending that today’s leftists are in fact “liberal” in any way. They are dogmatic leftists. Their philosophy completely contradicts classical liberalism. It’s time that we set the record straight.
So let’s strip “liberal” from the national lexicon, at least as it’s used today. Let’s stop dignifying big-government, dictator-coddling leftists as “liberals.”
Let’s tell them that their views clash with real liberalism. Let’s tell them that, if they were truly “liberal,” they would challenge government intrusion into our lives; let’s tell them that, if they were truly “liberal,” they would celebrate diversity of opinion; let’s tell them that, if they were truly “liberal,” they’d stand with us, the classical liberals, and the people who value the dignity and the rights of the individual over the power of the state.
Until they join us, they’re anything but “liberal.” They’re fundamental big-government leftists, pure and simple.