I remember clearly the 1988 Presidential campaign, and especially the debates, between Michael Dukakis and George H.W. Bush. Bush the Elder parried with Dukakis and tried to “tag” him with the label “liberal”–calling it “the L Word” (not to be confused with the Showtime series of the same name, about the lives of lesbians). And Dukakis dodged that label like the plague until it became unavoidable, and then he tried to pivot to say that he stood in the tradition of Franklin Roosevelt, et al. That was, in my estimation, the Turning Point, and liberals became targeted as either (1) weak-kneed, strength-draining, spineless saps; or (2) traitors who would settle for nothing short of destroying all that is or was ever good about the United Stated of America.
Here’s the answer that I wish Dukakis had given the first time the question of being liberal came up:
“If by ‘liberal,’ you mean that I give a damn about my fellow Americans and am not willing to be part of the richest country on the face of the earth and turn away from those people who need food, health care, education, and just plain human compassion–then YES, I am a liberal. Aren’t you? If not, why not?!”
The very same people who claim that being liberal is treasonous are frequently those who claim that the United States was founded on Christian principles. And although I disagree with this assertion (on historical grounds, among others), why isn’t being liberal then the only way to be true to America?
We have lost so much by turning “liberal” into a reason to vilify–either those who are or those who are not. Instead, it’s time again that “giving a damn about others” becomes a public policy goal that we as Americans can all rally around. Our main disagreements then?: “What is the best way to do this?”!