Look for the Liberal Label

by Jeffry R. Fisher

Is the "Liberal" label a curse or a badge of courage? Why does 'liberal' mean one thing in the U.S. and almost the opposite in Britain and the rest of the English speaking world?

Word Origin

The word "Liberal" is derived from liberty. There was a time when one could not be elected in the US unless one was a liberal, and it was actually for the right reasons.

However, politicians, being the scoundrels that they are, began calling themselves liberals even when they were anything but. Socialists styled themselves as liberals and then spoke glowingly of democracy, executing a deft bait and switch to supplant liberty with majoritarianism.

Democratic Party Domination

When president Hoover slipped up and led us into the Great Depression, he opened the door for FDR to establish Tammany Hall style patronage on a national scale. The ensuing generational domination by the Democratic Party thoroughly perverted the meaning of "Liberal" in the US as the Democrats called themselves and their socialist New Deal policies "liberal".

By the end of the New Deal era, few Americans recalled that there had ever been a connection between liberalism and liberty. By the time of LBJ's "Great Society" etc., a "liberal" was someone who claimed glory for raiding the treasury and spending other people's money "liberally" to buy votes. This perverted and uniquely American liberal label of the later twentieth century was rightly condemned and vilified.

A New Hope

However, there is again hope for this badly abused and misunderstood word. As happens with most euphemisms, it became besmirched by the truth of the execrable policies with which it was wrongly associated, and it lost its luster. Democrats, seeing that the now demonized "liberal" label had lost all camouflage value for their Marxist platform, discarded it in the 1990's as if they were throwing away soiled underwear. Right thinking folks now have an historical opportunity to reclaim our heritage (and seize a soapbox on which to deliver this history lesson).

We can rehabilitate the word "liberal" to its original good meaning even while hounding the Democratic Party socialists under the rock of whatever euphemism du jour they're hiding today (have they returned to calling themselves "progressive"? Or have they coined some new mask?). We can launder this soiled rag of a word and wear it again ourselves, rubbing the socialist's noses in their multi-generational failures, because....

"The quality of a symbol comes not from its sound, shape or color, but from the character of those who own it."


Refuse to misuse the word "liberal" as a synonym for socialism. Teach people its origin in the word "liberty".

Copyright 2003-2008 by Jeffry R. Fisher: Permission is granted to reproduce this article in whole, but only in combination with attribution, the original title, the original URL, and this copyright notice.
Jeffry R. Fisher is the founder and president of Propagate Ltd, which is liberating digital content as LiberateIP.com.