Over a month ago, as Obama was campaigning in Texas, MSNBC suggested that he "defended the 'liberal' label" with these words:
"Oh, he's liberal," [Obama] said. "He's liberal. Let me tell you something. There's nothing liberal about wanting to reduce money in politics that is common sense. There's nothing liberal about wanting to make sure [our soldiers] are treated properly when they come home."
Continuing on his riff: "There's nothing liberal about wanting to make sure that everybody has healthcare, but we are spending more on healthcare in this country than any other advanced country. We got more uninsured. There's nothing liberal about saying that doesn't make sense, and we should so something smarter with our health care system."
Obama is quite clearly wrong in these statements. Although liberalism often reflects the common sense position, campaign finance reform, treating our military servicemembers honorably, and improving healthcare are all liberal positions. The Boston Globe has a more accurate take on Obama's words:
He's right, of course, that Republicans have turned liberalism, the philosophy that dominated politics from the '30s until the '80s, into a term of insult. But Obama might have pointed out that it's really no slur - in fact, tens of millions of Americans readily own up to being liberals, according to polls. Obama just isn't one of them.
The ongoing conservative disinformation campaign about liberalism have strenuously pushed their redefinition of the word liberal, but they are impotent in the face of liberalism's legacy: voting rights, civil rights, the forty-hour work week, unionization and other workplace protections, the minimum wage, unemployment compensation, food stamps, student loans, Social Security, Medicare, environmental protection...it's hard to imagine the sort of hell in which we would live if it weren't for the liberal achievements of the twentieth century.
If Obama would be willing to proudly carry the banner of liberalism, no one knows what we can achieve as a new liberal era dawns over the darkness of contemporary American conservatism. First, though, he needs to say it loud: "I'm liberal and I'm proud!"