POLL -- Are you a liberal, a progressive, a moderate, a radical or a conservative?

It is CW that the term "liberal" has become an insult. In fact, many once self-proclaimed "liberals" have now taken to calling themselves "progressives" in order to avoid the negatives of the former term.

Personally speaking, I find this shift in terminology ironic because the first time I heard a group of lefties regularly refer to themselves as "progressives" was around three years ago at a so-called "radical" teaching conference.

This shift of terminology is also ironic from a historical point of view. From the 1880's until the 1920's, "progressive" was actually the most common ideological label for reformers and the "leftist" wing of the Democratic party. However, since by 1930 that term had itself become a bit of an insult, FDR instead took to calling himself the more generally accepted political term of the time: "liberal." (This rhetorical move angered Herbert Hoover, a self-proclaimed "liberal," to no end. Hoover once even challenged FDR to a debate entirely over who was the "true liberal.")

Of course, one of the dirty secrets about the term "liberal" being a supposedly negative term is that the amount of self-identified liberals in this country has not actually changed in at least thirty years.

The second, far dirtier secret, is that terms such as liberal, conservative, radical, moderate, progressive, neoconservative---or any other sweeping political abstraction you can name---have become entirely devoid of fixed ideological signification. Since usage determines grammar, and since all of these terms have been repeatedly and frequently used in thousands of different contexts, each connected to almost every political stance imaginable, all of these terms have been freed from their moorings. Each term is so overflowing with signification that meaning has been all but emptied from them.

With all of this in mind, I'd like to make a proposal. Everyone on the "left," no matter what ideological stances s/he holds, should call herself a "moderate." Since the abstractions themselves are completely meaningless, the only advantage I can see is to use the most popular meaningless term (and then, possibly, to demonize "conservative" as a concept for not being moderate enough).

Fight the battles you can win. After spending the last decade in academia, trust me when I say that attempting to recoup specific definitions from a set of hopelessly deluded abstractions is not one of them.

Party Political Question

Every so often, I'm reminded why activists hate the party so much.  Currently, Democratic politicians are 'outraged' at Rumsfeld and are grilling him, calling for his impeachment, yada yada. But then they go and approve death squad loving John Negropante by a 95-3 vote in the Senate as ambassador to Iraq when the cameras aren't looking.  Yuck.

My question is, why did Democrats approve this guy?  I can't figure it out; it seems craven, but then, exactly who are they pandering to?  Stopping this guy seems both principled and politically useful.  Does anyone have the story here?

Bad Habits

Whether it's the canard that Democrats don't support religiosity or are too ideologically demanding, 'reasonable centrists' often just can't help themselves bash liberal interest groups for being liberal. This cuts two ways; it's important to criticize and offer strategic insight, and pressing a micro-issue is often not the best way of achieving liberal ends. However, it's important to recognize the validity of the concern, and press for power sharing arrangements that validates the community seeking political redress. Reasonable centrists do the first without doing the second.

I used to be a reasonable centrist, and I still consider myself a New Democrat. I liked Clinton's policies (I still do). And I was pro-war. But Iraq proved that policies are kind of irrelevant when it's all about power hungry creeps trying to policitize everything.

Can I mention how stupid I was for being pro-war?

Presidential Race Just Plain Sucks....

Jon Carroll is on point:
But there are other things to talk about. For instance: John Kerry thinks that George Bush upbraiding Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero for withdrawing his troops was "appropriate." Wait: The Spanish people are against the war in Iraq, the Spanish president promised to withdraw the troops in his campaign, and it's OK to get shirty with him? Didn't we already make this mistake with our allies once before? John Kerry also supports Bush's sudden support of the revised modified this-land-is-my-land Israeli government approach to dealing with the Palestinians. Bush's approach caused our good friend, the enlightened king of Jordan, to cancel a trip to Washington. If Jordan is turning against us, that pretty much leaves us with ... oh, right, the Saudis. Oh, and John Kerry supports the hugely stupid boycott of Cuba. I guess South Florida really is in play, huh? Are we really going to allow all politically convenient views to go unchallenged? Let's at least have a conversation, huh?
I don't like either candidate, and I'll vote for Kerry. But if he thinks that fucking over your base by acting like Bush-lite is the right way of running for President, well, it'll be interesting to see what his metaphorical health care debacle will be.

Georgia Turncoats

Apparently, four state Senators in Georgia who switched parties in 2002 (from Dem to GOP) are getting the boot. Nice.


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