Liberal is not a naughty word lists the definition like this:

**Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.

Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
Of, relating to, or characteristic of liberalism.**

How is being broad minded, free from bigotry, and open to new ideas for progress a bad thing in any way? For that matter, how is conservative not a four letter word? It means:

Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.

Looking back through history, hasn’t it always been the liberals who have championed positive changes? If the conservatives consistantly had their way throughout history, blacks would still be slaving away in the cotton fields and women couldn’t vote. Why isn’t conservative a bad word?

Well, i’m sold.

Well said, that man. You fight the good fight, Blalron! :slight_smile: I’ve noticed on message board (I am thinking of another one, not the SDMB exactly) that a LOT of U.S. people seem to equate “liberal” with “spawn of Satan”.

There’s *soome * of that tendency in Britain too - eg some people who love to whine about"liberal do-gooders" :frowning: but my impression is that that misuse seems quite widespread over in the States.

Didn’t Confucious say that “the first thing to be done is the Rectification of Names”? Something like that anyway. But I reckon sloppy use of language does not bode well for the thinking skills. So I wish you luck in reclaiming “liberal”.

This might help a bit with the “Rectification of Names” bit. Or it might not.

From the Wikipedia (

Others say it’s an oxymoron. :smiley:

If words always meant exactly what the dictionaries say, then perhaps there wouldn’t be an issue. To many people, liberal = big government, but you won’t find that in the dictionary. And most Democrats know that. Hence it’s only the rare Democract who is a self-described liberal.

Is it really any more complicated than that?

Here’s another excellent resource on the roots of liberalism, and it might help to understand how the term has morphed into its popular meaning today of what used to be centrism.

The entire text can be read online.

Yippee! I’m rare!

Of course, liberalism is not a dirty word. Many of the liberal idea have become mainstream- social security, integration, voting rights, women’s rights, etc. We tend to take these societal advances for granted without remembering from whence they came. As Al Sharpton pointed out, if George W. Bush had appointed the Supreme Court in 1954, Clarence Thomas would never have gotten into law school. There is some kernel of truth in the hyperbole. The “conservatives” have traditionally fought against every civil rights movement in history- whether it was the Voting Rights Act of 1964, the ERA in the 1970s, or gay rights today. In the sense that “liberal” means tolerant of other people and open to new ideas, I consider “liberal” to be a badge of honor.

That certainly depends on whom you call liberal (in the American usage, in Danish it means Libertarian). I know a few who’d rather be called spawn of Satan than liberal. On the other hand it seems to me you have no problem using conservative as a naughty word.


“Security” isn’t a dirty word, Blackadder. “Crevice” is a dirty word, but “security” isn’t.


Uh, doesn’t it depend more on what is meant by the user of the term?

“Liberal” is like “nerd”. Nerds are better students than others, but no one wants to be called that.

I don’t have much to add to the discussion… but, as to the “no one wants to be called that” comment, are you sure? I mean, I prefer “geek,” but “nerd” isn’t too terrible, either. :slight_smile:

I don’t mind conservatives using “liberal” as a slur; heck, call me a liberal all you want, it won’t bother me a lick. But when the people in the middle (and even some on the left) start accepting that calling someone “liberal” is the same as saying there’s something wrong with them, then that’s just messed up.

You need to convince the American people of that, not me. Ask yourself a few things here…why won’t Kerry come out and say he’s a ‘liberal’? Because he really is a centrist? The majority of his past policies haven’t been centrist, he’s certainly a left leaning politician on most matters…by American standards anyway. Is he using European standards, or is he perhaps afraid to be branded a ‘liberal’? Afaik, even Kucinich didn’t come right out and proudly display the fact he is a liberal. Why is that?

Liberals have a bad name because their over all agenda/image isn’t popular in the US for a variety of reasons…part of which is the majority of American’s hover closer to the center (albiet our own center). I know Brain Glutton doesn’t agree with me on this, but I think that the majority of American’s are basically centrists, leaning left on some issues, right on others. ‘Liberals’ have been associated with the left wing and are not an over all centrist political philosophy…much like Conservatives aren’t really a centrist political philosophy. However Conservatives have really gone out of their way to modify SOME of their stances to APPEAR to be centrist…or at least to appeal to the center. Well, at least they were on that road before Bush anyway…

So, why aren’t Conservatives demonized like Liberals are? Good question with a complex answer. For one thing I think the Conservative message strikes a cord with Americans somewhat, while much of the Liberal message has fallen a bit on deaf ears (I’m talking about over all, population wise in the US). While certainly some of the Liberal message is appealing (even to this centrist :)), over all I don’t think there is much of a ‘market’ for their message in the US.

The majority of the reason though is the fact that Concervatives of the old school were generally successful in associating Liberal with Socialist…and making a connection between Socialist and Communist. Part of that is the fact that there is some similarities between agendas (albiet a pretty tenuous link IMO). Communism, especially after the spectacular way it bombed world wide, has never been very popular with the majority of Americans, so even a tenuous association is like the kiss of death to the majority of Americans.

Another thing has been the perception that Liberals haven’t managed well when in power. Look at the presidents generally reguarded as ‘Liberals’…Presidents like Carter and Johnson. Then look at presidents (generally) reguarded as centrist like Clinton and Kennedy (I’m using Democrat examples obviously) and you get a strong contrast as far as the PERCEPTION by the American people of who had successful administrations, and who bombed big time. I know that some would argue with my examples (Liberals would argue Carter wasn’t REALLY a Liberal, Conservatives would argue Clinton was no Centrist), but I think this is the over all perception of these folks by the majority of Americans.

At any rate, thats the reality…in America left leaning politicians don’t want to be associated or labled as a ‘liberal’. They want to be associated as centrists as that appeals more to Americans.


Because the Republican Party in general (and Newt Gingrich in particular) have already polluted the word.

Because they control the media. Rush Limbaugh would sooner gnaw off his own leg before he uses “conservative” as a derogatory term on his show.

You can make up whatever nonsense theories you like about which philosophies are more popular with folks, but the simple fact is that the conservative noise machine is the one that dominates American political discourse – and being in charge brings with it a variety of perks, not the least of which is to make certain terms as derogatory or laudable as you want them to be.

So, it’s not the Jews afterall…

Can we get a cite for your claim?

I hate to bust your bubble rjung (well, ok…I love doing it) but ‘liberal’ has been a ‘bad word’ in the US for a bit longer than this administration. In fact, it was a ‘bad word’ long before even Clinton was in office. Unless its your contention that the Conservative media (lol) has been in control of the country for a long time now (i.e. for at least a decade, perhaps longer)?

This ‘conservatives control the media’ nonsense is no better than the other side railing at the ‘liberal controlled media’ rjung. Its just as tired and knee jerk of a response.


I’m a registered Democrat, but I usually describe myself as a socialist (even though I’m no Marxist and am really more of a social democrat by European standards), in order to distinguish myself from the liberals, defined as those for whom a bit more government spending and more progressive taxes, etc., would be enough, and who would be satisfied to leave our economic system, class system, and the distribution of wealth and power in our society substantially as they are now.

But we’ve already had several threads on the difference between a liberal and a leftist or socialist, and also about the meaning of “progressive.” (See Wikipedia excerpt above.)

Start here.

Considering that Ronald Reagan managed to get the Fairness Doctrine repealed in 1987, I agree with you completely.

Jon the Geek:

You’re right so far as it goes, but my comparison still stands in that “nerd” and “liberal” are epithets use by bullies–young and old–to embarass and intimidate people who really are better than they are.


I disagree with your analysis. If “liberals” are disliked, I don’t think it’s the result of a thorough analysis of their positions. Liberal positions are often complex and evolve, so they don’t fit into sound bites. To say, “the trouble with liberals is that they are left-leaning” is meaningless except to draw associations with communism. Conservatives pull out all the stops in distorting liberal positions and portraying them as extreme. If this is the only thing people have to go on when forming an impression, and liberals themselves can’t get a word in edgewise, what do you expect? It’s all about bullying and the Big Lie.

You’re kidding, right? That’s your “proof” that conservatives control the media? Why not save yourself further embarassement and just retract the claim. It is simply not a provable assertion.