How did the concept of the wimpy progressive/liberal start

More probably, “wimpy” because they opposed various defense spending initiatives, wanted accommodation with the USSR rather than to win the Cold War, and support for things like the Miranda decision rather than being “tough on crime”.

Part of it may stem from when radicals would take over offices on campus back in the 60s, they would negotiate or capitulate rather than calling in the cops. This sort of thing.


This is similar to how Air America does poorly because no one wants to hear what liberals have to say, but the news is heavily biased towards the left.

Who won the last couple of elections? Air America does poorly because liberalism is about thinking for yourself rather than being a dittohead to some talk show host.

Heavily biased? :dubious:

And how do they get away with it if they’re such wimps? Of course, few people are more heavily biased than conservatives, and they get away with it because they’re such bullies.

Being pro-gun-control doesn’t help with the wimpy image, nor does supporting “assault weapon” bans. Especially nowadays when the AR-15 has gone mainstream.

Ah, my subtlety will be my undoing. I was pointing out the self-contradictory nature of the complaints of Torture People. On the one hand, Air America allegedly does poorly because no one is interested in the Liberal View. On the other hand, popular news outlets share this bias to appeal to the greatest number of people (or as part of a massive anti-Republican conspiracy). The Torture People argue that liberalism is both unpopular and very popular, depending on which news outlet they’re complaining about.

It’s nonsense, of course. Stories about the foolish things Republicans say don’t air because of any agenda, they air because Republicans say foolish things when someone puts a mike in their face.

It is good to reminded, once again, of the only crucial issue of our time.

And they were right! We accomodated the USSR rather than going to war with them and eventually enough liberal wimpiness seeped thru the Iron Curtain to infect the Kremlin.

In other words, Freedom from Big Government.

I stand ker-whooshed. :smack:

Nice sarcasm, but that’s not what I’m trying to do. This thread sought answers to the question of why liberals have gotten perceived as “wimpy” and all I did was offer one possible reason. Hardly an attempt to sidetrack the debate into the “only crucial issue” (which you clearly think is the ONLY thing I care about, or at least were sarcastically trying to imply.)

The OP was wondering why liberals seem wimpy nowadays, when they didn’t used to be. Gun control is merely one reason why this might be. For better or for worse, the idea of a man who is against guns strikes a lot of people as being “wimpy.”

But thanks for the attempt to completely discredit my point.

I am more concerned with the refusal to defend themselves, to defend their principals and to defend the people who depend on them in politics. Why does Harry Reid refuse to play hardball in the senate? Why did Kerry refuse to contest the 2004 elections? Why did liberals not stop Harris from purging 50k black voters in Florida? Why is Lieberman allowed to act the way he does w/o punishment? I don’t get it.

Over half the country wants medicare for all but with supermajorities in both houses, the white house and a mandate the best we can get is a watered down, triggered public option that most people do not qualify for.

I wouldn’t consider Nader, Sanders or Kucinich to be wimps despite all of them being pro-gun control. Kucinich was almost assassinated by the mob for refusing to be intimidated by banks when he was a mayor in Ohio.

Did not get to speak but inputted in the platform. They were interviewed and part of the convention discussion.

You’re right. I guess there are two issues being discussed in this thread: the idea of liberals being hesitant or unprincipled and “wimpy” in terms of how they carry out their political dealings, and the idea of liberals being “wimpy” people, a more personal concept. Your OP was clearly addressing the former. My mistake.

If the OP wanted a serious answer… Adlai Stevenson might be a good place to start.

In 1952 and 1956, the Democrats’ presidential nominee, the quiintessential liberal, struck most Americans as a nerd with an arrogant streak. It didn’t help that he was running against a Republican who was both more manly and more genial.

Again, that does not address what the OP is actually talking about. He’s talking about liberal politicians who are “wimpy” in the political sphere, as in, hesitant, lacking in ambition, being fearful of coming off as too liberal or too principled, etc. He is not talking about individual people who appear to be “nerds” or literally wimpy men in how they speak or carry themselves.

I think it’s because the right is able to get away with having a more ‘monolithic’ aspect to it - for a long time they have been straddling two points: moderate righty, and fundy righty. To them it’s sort of a continuum, and until recently they were able to reliably maintain a concensus both among themselves and the voters just by sticking hard to the party line. (Nowadays things have gone a little tits-up with the super-fundy-whackjob righties managing to take things so far as to split the party, but this is relatively new.)

By contrast, the democrats find themselves to be less of a cohesive whole with an ideology that they can push strongly, because they have long been relying on moderate liberals who aren’t all that down with super-green or super-hippy or super-welfare or super-antireligion ideals - or at least aren’t that down with all of them simultaneously. So, when liberals push too strongly towards any one flavor of liberalism, they start losing chunks of their support. So they’re accostomed to trying to shoot for the middle, and accostomed to doing that whole ‘compromise’ thing that is supposed to be a core part of government function. So now even when they maybe don’t have to compromise, they still do it.

That’s my uninformed take on it, anyway.

Exactly. He is clearly referring to people, when push comes to shove, encourage other people to shove them.


No, not really - contrast the invasion of Afghanistan under Carter vs. the Soviets pulling out of Afghanistan due to the Stinger missiles that Reagan authorized. Also the fainting fits of the liberal sissies when Reagan called the USSR an evil empire, and challenged Gorbie to tear down the Berlin War vs. Carter sitting on his hands fretting when Iran took the hostages.


I beg to differ, Argent. Adlai Stevenson is VERY relevant. He represented what the Democratic party was becoming, and what George McGovern institutionalized.

As the OP notes, “liberals” used to be tougher, in large part because the Democratic party was positioned as the party of working class Americans. Blue-collar urban Catholics and Southern rednecks were the backbone of the Party until relatively recently. And THOSE voters were interested primarily in the economic benefits that activist government could provide. They voted a straight Democratic ticket, and they were “liberals” in the sense that they backed the New Deal and wanted the rich to cough up a bigger share of the pie.

But they were NOT liberals in any social sense. They were religious, they supported traditional family values. Nor were they pacifists on foreign policy. They generally believed in a very strong military.

As long as THOSE people were the backbone of the Democratic party, liberals could look and talk tough.

But even in the Fifties, there were elements in the party that held blue collar whites in disdain, and wanted to dump them. Adlai Stevenson was their ideal candidate. Not surprisingly, blue collar whites had no use for Stevenson, and flocked to Ike.

To people on the far Left of the party, that only PROVED that the party had to be rebuilt, that the blue collar whites had to be pushed aside and replaced by college educated social liberals and pacifists. Ideally, they hoped, some of the white working class could be bribed to stay part of the coalition… but Fred Dutton, George McGovern and friends completely remade the party in their mown image.

After 1972, Democratic party liberals de-emphasized the issues that mattered to blue collar America, essentially DRIVING much of their base to vote for Ronald Reagan.

In the meantime, liberals have learned that wasn’t a winning strategy. So, they’ve had to campaign by stealth. In SOME states, liberal Democrats can state openly what they support and win elections. In other states, they still CAN’T win without blue collar whites. In those states, they have tor straddle. They may personally support gay marriage, but find it expedient to say nothing on the issue, and hope the Supreme Court takes the decision out of their hands.

It all comes down to this: “liberal” today means something much, much different from what it meant under FDR.

Actually, in 1988, Congressman Pete Kostmayer said explicitly what liberals have been saying implicitly for a long time:

“We’re not going to blow it this time. Just shut up, gays, women, and environmentalists. Just shut up. You’ll get everything you want after the election. But just, for the meantime, shut up so we can win.”

That tells you much about the woes of the modern Democratic party. They want to move far left, but know they can’t do so without alienating voters they need.

Even so why is it with opinion polls showing the majority of the public want single payer health care the best we can hope for is a watered down triggered public option (if that)?

And why is Lieberman allowed to act the way he does? Asking Obama for help in 2006 and betraying him in 2008, and never being punished or held accountable.

The GOP is better at getting things done and articulating their principals.

As far as alienating votes, I can see that as liberals make up about 1/3 of democratic voters, and the other 2/3 are either indifferent or hostile to social issues. My understanding from Pew is that 3 groups make up the democratic party

Liberals - socially and economically progressive, generally good finances
Disaffected - economically progressive, socially indifferent. Bad incomes
Conservative dems - socially conservative, economically progressive

But the GOP consists of right wing authoritarians (the religious right branch) and libertarians. And those should be at odds, but the libertarians end up voting GOP anyway. Well, thats actually not true. The GOP’s descent into know nothing authoritarianism is driving moderates and libertarians away.

But putting all that aside, why would Reid refuse to play hardball (using reconciliation, taking away chairmanships in the senate, depriving people who don’t vote for good legislation the ability to have pet projects and issues given airtime in the senate)? Why did Kerry barely put up a fight in Ohio?

I am concerned with legislative and electoral wimpiness. True, democrats generally refuse to stand up and articulate principals for fear of losing elections (Obama backed off his support of gay marriage after he got famous). But if they do so so they can get elected, why are they still wimpy when those elections are contestable or they have electoral power? If liberals are wimpy because that is what it takes to get elected, why are they still wimpy after being elected?