Some of us never stopped calling ourselves "l" word
... but apparently, some new people are taking it up.
A full 25 percent of voters in this month's election identified themselves as liberals, according to exit polls, a marked increase from 22 percent in 2008. (Conservative is still a more popular identifier, with 35 percent of voters claiming that label.) Still, the "L" word is more popular than it has been since 1976. Conservatives managed to turn "liberal" into an insult in the 1980s, and when Republican icon Ronald Reagan won re-election in 1984, only 17 percent of voters confessed to being liberal. Today that number has ballooned to 25 percent.
The piece posits a number of reasons why that might be, the most amusing of which is this one:
It's not that Americans are suddenly gung-ho about liberal politics, says Gary Bauer at Human Events. Voters are still filled with "strong skepticism about whether Obama will be able to accomplish Americans' goals." The Obama campaign simply managed to drive people away from Mitt Romney with a relentless barrage of negative ads smearing him — and, by extension, conservative politics — as "uncaring and disconnected."
The fact that the voters might perceive conservatism as uncaring and unconnected because it is uncaring and unconnected doesn't seem to have occurred to him.
I don't know if this resurgence of the "L" word will hold. But I think it bodes well for the future that it's happening at all. Never has a word been so degraded by political demagoguery as the word "liberal" and it was a very deliberate thing:
Republican strategist Arthur Finkelstein's style has been compared to Hollywood's villainous character, Sose, who was so secretive that some doubted whether he really existed. There has only been one photo of Finkelstein to surface during 20 years of consulting Republican candidates. Even his Westchester County, N.Y., office doesn't bear his name.
Says Stephen Rodrick of Philadelphia Magazine, "It's almost to the point of whether or not he really exists. He has all this impact, but no one has ever seen him."
Sen. Al D'Amato (R-N.Y.) is one who has seen Finkelstein. D'Amato has tapped the mystery man for what may be Finklestein's biggest challenge yet: helping direct Republican strategy in the 33 Senate races this year.
"Arthur Finkelstein is probably one of the brightest, cutting-edge political scientists I've ever met," said D'Amato.
Scientist, strategist or mystery man, Finkelstein has orchestrated stunning upset victories for many of his clients including Sens. D'Amato and Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), and New York's Republican Gov. George Pataki. His unseen hand also helped Benjamin Netanyahu oust Shimon Perez in the Israeli elections earlier this year.
Finkelstein's signature style emerges through the ads he creates. Two recent adds brand Democrats as liberals: "Call liberal Paul Wellstone. Tell him it's wrong to spend billions more on welfare," one ad states.
"That's liberal," says another. "That's Jack Reed. That's wrong. Call liberal Jack Reed and tell him his record on welfare is just too liberal for you."
"That's the Finkelstein formula: just brand somebody a liberal, use the word over and over again, engage in that kind of name-calling," said Democratic consultant Mark Mellman.
Finkelstein is among the most hypocritical of all Republicans in that he's gay and even married his long time partner as soon as marriage was legalized. Somehow I doubt he thanked any liberals for making that possible for him.
Although I often use the word progressive to describe policy and I am happy to label others that if that's their choice, but I never stopped thinking of myself as a liberal, even with all the baggage, both made-up and real. At some point you just have to stop running.