The Mental Image Conveyed by "liberal"

I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I know where Dems and liberals have been getting their asses kicked on economic issues among middle class white men, and I think I know how we can kick conservative Republican asses in the future, if we have enough sense to do so.

The problem is that liberals have allowed conservatives to frame the debate about the economy, as about so many other things. If you are not for the free market, conservatives say, you want everyone to wear ill-fitting gray jumpsuits and live in concrete block dorms while standing in long lines to eat thin, tasteless gruel at community kitchens, riding the bus and watching only PC entertainments designed to uplift and instruct us, primarily about the importance of rejecting God for atheism and tolerating gay people when they force you to marry them and have sex with them.

OK, perhaps I exagerrate – but not very much. Talk radio and Fox News commentators have fairly consistently painted this kind of picture without putting it quite so bluntly. It only looks ridiculous because the vision itself is ridiculous, when fully expressed. The conservatives’ nightmare vision of liberal social engineering is loosely based on many of the worst features of socialist governments in places like China, Korea and Soviet Russia. These kinds of societies, conservatives claim, are the direct, logical outcome of liberal thought, and are what liberals want America to become.

It’s a big, steaming, pile of shit of course, but quite consistent with all the other lies and so forth that have been foisted on the American public by the conservatives. The much higher standard of living enjoyed by folks in Europe’s socialist democracies are ignored. Workers there work less, get more vacations, and unemployed folks are able to live decent lives until they are able to find work. Unemployment rates are higher at times, but the stress caused by unemployment is so much lower that it isn’t the problem it is here in America, where unemployment can and does lead to homelessness and increased chances of illness and even early death (due to loss of health insurance).

Even when they’re unemployed, Europeans generally feel like citizens in good standing, unlike unemployed Americans who are generally made to feel like useless, lazy supernumeraries who would do everyone a favor by killing themselves in a way that doesn’t cost others too much money.

European workers, even with their greater risk of unemployment, lead better, healthier, happier lives than American workers. They are the opposite of the poor in socialist China, North Korea and Russia – not American workers, who stand somewhere between them and the Communist workers.

If American liberals want to kick conservative ass on economic issues as they have in the past, they have to create a vision of a more socially egalitarian future that will appeal to middle class folks – just like they once did. American middle class folks don’t want choiceless comfort, the want greater freedom and power, just like rich people do. What American liberals have to do is come up with a vision that offers that vision to Americans.

The current conservative vision is, “Sure, you don’t have necessarily have health insurance, or a nice place to live, or sometimes even a place to live, period. But you’ve got a chance … a chance to be rich someday. If not you, your kids.” This is ENORMOUSLY appealing to many middle-class and lower-class Americans, MUCH more appealing than the drab Communist vista the conservatives like to paint when they describe liberal goals. It’s the lotto vision of economic progress, and it only takes a look at the success of lotteries themselves to deduce its popularity among the poor and the middle class.

What liberals have to do is come up with a vision for middle America that OUTDOES the conservative vision. And we can, in fact, it will be EASY, because the liberal vision actually IS more appealing than the conservative vision. We need to communicate that we want more personal freedom and more personal power for middle class people.

We don’t want to put middle class people in dorms, we want to make it easier for them to keep their homes. We don’t want want to make middle class people ride buses, we want to make it easier for them to avoid long commutes. We don’t want to make middle class people eat government cheese, we want to give them enough economic clout to eat out at nice restaurants when they feel like it. We don’t want to make middle class people work at boring jobs, we want to give them an economy that makes it easier for the to change jobs if they want to or need to. We don’t want to restrict their choices, we want to give them more of the one thing that will do the most to increase their ability to make choices … money.

The real problem with the American economy is that rich people have too much of it. That’s why “the economy” keeps doing well but job growth never seems to happen. The rich folks are making their companies more productive, firing more people (or “outsourcing” them as it’s now called) and working those that are left like dogs. The Republicans and conservatives give them all kinds of tax breaks and let them and the corporations they own have such huge tax loopholes that a lot of them are able to stash their money away and pay no taxes at all on it, while middle class and poor folks get their money taxed before they even see it.

It’s an obvious telltale that whenever liberals and Democrats mention how well the wealthy are doing compared to the rest of us, the conservatives cry “Class warfare.” Guess what … class warfare has been going on in America for decades, and the rich have been winning because they’ve got people convinced that they shouldn’t fight back, because that would be … class warfare.

The liberals and the Democrats will make the rich pay their fair share of taxes and ease the tax burden on the rest of us. We’ll regulate corporations so that companies are encouraged to hire people, not fire them, and so that sending work to foreign corporations is costly. We’ll make it harder, not easier, for creditors to sieze homes when people lose their jobs. We’ll encourage builders to come up with new ways of making houses that are less expensive. (There’s gotta be something we can build besides mansions.) We’ll work on getting everyone health insurance, not just those who are lucky enough – at the moment – to be working for an employer who offers health insurance. We’ll also work on making drugs and medical treatment less expensive. We’ll protect the environment and save money while we do it.

Now, it really doesn’t matter if we do every last thing promised here, the most important thing is to make those promises. We can beat the Republicans on the economy if we just don’t behave like a bunch of drunken fools. We can beat them on national security just by promising that we won’t start wars for no reason and we’ll get America off its dangerous dependence on foreign oil – and we’ll make the economy stronger while we’re at it. We can beat the Republicans on health and jobs just by TRYING, something they aren’t even PRETENDING to do. Our vision for middle class America is, everybody healthy, no one in fear of losing their home, jobs aplenty and opportunity aplenty. If we espouse THESE as our goals and don’t let the Pubbies and the conservatives frame the debate in terms of their way vs. total Communism, we can beat them senseless at the polls … if we do one other thing.

It doesn’t matter if our candidate is a wealthy nabob with a family background of wealth and privilege. George W. Bush has proven that. He just better not LOOK and SOUND like a wealthy nabob with a family background of wealth and privilege. John F. Kerry proved that.

It’s all a propaganda game. The Republicans control the propaganda machinery, so they get to spin the message the way they like it.

A really annoying to argue with.

Oh, wait, you don’t mean the poset with that name, you mean the political platform. Well, I’m one, I suppose, but the label that has been given to all non-repugs lately has been thre result of the Big Lie. If you say "Liberal are evil " enough, then eventally, people will believe it.

As too the OP, I cannot sum up "The Mental Image Conveyed by “liberal”, being that I am too close to the subject, i.e. myself.

Or, perhaps its not so loosely based on what actually happened in the US and in Europe in the 60’s through the late 70’s early 80’s? Perhaps…just perhaps mind you…the fact that the ‘liberals’ have stuck to the same old tired and ineffective message dating back to that time accounts for people thinking that they really haven’t changed at all…and not wishing to go back to those bad old days. Maybe people are smarter than you give them credit for? Or it could just be the vast Republican/conservative spin machine who has tricked those worthless rubes (a.k.a. American voters), while the poor beleagered Democrat/liberals have been noble and true trying to spread the word of rightousness and the light to those poor blind fools (a.k.a. the American People).

Its a trade off. The US is very productive because of how we’ve restructured our economics from those bad old days. Europe is somewhat productive…because there is a rich America to buy their goods and services, and also because there is a strong America to foot the lions share of the bill for things like an effective military. Wonder where Europe would be if they had to pay the bills for their own defense on top of all those great programs…

Americans like paying lower taxes and are willing to have less services…Europeans are willing to pay very high taxes to get the services they want. Its something thats not likely to change in the near future, but the liberals never seem to realize it. The liberals claim that they can just sock it to the rich guys and this will solve all our problems. Most of us realize that if you sock it to the rich guys TOO much they will take their money and go somewhere else…maybe to Eastern Europe who, ironically enough, seem to be adopting more free wheeling free market ways than their western counterparts. Funny that. :slight_smile:

Different attitudes. American’s look at things differently than Europeans do. Their system works for them…ours works for us. We are more productive, the real driving engine of the world right now, and they are (perhaps) somewhat happier. They pay a LOT more in taxes than we do…which suits them and suits us. I’m sure that Amerian’s would love to have free healthcare and all the other bells and whistles the Europeans get…but we have repeatedly shown that the majority of us don’t want to PAY for them.

I doubt that many American’s feel exactly what you are staying though when out of work though…I was out of work nearly 2 years when my Telco company folded and I never felt any of those things. I think this is your take on what you THINK out of work people in the US think or feel…or perhaps its how YOU felt when you were out of work. Most of the rest of us take a much more pragmatic and realistic outlook on being out of work for a time.

What do you base this on? Healthier? Perhaps, but thats more because of diet I’d say. American’s are, to put it bluntly, addicted to super sizing. They EXPECT more food with more gloop put on it than any other people I’ve ever met…and I’ve traveled throughout the world. Not just at fast food restarurants but everywhere…more more more. I’d say this has to do with how affluent the country is that they can GET more food so cheaply and easily…and free market competition that encourages everything from fast food places to 5 star restaurants to give the people what they want. I don’t see what this has to do with work though.

Perhaps you mean because Europeans get free healthcare? Well, certainly this would make the poorer Europeans healthier than poorer Americans (in theory), since poorer American’s have only limited access to healthcare compared to Europeans, especially of the preventative kind. However, at the working class I think this pretty much falls off…American medicine is as good (or better) and perhaps more available (granted to those with insurance…the majority of citizens of course) here than in Europe. Having been to Europe I won’t dog their system as its good…but I didn’t really see how it was better than ours. The care I received was, IMHO, inferior to what I would get in the states.

And what exactly would that ‘vision of a more socially egalitarian future’ be? The same old tired tripe they have been serving up for decades? Class warfare? Tax and spend economics? Increase taxes across the board to pay for all these nifty European type programs? More social engineering?

The American middle class wants to be left the hell alone for the most part. They want to go to work, make their money with the minimum amount of taxes they can pay, have their 2.5 cars/minivan, vacation 2 weeks a year, buy that big screen TV with DvD player, and put their kids through college. What American liberals need to do is take some basic courses in economic, realize that ‘big business’ isn’t the bad guy and that all CEO’s aren’t evil comic book villians, and that free markets are the salvation of democracy, providing the funds for all those nifty programs IF you don’t kill off or even seriously impede the golden goose…and realize that ‘the middle class’ doesn’t WANT to pay for a lot of services if it means increases in what we already pay for taxes. The ‘middle class’ also isn’t buying it anymore that you can simply steal all the money from those rich bastards…and many of them are smart enough to realize that if you DO steal it all from those rich bastards this won’t be such a good thing for the economy.

Liberals need to come up with a REALISTIC plan for how to provide effective social services on a budget (i.e. pretty much tax neutral, or at most with a minimal across the board tax increase), and thats going to mean killing off several of their sacred cow programs…or at least heavily modifying them. They need to take into account US productivity and try to lessen the invasiveness of any taxes, to minimize the impact to the economy for anything they do with their social engineering. American’s don’t WANT to be taxed up the ass like Europeans, even if that means we don’t get all those fancy services they do. Liberals need to realize that if they want to re-capture their old ‘market share’ of voters. :wink:

You are right about one thing though EC…the liberals DO have an oppurtunity here. The conservative/Republicans have opened the door at least as far as economically, showing themselves just as clueless as you liberals as far as tax and spend economics goes. If the liberals could get their shit together and come up with something thats not the same crap they have been spewing for decades, that has some basis in the real world, they could become the party of fiscal responsibilty, toppling the Republicans from that false position and taking back the ground they have lost.

But, based on your OP and my observation I don’t even think there is a snowballs chance in hell of that happening…you are blaming the CONSERVATIVES for spinning things and tricking people instead of looking realistically at the situation and realizing that perhaps the fault lies a bit closer to home. From your OP you want MORE entitlements, MORE social engineering programs, MORE MORE MORE…and to get it you will simply tax ‘the rich’ more (at first), and eventually everyone else. The money has to come from somewhere after all for all these things…just look at European tax scales sometime when contemplating European style programs.


In most of the leftish opinion I read these days, they’re calling themselves progressives, not liberals. Probably doesn’t help. I think you’re on the right track here, especially about the elitist image, though I wish I could say that the public is smarter than that.

Scott, please attend to my warning in this thread, then go read the rules regarding both this Forum and the SDMB, in general.

[ /Moderator Mode ]

I wish I had a pony.

total elitist, but not about politics

Why do you hate America? :wink:

Don’t you know, it’s the American Way . . . the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. We don’t care if you have no health insurance, as long as I can buy another car/wardrobe/diamond.

I don’t know, the message of helping your neighbor gets lost quite frequently. Apparently it’s more important to die with the most toys rather than making sure everyone is comfortable and healthy. What’s sad about all this is that most people BELIEVE they have a chance to change their social class. This “American Dream” is really only for those who began life with a silver spoon.

It seems we have a LOT of people who think they will make it big one day, the reality is that it almost never happens. Until people wake up and realize they are just getting smoke blowed up their collective rears, nothing will change. People will believe anything they hear as long as it includes “more money for you”. They don’t care how corrupt the messenger is or how many times they’ve lied, just as long as they hear those magic words.

Liberals just want to make the chance for success in this country more equal, IMO. Helping those most in need, keeping the playing field level. Somehow that gets translated into “they’re taking all your money and giving it to a bunch of losers who never want to work and smoke pot all day/you’ll all be standing in line for the soup kitchen”. It’s all just so sickening. I feel the price you pay for living in a society like ours is to help those who have had a rough time, because one day you may find yourself on the struggling end and may need some help. We are all human and make mistakes, sometimes it’s just how the cards play out.

I agree, the message just isn’t clear enough. But what can you do when all you hear is “money”. It boils down to people really don’t care as long as they can get everything they want.

Yes, I acknowledge I am cynical, but this is how I see it.

It, meaning the economy, is not a static when it comes to size - or structure.

The top 10% of wage earners already pay 65% of the income taxes in the US & the top 50% pay 98% - how much more do you want them to pony up before the incentive to earn more is completely erased? Unless you’re planning on passing a regulation that stricly forbids corporations from adding your taxes into the finished cost of goods, what makes you think those taxes won’t be passed along to the consumer, in the form of regressive taxes like they are today. Challenge yourself to find a corporation that pays (as opposed to passes off) taxes. If you find one, odds are they have no domestic - or foreign competitors.

About 35% of the GDP of Western Europe is consumed by government (vs about 20% here in the US). It’ll be interesting to see who’s economy goes into shambles first. If the local economies of Berlin or Paris are any indicator, sell your EU Treasuries.

The total unravelling of the OP’s ignorant economic pipe dreams will come the day Americans begin to realize that, “no, it’s not 1/3 of a penny out of your tax dollar that goes to fund program X” but rather “every tax dollar collected from 2,347 people all year goes to fund it”.

You might want to rething your phrasing in the future. It’s a bit difficult taking an OP seriously when they mention “ass kicking” like we’re talking about football, “wrassling”, or a bar brawl.

I think liberals have had something to do with the reluctance of the middle class to take up their banner whole heartedly. It isn’t so much that the conservaties frame the debate it’s that the public just isn’t buying everything the liberals are selling. People still remember LBJ’s Great Society and of course the dismal economy of the 1970’s.

During the 20’s and 30’s there were plenty of leftist Americans who thought the Soviet Union and communism was a fantastic.

I lived in Germany during the 1980’s and unless things have changed drastically I didn’t notice their standard of living being much different then the United States.

Most of us are raised to believe that being productive is good. So when we’re unemployed we feel pretty bad even if it isn’t our fault. I hope the day never comes that I’m indifferent to being unemployed.

Are you sure the American middle class is the right target for such talk? Isn’t the middle class already likely to have access to health insurance and other forms of “freedom and power?”

The middle class already has plenty of choices. I admit I love how you choose to phrase things.

Please eloborate, what is the liberal plan to avoid long commutes? I’m curious as to whether or not it involves mass transit and mass migrations back to the city.

What makes you think they don’t already pay their fair share of the taxes?

As they say in real estate, location, location, location. The expense of housing has a lot to do with location in addition to things like labor, building materials, etc. My grandmother’s house in Sacramento would go for about $250,000 while a similiar house in rural Arkansas would go for maybe $80,000 and would probably come with an acre or two of land to boot. If you’re going to complain about conservative hyperbole you might want to stop using it yourself. Unless you seriously contend that houses being built these days are all mansions and nothing is affordable.

Here lies the crux of the problem. Nobody’s really buying your empty promises.


The mental image I was referring to was of the “liberal agenda” – coolies in jumpsuits doing makework before going home to an evening meal of gruel and propaganda. This is what conservatives think liberalism is all about. It is hard for us liberals to understand because we know it’s not what we’re about, and I think our lack of understanding has hurt us.

Spin, spin, spin. Liberals do not need to change their message of social equality and caring for the underdog, what we need to do is recognize how that message is being filtered by the media and how we must express it to fight that filtering. Your point about liberals considering the American people to be rubes is moot. To a much greater extent than liberals ever have, conservative neocons consider the American people to be clueless rubes, and they’re in the driver’s seat. I think that attitude is just a matter of being real. You have to call a thing what it is if you want to be clear about it.

It’s not the tradeoff it used to be. In America, things have gotten very one-sided and promise to do nothing but get more one-sided.

And the dollar is falling against the Euro becaaaause … Buehler? Beuhler? Anyone?

I think Americans hate losing their homes to bankers just as much as anyone else does, and they like being able to get medical care when they’re sick just as much as anyone else does. Americans don’t like to PAY for anything, which is why smart politicians of both stripes never mention such unpleasant stuff around the rubes.

An out of work guy who’s also out of money is a bum in America. Probably a criminal, or gonna be soon. As Richard Pryor says, “My African friends were all amazed at the restaurants that were open all night here. They said it was great you could get food at any time. Yeah, in America, if you got some money or a gun, you can get some food!”

I base it more on the widespread access to healthcare. The expensive top of the line stuff is harder to access, but generally, if you get sick in Europe, you can get taken care of short of going to an emergency room. NOt the same for people in America without insurance, is it?

Don’t have time to respond to the rest of your post. Will get to it later.

Evil, is your OP meant to focus specifically on liberal economics, or on perceptions of liberalism in general? Because it’s my opinion that the reason the identifier “liberal” has become anathema to most Americans is not economics, but social policy. But I don’t want to hijack.

Read the OP. I named specific programs and values that liberals should support. You can respond directly to all of them.

I’m in total agreement with your vision of what they want. I think liberals need to show how their agenda will make their lives closer to what they want them to be. Frex, they might want the 2.5 cars, but it can be hard when medical bills pile up or you or your spouse loses a job. They may want the two weeks’ vacation, but those employees who DON’T get outsourced frequently find themselves working very long hours and not taking vacations. After all, they’re employed … Liberals need to show that their agenda will make these middle class dreams more realizable.

Puh-leeze. If there’s anything that’s been pretty much proven about the American middle class, it’s that they’ll swallow ANY kind of guff so long as it isn’t described as “raising taxes.” See Bush’s economics.

As long as they don’t do anything that is an out-and-out tax increase, they can pay for the programs any way they want to. That’s another lesson from Bush. Hell, the “tax cut for the wealthy” pretty much WAS a “tax hike for the poor and the middle class,” but he got away with it.

But, based on your OP and my observation I don’t even think there is a snowballs chance in hell of that happening…you are blaming the CONSERVATIVES for spinning things and tricking people instead of looking realistically at the situation and realizing that perhaps the fault lies a bit closer to home.

If there is anything that is totally, patently, blatantly obvious in American politics, it’s that conservatives spin, spin, spin like hell. I think liberals have to do some counter-spinning, and to do it, they have to be very aware of what the conservatives are up to. They also need to show their programs make the goals of middle-class folk that you enumerated … and which I agree are their goals … more realizable.

I agree that they probably aren’t fooling anybody, but it probably is smarter to use the word progressive for the present.

Mostly perception, but directly tied in with that is a need to re-orient liberal policies so that they are not perceived as being in conflict with middle class goals.

My father was an immigrant from Central America. We were not remotely wealthy growing up.

Today I am reasonably successful.

Would you care to amend your statement?

How have they gotten very one sided? Compared to what? How are things different today than in the past? What trends can you show that things have ‘gotten very one-sided and promise to do nothing but get more one-sided’?

Because why? Answer the question. Do you know why the dollar was kept (artificially) high for the past decade or so? Why its falling now? Do you suppose its because Europe is overtaking the US in productivity? You seem to think that this is a no brainer answer. Fine, answer it then.

The problem with these gloom and doom drive by’s is, as always, you offer no proof that they are reality based. How often do American’s lose their homes (and in one of the biggest real estate booms in this countries history mind you)? Is it such a problem that they REALLY are sick of it? How many people REALLY have no access to health care? Again, what is the magnitude of the problem? You don’t say, just imply a lot.

You are right about one thing though…American’s don’t like to pay any more than they have too. They perfer to have the money in their own pocket and take care of themselves for the most part…certainly they have a different attitude towards who is best at taking care of them than the average European does. Different stroke for different folks EC, and the main point here is that liberals need to poke their heads up out of their ivory towers and actually look around once in a while.

Uhuh. Whats the magnitude of the problem? How many people who want to and can work are out of work and out of money? How many are starving (in a nation who is probably the fattest per capita on earth)? Whats the percentage of people who, simply because they couldn’t get work turn to crime in the US…as opposed to turning towards crime for myriad other reasons like choice or because they didn’t WANT to work?

BTW, comedians exaggerate to get laughs. Prior isn’t giving a lecture on economic after all, he’s doing standup…i.e. don’t take him seriously, just laugh. Can you prove that the only people in the US who get food either have money or a gun? It was my impression THATS why we spent such a high percentage of our GNP on social programs that the liberals tout as necessary…so that this situation wouldn’t happen. Are you saying…gasp…that these programs don’t WORK???

By the number of truely fat poor people I’ve seen in my time in the US I think its going to be hard to prove that food is so scarce in the US that only peole with money or a gun can get it…looking at my fellow citizens sometimes I think it might be a good idea actually to make food a bit more scarce. :slight_smile:

There is certainly a difference in health care. From experience I know what you can and can’t get without any insurance btw. The difference is that those who have insurance in the US (the majority of citizens afaik) have access to better general healthcare (IMO) than the general healthcare in Europe. Its easier to access and I think more responsive for less than critical issues. For critical issues its probably comparable, though admittedly I never had a really cronic problem in Europe…more elective stuff like strained knees or a broken rib once. For those in the US without any insurance at all the level of general health care is worse than Europe (mostly going to the emergency room as you said), no doubt. For critical or chronic issues its about the same.

As you did I’ll respond to your other post later tonight if I can. :slight_smile:


I’ll amend it:

Although it’s not impossible to climb the socioeconimic ladder, it is way more difficult than it should be. The percentage of people born into poverty that stay in poverty throughout their lifetime is distressingly high, and the number that climb their way upwards in a significant way is distressingly low.

My mental image of Liberals is a wide assortment of fringe members of society: bored and opinionated neo-hippies, ivory-tower academics who have never worked in the real world, naive but idealistic people of privilidge trying to overcome feelings of self-loathing over their station. Minority special interests. Socialists. Neo-communists. Etc. I associate them with high taxes, pie in the sky social programs, naive economic policies and softness on crime and defense. My perception is that as an upper-white middle class male, my role in Liberal America is to work and pay high taxes for social programs I will never use.

I’m not saying that image is necessarily correct, but the fact is that perception becomes reality. If the vast majority of middle America do not believe that the liberals really have their best interests at heart, they aren’t going to support them.