The New York Times discovers that it’s not just conservatives who shudder when they hear the “L” word.
Over the last few years, though — and especially 2016 — there has been a surge of the opposite phenomenon: Now the political left is expressing its hatred of liberals, too. For the committed leftist, the ‘‘liberal’’ is a weak-minded, market-friendly centrist, wonky and technocratic and condescending to the working class.
The separation of “leftist” from “liberal” is likely a distinction that many conservatives would fail to recognize or even acknowledge. The gradations between liberal, leftist, and progressive only matter to those who haven’t spent any time on the right side of the aisle. For Trumpists and Tea Partiers, any shift leftward justifies a use of all of those labels interchangeably, which is not always pleasing to those so labeled:
This shift in terminology can be confusing, both politically and generationally — as when baby boomers describe fervent supporters of Bernie Sanders as ‘‘very liberal,’’ unaware that young Sandersistas might find this vomit-inducing.
What’s sad, though, is that far from being a dirty word, “liberal” used to be the pinnacle of patriotic adjectives. According to the Times, that’s still the case across the pond:
In Europe, the word has traditionally meant a preference for things like limited government, separate private and public spheres, freedom of the press and association, free trade and open markets — what’s often described as ‘‘classical liberalism.’’ But the United States had many of those inclinations from the beginning. By the 20th century, American liberalism had come to mean something distinct.
It’s time to go back to the 19th Century verbiage. Limited government, separation of public and private, free trade and free speech – it sound like pretty good stuff!