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 article attributes the trend to a couple of reasons, one being that Barack Obama made being liberal “cool” again, and the other the fact that there’s the perception out there that conservatives are uncaring and disconnected.
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.” Republicans can regain this lost ground next time around if they just learn from this loss.
Yeah, if they just knocked off the gay-bashing, the misogyny, the racism, and the need to inject fear and loathing into everything from children’s TV to healthcare for the elderly, they wouldn’t be such bad folks after all. Of course, if they did that, they’d be on their way to being liberals.
For the record, I never stopped self-identifying as a liberal, and I’ve been doing that since I was in high school. Which gives me the opportunity to post one of my favorite clips from The West Wing:
Santos: It’s true, Republicans have tried to turn ‘liberal’ into a bad word. Well, liberals ended slavery in this country.
Vinick: A Republican president ended slavery.
Santos: Yes, a liberal Republican. What happened to them? They got run out of your party. What did liberals do that was so offensive to the Republican party? I’ll tell you what they did. Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created social security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed every one of those programs. Every one. So when you try to hurl the word ‘liberal’ at my feet, as if it were dirty, something to run away from, something that I should be ashamed of, it won’t work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and wear it as a badge of honor.
My only fear is that now being liberal is becoming trendy, and you know how I feel about being “trendy.” I’d much rather people picked up the liberal badge of honor and wore it not because it’s cool or hip but because they believe in the values that come with being a liberal: equality, economic fairness, using government as a tool for good instead of a cudgel, and standing up for the people who don’t have the voice or the means to acquire power in order to have a life that has been promised to them by the simple statement of We the People.