Stop Calling Leftists 'Liberals'

Bill O’Reilly was figuratively scratching his head last Monday night on his "Talking Points Memo," almost to the point that it was bleeding:

No matter who wins the Democratic presidential nomination, they will toe the liberal line. That’s because the Democratic liberal party has been taken over by the far left. Few moderate Democrats have any currency in the party.

…my question tonight is, what happened to liberalism? The liberal philosophy is based upon fairness for the underdog -- helping those who are down and out. Protecting the defenseless. Yet, unborn babies don’t count. How does that work when the liberal line urges social justice?

…The decline of liberalism began with a real war, Vietnam. The left voiced major objections and they were right. The war was fought in a dishonest way and hundreds of thousands of American working men and women primarily were killed or wounded.

…Today we have the most liberal president in America’s history, Barack Obama, elected twice. But his economic policies have not improved the lives of the poor or African-Americans. Every statistic tells the same story; there are fewer good jobs, salaries are stagnant on Obama’s watch. That’s because the feds cannot run a free marketplace.

Emphasis mine. It goes on and on in that vein.

The answer is right in front of his face, it’s in his very words. In fact, note the incongruity between his first sentence and his second. If the “‘liberal’ party has been taken over by the far left,” why would it toe the “liberal” line?

Bill, you keep using that word “liberalism.” I don’t think it means what you think it means.

Here’s the answer, Bill. Nothing happened to liberalism. Liberalism is alive and well, in places like the libertarian movement, where it’s always been. What happened is not that liberalism changed, but that “progressive” (another false label) leftists stole the label from the true liberals decades ago.

And no, there is nothing “liberal” about “social justice,” which is an endlessly malleable phrase that simply means “stuff leftists like this week.” Nor, laudable as it may be, is liberalism “based upon fairness for the underdog.” If there is such a thing in your incoherent world view, that is O’Reillyism. And the reason that we have had the worst economic recovery since the Depression is for the same reason that it was so bad during the Depression; Obama is not a “liberal”at all, let alone the “most liberal,” and his economic policies are (and Franklin Roosevelt’s were) precisely the opposite of that label.

Classically, liberalism stands for economic freedom, freedom of expression, civil rights of individuals, and limited government under the rule of law. In fact, in much of the world outside of the U.S., in Europe and Australia and even Canada, it still means that, and is considered “right wing.” But there is nothing “liberal” about the modern American left, or the Democrats’ leadership or base, and there hasn’t been for decades.