Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.Personally, I think those are some pretty good qualities to have, but conservatives have succeeded in making "liberal" an epithet according to Paul Waldman, and it wasn't by accident. It was the result of a relentless campaign against liberalism by conservatives. Waldman also maintains liberals need to do the same thing to conservatism, and a good first step would be to never, ever again use the word with a positive connotation. He even gives us some talking points worth noting [emphasis added]:
1. Conservatism has failed. The overwhelming majority of the American public now sees the Bush administration as a failure. They failed in Iraq, they failed after Hurricane Katrina, they failed on health care, they failed to deliver rising wages, they failed on the deficit, they failed, they failed, they failed. Why? Liberals need to argue that it wasn't a product of incompetence, it was a failure of conservative governance. As Alan Wolfe put it in a recent Washington Monthly article, "Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well."Waldman also points out a troubling contradiction: In contemporary public opinion on nearly every issue, the progressive position is more popular, yet the number of people willing to tell a pollster they consider themselves "conservative" still far outnumbers the number willing to say they're "liberal."
Conservatives had their chance: a Republican president, a Republican Congress, Republican-appointed courts - in short, the perfect environment for enacting their vision with little to stand in their way - and they failed. Should we be surprised at the level of corruption? Of course not; they don't think government is there to serve the people, so why shouldn't they raid it for whatever they can grab?
In short, progressives should start talking about the Bush administration's failures not as those of a president, but of an ideology.
2. Conservatism is the ideology of the past - a past we don't want to return to. Liberals need to embrace the culture war, because we're winning. The story of American history is that of conservative ideas and prejudices falling away as our society grows more progressive and thus more true to our nation's founding ideals. Conservatives supported slavery, conservatives opposed women's suffrage, conservatives supported Jim Crow, conservatives opposed the 40-hour work week and the abolishment of child labor, and conservatives supported McCarthyism. In short, all the major advancements of freedom and justice in our history were pushed by liberals and opposed by conservatives, no matter the party they inhabited at the time.
Conservatism is Bill Bennett lecturing you about self-denial, then rushing off to feed his slot habit at the casino. It's James Dobson telling you that children need regular beatings to stay in line. It's a superannuated nun rapping you on the knuckles so you won't think about your dirty parts. It's Jerry Falwell watching "Teletubbies" frame by frame to see if Tinky Winky is trying to turn him gay. Conservatism is everyone you never wanted to grow up to be.
3. Conservatives are cowards, and they hope you are, too. We're afraid, they shout. We're so afraid of terrorists, we have to become more like the things we hate. We're so afraid, we have to let our government sanction torture. We're so afraid, we have to let the government spy on us. We're so afraid, we have to give the president dictatorial powers. We're so afraid, we just want to rush to the arms of politicians who say they'll protect us.
Progressives need to frame their rejection of the fear campaign as an act of courage: Al-Qaida does not scare us, and we will not dismantle our democratic system because we are afraid. The America we love does not cower in fear, as the conservatives want it to.
That tells me there are a lot of Americans out there who need to quit worrying about labels and join the rest of us who truly care about making our country great again - for all of us.