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August 8, 2004: Rehabilitating the word LIBERAL - and Elvis?

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From Rick Brown, the News Guy in Atlanta -


Lately I've been wondering if there isn't a way to launch a campaign to bring the word "liberal" back into the mainstream where it belongs.  Maybe in the process, also find a way to demonize the word "conservative"?

I was thinking bumper-stickers, which takes the message directly into enemy territory, starting with a message that hits many of them where they live: "THINK ABOUT IT: JESUS WAS A LIBERAL!"

Later, you can put other good-person names in there, such as "GEORGE BAILEY WAS A LIBERAL!" and such.

And you could follow up all that with things like "THINK ABOUT IT: DARTH VADER WAS A CONSERVATIVE!"


And if you dare deal with really complex concepts (although being complex, they run the risk of not being understood by conservatives): "THINK ABOUT IT: SCROOGE WAS A CONSERVATIVE, BUT WAS CURED!"


Anyone up to the challenge?

Consider this letter to the editor in the Arizona Republican -

Let's hear Bush define 'liberal'
August 5, 2004 12:00 AM


President Bush rarely delves into the vast gray area between the extremes. So when he calls John Kerry a liberal, he is trying to convey that Kerry, and his policies, are less than desirable.

Instead of just simplistically using the word "liberal" to negatively portray Kerry, Bush should have to tell the country in detail what liberalism is and why it is bad.

For too long, Republicans have been able to acquire political power by demonizing liberalism. I'd like to see the candidates discuss their understanding of liberalism during the upcoming debates.

Our founders would be dismayed at the way Republicans today discount liberalism's contributions to the making of a great nation. A shallow-thinking electorate led by shallow-thinking political leaders is a recipe for disaster.

- Robert J. Barboza, Phoenix


A discussion of they what they mean by the term?  Unlikely.

It’s just shorthand.  Just imagine a skinny lesbian arts professor from some minor school in New England driving her eleven-year-old Volvo station wagon, with the required Save the Whales bumper sticker, into Cambridge to attend a rally in support of vegetarian anti-abortionists in Venezuela, sipping a latte as she drives, listening to a biography of Edith Piaf on NPR – who distrusts big business, actually thinking they might take advantage of folks, who thinks the meager amount she pays in taxes should go to schools and the hungry and homeless and all those other lazy losers who just want to use us all so they can eat bons-bons, drive around in a big Cadillac and watch Jerry Springer (the Welfare Queens Reagan identified).  Socialists who like the French and want to claim they are better than the rest of us. 


A lot of words.  One will do.  Liberal.

Over at Fact Check there’s a long page of the history of the term, and after a rundown of British political history, this entry regarding the United States.


In recent decades the most common use of the term liberal in the USA is greatly at variance from the use of the term in the rest of the world, and with the historical meaning of the word in the USA through the mid 20th century.

Some think that conservatives have been successful in undermining progressives as 'liberals', by deliberate public relations campaigns, through repeated use of the word, 'liberal', in ways that associate it with irresponsibility.

Some independent leftists and libertarians who dislike the USA's two leading parties allege that since liberal means being in favor of liberty, both parties are telling the truth when they deny that they are liberals.

In the United States, the label of liberal is sometimes used as derogatory or politically undermining label. It can imply an overly free-spirited, unaccountable, and compromised character, or someone in favor of vast and needless government intrusion into peoples lives.

USA Conservatives in recent years, often those of the Republican Party, sometimes use liberal as an subversive adjective for anyone who is a member of or supports any policy of the Democratic Party. Consequently, while far right wing politics often are debated and voiced in the political world, liberalism has been associated with far-left politics, whose agendas are often voided.


Basic stuff.  The hypothetical Volvo driver above is certainly overly free-spirited (sexually), unaccountable, and a compromised character, and seems to be someone in favor of vast and needless government intrusion into peoples lives.  Someone who does NOT play by the conventional rules – whatever they are.

Liberals are threatening.  They want our money.  They like gay people, and black people, and the French!  They’re always talking about human rights and stuff like that – but they want our children.

In fact, the San Francisco-based conservative talk show host Michael Savage (he was on MSNBC for a bit but is back to radio), on the August 3 broadcast of Savage Nation, took on the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and human rights activists in general, calling them "the worst people in America ... communist or Nazis or both" and he told his listeners, "When you hear 'human rights,' think gays. When you hear 'human rights,' think only one thing: someone who wants to rape your son. ... When you hear 'human rights,' think only someone who wants to molest your son, and send you to jail if you defend him. Write that down, make a note of it." (MP3 audio clip here if you want to listen.)

You’ve been warned. Liberals.

Then there is this -


Imagine my surprise when I looked up the word "Liberal" in my thesaurus.

Liberal: ... generous, abundant, lavish, broadminded, tolerant, enlightened, charitable among others. Not bad, eh?

Conservative: ... stingy, miserly, reactionary, regressive, bigoted, prejudiced, biased, narrow-minded and more. Ouch!

Considering that, and the track record of conservatives (anti-women voting, anti-blacks voting, pro-segregation, pro-Vietnam War, anti-Head Start, etc.) you can see why I'd be embarrassed to call myself a conservative.

So with all those accurate, flattering words to describe "liberal"... And all those appropriate, hateful words to describe its antonym, "conservative"...

After I stopped laughing at the irony, I knew I had to make a t-shirt out of it.


And here’s the t-shirt.  But I like Rick’s bumper stickers more.



Clikc here...

From Ric in Paris we get this –


The first of a flood: ELVIS WAS A LIBERAL  - oops, should be: ELVIS IS A LIBERAL


-          Paris liberal conspiracy centrale, ric


From Rick, the News Guy in Atlanta –


Elvis WAS a liberal?  If so, that would be a good one, too!


First Jesus, then Elvis!  If you could make that case, then they'd have to put several entire red states on a suicide watch!


No, no, no…  I don't think it's going to fly...


See this - the photograph of Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon shaking hands on the occasion of Presley's visit to the White House on 21 December 1970.  Elvis was supporting the anti-drug policies of the day.  Ah, yep.


Liberal?  Hardly.


Actually, I know nothing of Elvis' politics.  He had any?  Really?  I know the folks in the red states know him as a good ol' boy and thus assume he must have been some sort of Strom Thurmond "keep these nigras out of our schools" type, only what is the evidence?  Just asking.  He had scads of musical talents, and a deep and abiding love for odd deep-fried foods, but on policy matters?  I think he was stoned when he met with Nixon - he looks it in the photo.


Ric in Paris persists –


For the bumper-sticker, I'm sticking with 'Elvis Is a Liberal.'


Doesn't matter if he isn't one after all the things that have been attributed to liberals for the past four years.  A lot of conservatives might be surprised to learn that 'Elvis Is a Liberal,' as Rick points out about the red-state peoples.  It might be the bumper-sticker to swing the election!  If so, it would prove that 'Elvis Is a Liberal.'  It doesn't have to be true because it's a bumper-sticker.


It is kind of encouraging to see liberals beginning to come out of the closets.  They can sure take their sweet time though, can't they?   The way things are going we'll probably be sick of them before it's over, the way people ignore Girl Scout brownies now.


On top of it, 'liberal' is a nicer-sounding word than 'conservative.'  If you were a teenager you might say your parents are 'conservative' while your grandparents are 'liberal.'  They are especially liberal if they manage to avoid a lot of babysitting, staying home in Florida evading alligators.


But I must not forget that liberals have been bashed for so long that they are probably having a difficult time coming out of those closets.  Having Elvis as an ally might seem a bit unlikely, but it will shatter conservatives when they find out.  If course they'll strike back, saying he's a dope fiend. (Ooops, like some of them conservatives!)


Metropole's own winning bumper-sticker slogan was 'Liberté Started Here.'  Since the winners were chosen at the end of April, it seems like times have moved forward.  All the same I should destroy the other slogans to protect the innocent.  Protect the liberals I mean.  It looked for a while like migration to France was going to pick up.  [See Here's the Winner! for details of this MetropoleParis contest… ]


There were two club members wearing 'Kerry' buttons yesterday - both from Florida.  [See About the 'Café Metropole Club'  for details of the MetropoleParis club … ]  A club member in Boston reading the 'report' spotted the button (very tiny and blurred in the photo) one of the members was wearing (head thoughtfully cropped off).  She wrote:


"I suppose if you gave time to the Kerry voters, you'd have to give equal time to the Bush voters and I don't think I could stand that."


My reply: "You are right that Metropole and its club are not political.  Attending members can wear any kind of political advertising they want.  Red stars are appreciated too.  Every San Pellegrino bottle has one."


If any members show up wearing the other guy's button I'll leave their heads on and cut the button.  This will make the club strictly symmetrical.


Maybe so.  I’ve been to the club a few times.  It should be apolitical.  Maybe.  Ric’s site, MetropoleParisisn’t about politics.  This site is.


Want a European view?  Bob Patterson suggested - HITLER THOUGHT



Well, a lot of the conservative right thinks highly of Silvio Berlusconi, the fellow who runs Italy at the moment with the support of the neo-Fascist party in the North, and who supported us so enthusiastically in this Iraq war.   This may not be a way to a way to demonize the word "conservative" as Rick in Atlanta proposes.  Mussolini is being reconsidered, it seems.  It gets tricky.


Drop a line – editor@justabovesunset.com - as further suggestions are welcome.  Put “Rehabilitating the word LIBERAL” in the subject line.




Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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