A Liberal by Any Other Name

by Christian D. Malesic, MBA, CAE, CMP, IOM

Those on the Left side of the political spectrum have always wrestled with labels, wearing them proudly until they become dirty words and then throwing them quickly to the curb. Nonetheless, in order to communicate with one another, our language needs a term that describes the political views of those who oppose the Conservatives of the Right.

Historically speaking, the Left were 'Progressives' then 'Liberals' now they want to be 'Progressives' again. Around the start of the 20th century (circa 1900), the term Progressive came into popularity and common use. It was used proudly by many on the left to describe their political ideology until sometime in the 1940s when it began to fade away. Essentially, the Progressives themselves showed the American public what it was that a Progressive believed through President Woodrow Wilson's anti-Capitalism and pro-Socialism stances on to which President Franklin D. Roosevelt placed an exclamation point with his New Deal.

As politics played out in the '40s and early '50s it was clear that the term 'Progressive' invoked negative thoughts in the minds of the public. Meanwhile, the word 'liberal,' derived from the Latin word liberalis, had been floating around since at least the 14th century and carried with it a very positive meaning. Before the 1960s, in very simple layman's terms, the common usage of 'liberal' meant "free from restraint to study, to think, to speak" as in 'Liberal Arts Degree.' As the 1960s came into full swing, the American Leftist stole the term 'Liberal' to describe themselves, knowing full well that they stood for the exact opposite of the freedom that the word 'liberal' represented. They then allowed 'Progressive' to die a slow death.

It didn't take long for the common man to realize that a Liberal was a re-packaged Progressive who stood against the values and historical traditions that made America great. President Lyndon B. Johnson made that message clear with his Great Society, forever ruining the term 'Liberal.'

In the last few decades, 'Liberal' became the "L-word" and politicians ran from the label as fast as their doublespeak could carry them. They were a political ideology without a name. Often, they would don their most sheepish face and attempt to ask innocently "why do we have to use labels at all." Conservatives continued to call them Liberals, not understanding that the word had become a modern-day insult. After all, Conservatives were proud of their label as well as the principles & values that their label represented.

On July 23rd, 2007, then Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton let out the battle cry heard around the world in the CNN-YouTube Democratic Debate: the Left will begin to re-use the term 'Progressive' to define themselves. In her words, when asked straight up, "How would you define the word 'liberal' and would you use this word to define yourself?" she replied, "I prefer the word 'progressive' which has a real American meaning going back to the Progressive Era at the beginning of the 20th century. I consider myself a Modern Progressive."

So there it is! A Progressive is a Liberal is a Progressive again.

But, since the Left would have you forget history and the words of our Founding Fathers, they don't want you to make that connection. Somehow, they want you to think that they are not Liberal which is seen as a bad word. They are something different - Progressives, a new and good word. Sure, we may argue the differences between a Mallard and a Common Pochard in a college classroom; but, many of us common folk out here view these things more simply: if a bird looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck - then it's a duck!

We'll just call them Liberal Progressives so that everyone clearly makes the connection.

Christian D. Malesic, MBA, CAE, CMP, IOM provides insight on nonprofit management, executive decision-making, business operations, personal finance, marketing, construction issues, and occasionally, on political philosophy / history. To see more by Christian, visit or to receive notice of the newest articles written by Christian, follow him on Parler @CDMalesic or on Twitter @CDMalesic.

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