I used to call myself a socialist and I am wondering why I don’t any longer, my views certainly haven’t changed. I think is has everything to do with the shift in political language, the distortion of the word “liberal” and the resulting shift of the Democratic Party toward a more right wing ideology and a shedding of the liberal ideals that once grounded them.
I recently wrote a post for Conservative Amnesty, in which I invited conservatives to join the Democratic Party, telling them that they will find themselves right at home since the Democrats have adopted many traditionally conservative principles, smaller government, fair taxes, less government intrusion into our personal lives. While I do believe this is true of the Party, I don’t know how comfortable I really am with the new face of the Democratic Party.
Perhaps it is just a reaction to neo-conservatism that makes traditional conservatism seem more appealing, and maybe I don’t feel comfortable advocating for socialist policies because it is so far from where we currently are. I was politically socialized during the Reagan years and even then, socialism was easy to argue for. From where we sit now, it seems like an unreachable place and with the liberal perspective effectively silenced by the right, what chance is there of being heard while advocating for Democratic Socialism.
Michael Stickings over at The Reaction wrote a beautiful post about liberalism and he makes a good argument that the United States has always been a liberal society and regardless of the gains made recently by neo-conservatives and the religious right, we are already in the process of swinging back toward our more natural liberal center. I hope he is right, but what I got most out of his post is that liberalism is worth reclaiming. I have always believed this (made obvious by the name of my blog) and the bastardization of the word liberal that we on the left have allowed to go unchecked for so many years, must finally be put to an end. We are not Progressives, we are Liberals and there’s not a damn thing wrong with that.
When we allow the opposition to define us, we lose the connection to who we are. There is a reason that the word liberal reminds us of words like, liberty, liberate, and liberally. To be liberal, is to give freely, as in “be liberal with the whipped cream on my all-American apple pie.” We exemplify the best of what this country has to offer and are responsible for the history most choose to embrace as the basis for what truly defines us as Americans. Liberal is defined as favorable to progress or reform. We want to continue to move forward, make progress and reform what is wrong, in other words, we want to be liberal.
Even those who have been tricked into claiming the label conservative most likely are not interested in stopping progress. To be conservative is to be cautious, moderate, controlled, guarded, unimaginative, undaring, timid and opposed to change. That doesn’t sound like America to me. We are advanced, enlightened, free, rational, reasonable, tolerant, big-hearted, and generous, all synonyms for liberal and all perfect descriptions of what America stands for. We are a liberal country, and it’s time we started acting like it again.