I’m not afraid to say it. I’m a loud, proud, out of the closet liberal. There is an ever-growing stigma attached to liberals, so much so that no politician would dare use the word to describe themselves. Any idea that is “liberal” is immediately discredited in the media and often equates liberals with terms like with “far-left,” “radical” and “socialist”. Liberals are, in fact, none of these things. The ideas of liberalism are based around basic principles of human rights and well-being. Liberals have long been the defenders of basic freedoms and rights. While Republicans like to tout the fact that Lincoln was a member of their party, they neglect to mention that he was a liberal who managed to defeat his conservative foes. Liberals are the champions of working Americans; they created programs like Social Security and Medicare that millions of Americans rely on, programs that conservatives actively try to dismantle. Liberals have long fought for the separation of Church and State, even as religious conservatives push in the opposite direction. Liberals put human welfare before nationalistic or economic concerns. It was liberals who fought to implement the first anti-trust and minimum wage laws to protect Americans from exploitation.
But somehow we have come to associate liberals with big-government, unfair taxes, and elitism. This is simply slander. Conservatives have lied and misinformed the pubic about liberals for decades. Ever since the 1980’s, when Reagan invoked the image of a welfare system made to support “a welfare queen,” misinformation about liberal ideas has become widespread. “Liberals don’t care about you, they just want to take your money,” goes one refrain. “They want to make the government as big as possible and tell you how to run your life.” Yes, it true the solutions to big problems often involve taxes or government regulation, but many people confuse the means with the ends. If government is needed, it is for a social cause, not to infringe upon your rights. Nobody in the world wants government for government’s sake as these ideas seem to suggest. Consider that the ACLU is a liberal organization and has drawn criticism from the right, including from pundits like Bill O’Reilly and senior Bush administration officials. Even the idea of liberal elites is unfounded. There is this idea that snotty, rich, New York, wine-sipping, poodle walking-sweater-vest-wearing “elites” want to impose their will on America. Yet there has never been a scrap of evidence provided for the liberal elite theory. Of course obnoxious and ridiculous liberals exist. And yes, there is some disconnect when wealthy people propose more taxes. Yet the same could be said of the Right. Plenty of stereotypes exist, from the dumb hillbilly to the trailer park Texan, but we don’t assume these people are setting policy or running the government. As with Republican stereotypes, it simply doesn’t follow that all liberals fit the “mold” or that elite, out of touch people are making policy and screwing with American lives.
To be fair, liberals don’t always get it right. Welfare is imperfect and Medicare leaks like the Titanic. But that doesn’t mean the ideas behind them are wrong. Just because a particular welfare system doesn’t work efficiently, should we really just let everyone in poverty fend for him or herself? Wouldn’t it make sense to reform these programs so they work well, as do countless other government programs? The modern liberal is not some tax and spend fiend committed to creating a big brother government, but rather someone who acknowledges that if the government works the way its supposed to, we will all be better off. Liberals are dedicated to protecting the people of this country, to preserving their rights, liberties, and to not only protecting, but also enabling their pursuit of happiness. And I, for one, am proud to count myself among them.