Is "Liberal" a dirty word?

Let's continue the discussion I started here last week on political labels and semantics...

I had an email exchange a few days ago with an individual who believes that we lean way too far to the right on our editorial pages. He is urging us to provide more "progressive" voices on our Opinions and Commentary pages.

He used the word "progressive" over and over again in his email. Not that long ago, it would have been OK for this reader to use the term "Liberal" to describe his political leanings. But it seems to me that the Republicans have done a pretty good job of persuading the public that "liberal" is another word for "spendthrift." Liberals want to spend our hard-earned tax money on lavish pay and benefits for government workers and wasteful, useless programs and projects, while Conservatives want to "conserve" our hard-earned tax dollars and spend it wisely.

This email exchange took place a few days before I received an emailed guest column from Minnesota House Tax Committee Chair Greg Davids, a Republican from Preston. In the column, which you'll see in the Wednesday print edition, Davids is sharply critical of Gov. Mark Dayton for sticking to his "job killing tax increase" plan.

Davids repeats the term "job killing tax increase" twice more in his piece. I've heard other Republicans in the Legislature use this term over and over again, too. Dayton repeatedly describes his budget balancing plan as "forcing the rich to pay their fair share of taxes." But the GOP has fought back in this battle of semantic spin by labeling the governor's proposal a "job killing tax increase" plan.


Label spin is nothing new in politics, but it's hit a new high in recent months and years.

Earlier this month I got a call from a regional representative of the Sierra Club who said he wanted to meet with our editorial board to talk about "the bill to expand coal pollution." I'm pretty sure that's not the working title the bill's Republican authors are using. 

But, so far, it seems to me that conservatives have gained the upper hand in the label spin wars. They've been successful in branding the federal inheritance tax a "death tax." They've named the effort to prevent gay marriage the "Defense of Marriage Act.'" They've got the whole country calling the federal health care legislation passed last year "Obamacare." And, now, they've forced left-leaning folks to abandon the term "liberal."

Are the liberals/progressives fighting back?




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