Time for ‘Liberals’ and ‘Progressives’ to Get New Labels

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.


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So the same people who call Republican women “sluts,”  who accuse the Tea Party of being “racist,” who depict black Republican Representative Allen West punching an old white woman, and who imply that Mitt Romney is a “felon,” a tax cheat, and possibly a murderer of a little old lady, are so worried that an 18-year-old might be teased and get his feelings hurt that they are willing to gut the First Amendment. So much for the “diversity” of ideas and the “tolerance” of opposing viewpoints, so much for the fealty to individual rights and the value of dissent against orthodoxy.

And here we get to the most illiberal and reactionary dimension of the lib/prog ideology: it is rigidly orthodox and enslaved to received wisdom. Rather than being edgy dissenters “speaking truth to power,” most lib/progs are stolid, unquestioning supporters of the reigning dogma, no matter how stale or intellectually incoherent. Look no farther than the Obama campaign’s strategy to exploit class envy and resentment and paint Mitt Romney as a robber-baron villain, a Gordon Gekko leering “greed is good” as he ships off jobs to China, kicks widows and orphans out of their homes, and cackles as the fired employees of the companies he’s plundered waste away with cancer––Marxist anti-capitalist clichés as old as 19th century melodrama, one already dead in 1946 when Frank Capra used it to create Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life. Of course, this is the same Obama whose Department of Justice just gave its mega-campaign contributor Goldman Sachs––over $1 million just in 2008–– a pass on its suspected financial fraud related to the mortgage crisis that precipitated the Great Recession. And let’s not forget the “green energy” subsidies to political supporters, like the half a billion of taxpayer money bestowed on now bankrupt solar panel manufacturer Solyndra.

It’s hard to say whether this double standard reflects cognitive dissonance, the rank hypocrisy of the opportunist, or the corroding power of ideology on the critical faculties. Something must explain why lib/progs think waterboarding a terrorist is a crime against humanity, while obliterating the terrorist and the family around him with a drone is okay. Something must explain why Ann Romney’s $900 shirt makes her an out-of-touch plutocrat, while Michelle Obama’s $6,800 J. Mendel jacket evokes breathless encomia to her style. Something must explain why the media decried a planned Republican ad about Obama’s factual ties to racist reverend Jeremiah Wright, while the aired Democrat ad linking Romney to a woman’s death by cancer earns a mainstream media shrug. Something must explain why critically questioning Christianity and its doctrines shows intellectual bravery, even though such criticism has been going on for over two centuries and is risk-free, while doing the same thing to Islam is Islamophobic hate speech rather than true intellectual daring.

We may never know why this contradiction inhabits the lib/prog mind, but one thing we do know: it’s not liberal and it’s not progressive in any meaningful sense of those words. So anyone have a suggestion for what we should call it?

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  • Terry

    Call them' leftofascists'. Fotr that is what they are.

    • EthanP

      I like it. Enough that I'm not using my own.

  • Jamie

    I have been think of "Neo-Fascists".

    • EthanP

      Ditto for Terry.

  • Paul

    Whatever we call it, they will win. We’re bound for the age of Political Correctness.

    It is immensely sad that the world as we know it will be usurped by this evil ideology

    but there is nothing and nobody around who could reverse this tsunami of Totalitarianism.

    This PC thing will claim millions – maybe billions – of victims before humanity – maybe – comes to its senses again. We are heading for the darkness and there will be death and destruction on an unprecedented scale. There is as yet no cure for the Marx-Mohammed axis and I hope I will be dead when everything comes to pass as I am sure it will.

    • craig

      all it takes for Evil to prevail is for US to do nothing ,, be a good man and do something about it ,, whatever you can , enlighten people with the TRUTH

    • EthanP

      It's not the PC thats destroying us. It's a leftist MSM that parrots what the left says and lies about the conservatives in support of that leftist idiology.

    • Gylippus

      I disagree. Their momentum can be reversed. And it can happen quite quickly. It just depends on how determined you are.

  • Paul

    I got it….let's call them "illusionists".
    It does not sound vulgar or insulting and it describes exactly what they are.

    • Charles Wenzel

      I like it!

    • Goemon

      Nice

  • SCREW SOCIALISM

    I suggest NEO-COMMIE.

    • Greg

      Neo-commie is the best name.

  • poptoy1949

    Only one name comes to mind. "UN-GODLY".

  • Kevin V

    Leftist is accurate. And everyone who uses it should be familiar with the history of leftism from the French revolution to the present. I recommend Eric von Ritter Kunehelt-Leddihn's books on the subject.

    • NAHALKIDES

      Agreed. "Leftist" or "Progressive/Left" describe them well, and "Progressive" has not lost its negative connotation, well-earned, even though Leftists have been trying to rehabilitate the term lately. The main thing is to stop describing these illiberal folks as "liberal".

  • Perry

    I have abandoned the term "liberal" in reference to these idiots long ago. "Liberal" implies a supporter of freedom and equality and thete can be no such thing under the jackboot of regulations, quotas based on skin color, language or who one sleeps with. It is actually the libertarian conservatives who are "liberals' in the true and classic sense.
    LEFTIST is one who subverts freedom and aids his contry's enemies. LEFTISTS.

  • Schlomotion

    The terms work just fine. It's the people who are broken. We spent ten years describing as "conservative" Communist Jews who infiltrated the Republican Party on behalf of World Likud. The same pundits spent the twenty years prior to that describing as "liberals" anybody who wanted to have food, homes, schools, a paycheck, and peace all at the same time. The same pundits now label as "progressive" anyone who thinks the GDP should not be stolen by the Fed, and that Americans should not be subject to total surveillance. It's not the terms that are broken. It's the people.

    • http://rau.3littlefoxes.com Lfox328

      I used to wonder why, in every American History class I'd ever had, the Progressive Era was ALWAYS included. Often, they completely failed to even mention WWI, but Progressivism always took at least 3-4 weeks of the class.

      Now I know; they were attempting to indoctrinate us "unwashed" with the proper respect for the views of our "betters".

      • Schlomotion

        Right. Just to suit you, American history classes should skip over the 30 year period from 1890-1920. Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and Woodrow Wilson should be blacked out of school classrooms. That pesky "woman's suffrage movement" should be ignored. Prohibition should not be studied. The Federal Reserve System is unimportant. Who cares about those four Amendments to the Constitution that took place. The Food and Drug Act is meaningless. Can't schools just skip from Jesus right to Ronald Reagan?

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      Thanks to 9/11 and al qada the entire world needs checkpoints at every airport in the world.

      Since when is it "progressive" to support passenger plane hijacking, beheading, honor killing, poison gas attacks?

      Whenever Schlockmotion posts some crap, my Taqiyya alarm goes off.

    • EthanP

      We don't need bogoted anti semites on this post.

    • Ghostwriter

      Another day,another fact-free,anti-Jewish rant from Schlomotion.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      To understand Sclockmoron you have to understand that he cries himself to sleep knowing that his side lost WW2.

  • BRL…

    Nasty, Brutish, and Short, P.C.

    We need new tactics for the war against Islamism and the Left, and we need new epithets, too. Effective epithets must be nasty and brutish, though not so deeply vile as to put people off using them. Epithets must be short, one or two syllables. They must resonate, tumble readily off the lips, yet they must also be clear in their reference, instantly understood, requiring no explanation. And for epithets really to stick, they must be self-evident and undeniable.
    Above all epithets must be fighting words, not answerable by argument, excuse, or evidence, but only by blows, or by humiliated acceptance. Epithets do not need to make sense, but they do need to make the target cringe with fear, resentment, and self-loathing.

    "Liberal" is too soft. It makes the enemy sound open-handed, generous, benign.

    "PC" sounds like a computer, or maybe a law firm. "Politically Correct" is too long.

    "Leftist" is no longer sinister enough. "The Left Behind" is both wishful thinking, and too subtle.

    "Socialist" sounds almost clubby. "Craig’slist" has been trademarked.

    "Social Fascist" might have worked, had not the other side de-fanged "Fascist" by giving it too much to chew. Il Duce, the original Fascist, was a Socialist who got impatient.

    "Parlor Pink" now sounds more gay than red.

    "Red" has been muddied by mockery, softened by sympathy. The same goes for "Bolshie" and "Peacenik." Even "Commie" has lost its sting, and now sounds almost avuncular, like Uncle Joe Stalin bouncing Red Diaper Babies on his knee as their parents are taken out and shot.

    "Hippie" is ultimate softness, of both heart and head. "Hippie" makes Dennis Kucinich and his ilk seem as harmless as they are clueless, but it hardly fits a well-groomed Leftist thug like Pat Leahy or Joe Biden.

    "Secular Humanist" may be precise, but it is a styrofoam slingstone, besides being hard to say, and much too complicated to explain.

    "Statist" carries no freight of calumny. It sounds like high-school physics.

    "Activist" sounds almost healthy, well-nigh athletic. Our foes call themselves "Activists" with a straight face, and their usual blindness to irony (irony deficiency anemia).

    "Syndicalist" has too many syllables. Besides, nobody can remember that Syndicalism meant "government by public employee unions," and nobody wants to be reminded that Syndicalism is in fact the form of government we now have.

    H. G. Wells's "Eloi" was a noble pioneering effort, but never caught hold. It's current synonym, "Metrosexual" is too soft to cut deep.

    Ayn Rand's "Looter" and "Second Rater" were nice tries, but even she could not make them stick.

    Robert Heinlein's "Eater" was too subtle to be filling.

    Arthur Schlesinger's "Doughface Progressive," on the other hand, was too much of a mouthful, as well as too gooey to gain traction.

    That goes double for "Goo-Goo," Tammany Hall's epithet for 19th century "Good Government" Progressive Republicans, the ones who saddled us with commissions and regulations in place of politics and law.

    "Traitor?" Alas, none dare call anything treason any more, not even open support of the enemy in arms, in print, in Congress. It is now bad form to impugn the patriotism of even the most abject traitor, especially when he is the president.

    "Islamist" is too long and too erudite. "Islamofascist" is too polysyllabic to say out loud.

    What about the official choice, "Terrorist?" One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, fighting grimly, suicidally, against freedom.

    "Radical" is too vague, and sounds too much like chemistry. Even worse, all those graying tenured leftists in Academe insist on taking "radical" as a compliment to themselves, then turn it inside-out and call their critics the "Radical Right," as opposed to their own Radical Wrong.

    *

    Yes, we don't just need new tactics. We need new epithets. Give some thought to coining a few. Think of it as a contest, where the marketplace of ideas will pick the winners.

    Whatever terms we settle on should carry moral force.

    The heads side of the naming coin is choosing a name for ourselves "that resonates with our highest values…" but tails is just as important, choosing a short sharp epithet for our foes that is abrasive enough to make them shudder.

    * * * * * * * * *

    • Dan Schnittker

      Nice list. My coined was reactionary millenialist. But that is meant to confuse and engage. Hardly an epithet. For enduring epithets to apply anew, hmm, that's tough. Nihilist is a generalized one. But too abstract.

  • al Kidya

    European-style socialism has crept into America.
    This kind of socialism worries day in and day out when their next welfare check raise will come, when their next holiday will be announced, when they will get a three day work week, let alone five days of honest work. They worry about their pensions at age 50 (understandable if they actually worked long enough to build them up – they don't.).

  • al Kidya

    The definition of Liberal, according to Wiki is; Liberalism (from the Latin liberalis)[1] is a broad political ideology or worldview founded on the ideas of liberty and equality.[2] Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally liberals support ideas such as capitalism (either regulated or not), constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights and the free exercise of religion.

  • al Kidya

    Liberalism first became a powerful force in the Age of Enlightenment, rejecting several foundational assumptions that dominated most earlier theories of government, such as nobility, established religion, absolute monarchy, and the Divine Right of Kings. The early liberal thinker John Locke, who is often credited for the creation of liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition, employed the concept of natural rights and the social contract to argue that the rule of law should replace both Traditionalism and absolutism in government, that rulers were subject to the consent of the governed, and that private individuals had a fundamental right to life, liberty, and property.

  • Demetrius M

    The "Covetous". They want to be like us and have what we possess. They may not admit it, but they do.

  • Enbrok

    "Legerdemain" parties, group, politics!

  • Not Chicken Little

    The old terms still work for me: Socialists and Marxists who control the useful idiots. And still, liberalism is a mental disorder.

  • bkopicz

    Great article Bruce Thornton. You hit the nail right on the head.

  • Dan Schnittker

    What is the accurate descriptor for today's (and forever's) American Liberal/Progressive? Well that depends somewhat on your purpose. Do you want to describe neutrally, or provokatively? In either case you will very like be attacked, denigrated, and accused of "mental illness" (Soviet style) I know firsthand. Let's see. Recent appellations include neo-Marxist, trans-national Progressive, socialist and statist, all fitting. I have coined a new one. How about 'reactionary millenialist' . I think it works, but is it confounding enough? American Liberal/Progressive's certainly have their Marxist roots, and hence are utopians or millenialists, believing in a perfect end state for society and the mutability of human nature. They are inherently and permanenty reactionary because they justify their fantasy ideology by harkening back to an imagined prior state as in Rouseau's benevolent state of nature. This false harkening for the harmony that supposedly existed before capitalism spoiled society is the pure reactionary poison that justifies every abuse and crime in name of the cause de jour.

  • Charles Wenzel

    Anti-Rationalists, Distortionists, Historical-Amnesiasts, Can't-Get-Out of-Puberity-ist and "Mommy, mommy, I want my Mommy-ist"

    • Goemon

      the first two should really go mainstream

  • Tasine2000

    I seldom refer to "liberals" because I see so few actual liberals. Patrick Moynihan was a great liberal and I had great respect for him. I call these "liberals" and "progressives" of today with a definitive name: DICTATORS. These people cannot abide NOT being able to dictate every move, every situation, every event in EVERYONES' lives. I don't understand what makes people so determined to control everything and everyone. I don't care what they do or don't do. Why are they so determined to dictate what I do or don't do?

    • Dan Schnittker

      Yes. Moynihan. Was he the last great American liberal? Too bad one or his last political acts was to endorse Hillary Clinton for the Senate. Party loyalty, I guess. He was, however briefly, a great U.N. ambassador , too. He wrote a fine book about the experience, "Dangerous Illusions" or Dangerous something. I'm not sure. Perhaps you've read it. too.

  • JALABASCO

    HOW ABOUT "PROGLIBITES" RHYMES WITH TROGLODYTES, BUT THEiR CAVES ARE IVY COVERED C

  • alex

    why don't REpubs talk about FuBar Ack's Chgo land deal and other Democrap's swindles, like Reid's millions of dollars?
    ……………………..
    Why don't Mitt use Rush as his advisor? 99.999% of MSM is against conservatives – so use Rush, Savage, Hannity, Hedgecock, etc. – they will bring out your message!

  • eatshit and die

    how bout "people that aren't fat old white men"?

  • d mills

    There is nothing remotely romantic about big government and bureaucracy. Who among enjoys encounters with the government on any level–airline security people, the local DMV, the IRS, the myriad regulators who are ubiquitous presences in our lives. There is nothing intellectually nimble about a mentality who favors this stuff. It is all about power. The same kind of folks who owned dachas in the old Soviet Union while everyone else was equal–equally miserable.

  • patriotwork

    Mr. Bruce Thornton, you are right concerning the lib-progs name, and we have a problem. The lib/progs hide behind various names (why hide such goodness and superority?). But they are really something else–pretty much the opposite. And the names they hide behind and what they really are, are difficult to get into one inclusive name.

    It is like trying to name the formerly mainstream media. It was once one thing but is now a Dorian Grey picture of it.

    The real solution seems to be in what we do and say. We have to oppose them. We call them out. We refuse to yeild the moral high ground to them. Who are they to claim the moral high ground, anyway? We do it again and again and again.

  • Atlas_Collins

    I just call them "America-Hating Vermin Scum." It works for me.

  • Goemon

    My favorite terms: regressives, illiberals, and satanists

  • Sixpence

    Leftovers

  • American Eagle

    "The Right is right, and the Left is plain simple WRONG."
    —-An Obscure American Eagle (c. 2012)

  • nell

    Lawless. Tinpots. Mo-Fascists (for Mohammedan). II-liberals. Enslavers. Hope dopes. Barak suckers.

  • Tony

    Advocates of an unconstrained vision (from Thomas Sowell)

  • Keith

    As a fan of Ayn Rand, I was always taken with her term for them in Atlas Shrugged: Looters and Moochers.

  • ajag23

    I would call them Neo-Bolsheviks. They called their 2008 "October Revolution" the Fundamental Transformation of America. Like the 1917 October Revolution it happened early in November.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marvin.fox.526 Marvin Fox

    The Democrats/progressives/Marxists are attempting to defy description. They will not answer to a true name type because it is defining and confining. What, in my opinion, they really want is a free wheeling revolution no one can define or confine. If they admit to a philosophical anchor, or what they are actually doing, they are finished. This is not new.
    Some examples! The Democratic Party has been in operation for approximately 180 years. The Democratic Party has no standard official definition of democracy that it gives to its politicians, supporters, or party members.
    B.O. whose left wing ideology is easily identified by many of his opponents, says he follows no political philosophy.
    75% of the left wing act is the claim of wrongdoing by everyone except themselves. If they define themselves, people will see them clearly and respond with actions a clear view of their politics deserves. The left will have to dig a hole, crawl into the hole, and pull the hole in after it. It is not themselves they intend to bury in the hole they are presently digging.
    Marvin E. Fox

  • William Wallace

    Coercionists

  • http://tarandfeathersusa.wordpress.com/ Iratus Vulgas

    Tyrants. Simple, all-purpose, and accurate. And it can be used to explain anything the Left says or does.

  • Len_Powder

    The term which best describes liberals, progressives and Democrats is BOLSHEVIK. One need only compare their intolerance of opposition, uncompromising anti-capitalism, and adulation of socialism and collectivism to realize that they are the descendants of Marx, Lenin and Stalin. They consider themselves Marxist revolutionaries and strive to achieve an authoritarian government which will strangle individual liberty and freedom, mangle the economy with centralization, and control the means of production. They want the government to redistribute the nation's wealth and income following the formula "from each according to his abilities; to each according to his needs." If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it must be a duck".

  • goemon

    One word to describe them all: government-worshippers. With that we've defined communists, fascists, islamists and their enablers and admirers.

  • Israel Kremen

    Dostoyevsky gave a name to this kind of people a long time ago, in the second half of the 19th c. in his book well known as "Demons". These people, later, became leaders of the so called Great Socialist Revolution in Russia in 1917 (read about them in the new book "Fall of Giants" by Ken Follett) and completely destroyed the Russian Empire which already was weakened by Russian Liberals who threw away the Russian Tsar and had a so called Temporary Government which allowed Vladimir Lenin ILLEGALLY come to Russia with a lots of German money and the goal of German Counter-Intelligence to destroy Russia from inside because they couldn't win the WW! on the field of battle. That Liberal Temp.Government KNEW all about Lenin and his goal but did NOTHING, exactly like our Congress in 2008.

  • pxxat5

    And let them be called …LEPROCONS (lepricons)… Liberal/ Progressive/ Contrarians.
    Small minded intellectual morons with megaphones, who knows what best for everyone, but never produce a result that satisfies anyone.
    This country needs to criminalize the denial of your First Amendment Right, to make it a crime to prevent anyone from exercising their right to speak, and to be heard by those they are speaking to, e.g., Loud noises or amplifiers that drowns out the speaker words from being heard, or physically distracting, or threatening behavior, i.e., Pie Throwing, excessive chanting, loud prolonged hissing or booing, to the point of being "disoderly conduct", or causing a "public nuisance".
    Instutional violations of this right would be subjected to the same type of penalties as a Sexual Harassment charge would. First Amendment Harassment suits could be filed with the EEOC against Institutions, or persons working for these institutions, and businesses resulting in large monetary penalties.
    This would go well for our Colleges, where students are at the mercy of tenured LEPROCON professors, who harass, berate, belittle, and penalize those students who disagree with them,…this constitutes a "Hostile learning environment ", akin to a hostile work environment, where the student is being pressured by a more powerful supervisor to conform to their wishes.
    Our Rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and can not be taken away, but there is no criminal penalty for the denial of most of them. This is what was addressed in the Civil Rights Acts (laws), it was made a crime with penalties to prevent a person from exercising their Constitutional Rights, to Vote, Housing, employment, etc.
    The Founders wanted us to fight our battles of disagreement in the "Arena of Ideas", so they made freedom of Speech a right, so everyone could voice their opinions, without fear of reprisal from Man or Government, this wish they bestowed upon us could never be said better then…"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"…Voltaire

  • Rothschild

    Progressives.

  • Anthony Simonaitis

    How about idiots.