Liberal is….Evil

Author: Gary Hart

liberal_sm“War is peace.  Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength.”  Once again we turn to George Orwell to understand the perverse need of some among us to reverse the meaning of words.  As the author of Nineteen Eighty-Four knew, totalitarianism begins with the perversion of language.

Thus, it is not accidental that the rise of the new right began with demonization of perfectly sound words like liberal.  Hence, Roget gives these synonyms for liberal: magnanimous; benevolent; open-minded; generous; and unselfish. 

We describe our form of government as liberal democracy.  It embodies principles of freedom, liberty, equality, and justice.  Its princples were set forth by John Locke and embodied in our Bill of Rights.  We engage in wars to bring this same government to others.

Most recently, a highly intelligent writer, Timothy Ferris, known primarily for his clear elucidation of science, has written a piece entitled: “Conservative is Not Opposite Liberal: That’s Totalitarianism.”  To be illiberal, he writes, is not to be conservative; it is, as Orwell had it, to be totalitarian.  Ferris correctly says: “Liberalism is an independent political philosophy, with no inherent connection to either the Left or the Right.”

It is understandable that the far right fulminators begin by perverting language.  They are profoundly illiberal in every sense of the word.  The values of magnanimity, benevolence, open-mindedness, generosity, and unselfishness are anathema to them.  Nor is it coincidence that the age of anti-liberalism is one decidedly anti-scientific, whether having to do with our evolution, changing climate, or stem cell research.  Totalitarianism has always wanted to control science for its own purposes.

If we restore the true meaning of important words like liberal, perhaps at least a few politicians will not be afraid to use them.  As a free man, and a liberal man, I know I am not.

68 Responses to “Liberal is….Evil”

  1. Sandra Says:

    We do NOT wage wars to bring democracy to other countries, as you stated in your column. First of all, it’s none of our business to decide what kind of government another nation has. Secondly, our motives are not so grand — Iraq -oil; Afghanistan/Pakistan — a foothold in the Middle East. We are like any other empire in history — becoming imperialist in our military presence throughout the world.

    The munitions and mercenary armies are taking away money better spent on infrastructure here — not there. Every person in America could have free health care with money (let alone lives) wasted there. We are fighting the Taliban, not Al Qaeda (the intended target). It’s all insane. But don’t delude yourself that our motives for making war are altruistic. Not one American life (or Iraqi or Afghan) should have been lost by all this imperialist insanity. No one wins.

  2. rblee Says:

    Revisiting Hart post on Huffington, I noticed Mark’s comment—at least three times longer than Hart’s original. I guess he considers himself what passes for “intellectual” in conservative circles. This kind of verbosity is typical among conservatives to give the appearance of philosophical thought. Practically speaking, they have never lessened government power or spending. They are shocked—shocked!—that their elected representatives would use tax money to promote the general welfare, but have no problem with imperial militaristic adventures resulting in the deaths of many thousands. Likewise, they have no problem with anti-democratic, totalitarian big business victimizing the public. In the Gingrich, Reagan, W. Bush era modern conservatism sold out whatever rationality it might have had to religionists and has become just one thing: an attack strategy.

  3. Mark Says:

    I wear the name “Liberal” with great pride.

  4. Thom Says:

    Thanks for writing this Gary, it’s so true and it’s been happening since the Reagan administration. Matter of fact and if memory serves, it was Reagan who started it and the fledgling conservative media took the ball and ran with it. The message was simple… everything that was bad about society was the fault of liberals. Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat. The old maxim that says that if you a lie often enough it becomes the truth was never more applicable. Oddly enough, people stopped calling themselves “liberal” and jumped ship to “progressive” which I feel was a big mistake. As David Crosby so eloquently said in Almost Cut My Hair.. “I feel like letting my freak flag fly”. Never backpeddle. Never back down. When they call you a liberal you reply “You say that like it’s a bad thing” or something just as in-your-face. Now we see that Glenn Beck is attempting to achieve the same result with “progressivism”. Yeah right. Go ahead and demonize progress. That’ll be a tough sell.

  5. Gregoir Says:

    “If we restore the true meaning of important words like liberal, perhaps at least a few politicians will not be afraid to use them.”

    Yes! By all means, let’s restore the true meaning of the word “liberal”, as it has always been a thorn in my eye that the American Left had appropriated the term to themselves somewhere in the 20th century and made it to mean the exact opposite of what it originally meant (and still does everywhere else in the word). If you were looking to accuse people of behaving in “Orwellian” fashion, Senator Hart, you needed not look further than to the history of your own political movement.

    I’m actually flabbergasted by the fact that no one else has brought this up yet..

  6. Geoffrey R. Stone Says:

    I wrote a piece on this subject in 2006:
    (This was published on the Huffington Post and in Chicago Tribune on October 10, 2006 and in the Philadelphia Daily News on October 16, 2006.)

    Liberal Values
    October 8, 2006

    For most of the past four decades, “liberals” have been in retreat. Since the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, Republicans have controlled the White House 70% of the time and Republican presidents have made 86% of the Supreme Court appointments. In many quarters, the word “liberal” has become a pejorative. Part of the problem is that liberals have failed to define themselves and to state clearly what they believe…

    To view the entire article, please visit:

  7. Austintatious Says:

    There is a post made here, responding to Senator Hart’s article. that is the perfect example of the conduct by the right that the Senator complains of. See the post submitted by Mark, at 7:50 p.m. on 2/24.

    Mark tells us that “Conservatives don’t employ Orwellian phrases.” He says that Conservatives haven’t engaged in demonization, and suggests that they are just honest perveyors of the truth.

    What an absurdity. The Republicans have employed the Republican Lie, that is, the affirmative, intentional, pre-ordained use of blatant lies regarding the most important of matters in their effort to mislead the American people, on a regular basis for more than a decade. Indeed, the Republican Lie is the single factor most responsible for their recent political “successes”.

    The Republicans go so far as to hire experts whose specialty is the political lie,their darling consultant Frank Luntz perhaps the best known example, although their resort to the so called conservative think tanks and other reposits of right wing ideologies for this purpose have been frequent. Not only have they used the Republican Lie on a regular basis; they are proud of it. They genuinely believe it to be an acceptable part of politics in America.

    Those knowledgeable of the facts and endowed with the slightest bit of objectivity will know this as the truth. The fabrication of the phrase “healthcare death squads” is but one example among hundreds that we need not list here.

    The Republican Party lies to the American people, not just in small ways or just on occasion, but on a regular and routine basis because they’ve made it a tool of choice. It has been their conscious choice, and it is displayed thoughout the media on a daily, even hourly, basis. The phenomenon simply could not be more blatant, more obvious or more odious. It defines that character, or lack thereof, of the Republican Party.

    Why, the very fact that these people continue to refer to themselves as conservatives is a lie, for they are anything but true conservatives. The truth is that they are radical rightists whose social and political views can only take the nation backward.

    Regarding Mark’s post, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is simply misguided, that he genuinely believes the line he has served up; however, it is worth noting that Mark ends his commentary with the declaration that each side is “…justified in doing all they can to win.” I wonder if Mark would include lying to the American people as a matter of policy and practice in his justification of the Republican philosophy that the end justifies all means. We can only hope not.

  8. Carol Says:

    Liberal =:
    A womans right to choose.
    An individuals rights to own a gun.
    All citizens right to vote.

  9. Jesse Chanley Says:

    Thank you for reminding us of the importance of the politics of language. However, should we proclaim freedom as one of our core values?
    If language is to serve as a medium for clear communication, words need to have clear meaning. What does freedom mean? The clear, common-sense meaning of freedom is the absence of limits or, conversely, the ability to do whatever we want. Is that our goal—the absence of limits? Is a life without limits logically possible? Or, is our goal to establish a just, non-violent society? Isn’t our goal to find reasonable, equitable limits on behavior, not to eliminate all social rules?
    If we want to create a democracy, we need to abandon the false rhetoric of freedom and, instead, embrace the values of justice, peace, and democracy.
    Jesse Chanley

  10. The opposite of liberal is not conservative « Poplar Street Views Says:

    […] Thus begins a brief essay by former Senator Gary Hart on the meaning of liberalism.  Think about Glen Beck and the Tea Party when you read it.  It can be seen at […]

  11. Fred Cusick Says:

    Liberal seems to have gone out of style in the 70s because of its correct identification in many white racist minds with favoring rights for black people. This is still an unforgiveble sin in many parts of the country, particularly the South. Liberal politicians, who once happily embraced the name, dropped it to enable themselves to pick up some of the mildly racist white swing voters.
    It was a classic failure of nerve from which the Progressives – have not recovered.

  12. Dan Wylie-Sears Says:

    The opposite of totalitarian would be a sort of amalgam of liberal and libertarian. Liberals and libertarians both recognize the importance of liberty, but have somewhat different views on the nature of liberty and very different views on the threats to liberty and the means of safeguarding liberty.

    I’m a liberal.

  13. Laura Arden Says:

    To all my right wing friends,

    I’d really like to thank you and the rest of the right wingers for helping me, and probably millions of others, get past a problem of which I was once truly ashamed. You see, the name Barrack Hussein Obama used to conjure all sorts of negative emotions. I was very uncomfortable with it being so… Well, you know, foreign. It was scary to think that an Arab person ::shudder:: might become President of the United States – and then might suddenly, by royal decree or something equally unconstitutional, institute sharia law and force us all to wear ugly blue potato sacks and towels on our heads. And really, I have nothing in my jewelry box that would even remotely accent that style! I mean, what’s a girl to do?

    Of course, that was just silly of me, but xenophobia is an insidious fear, usually based on a lack of facts and racial prejudice. But when you, or someone like you, generously continues to repeat the name Barrack Hussein Obama, eventually the sting of it disappears. Sort of like when Republicans desensitized America to the negative connotations inherent in the word “liberal”. A word so wrought with danger and vile purification of the human soul that any sane individual would naturally run from anyone describing themselves in such terms. Like a creature who’d somehow slithered up from the nether regions of Hell to pounce upon an unsuspecting nation, fangs dripping with ichor and the blood of innocent American babies.

    So, thank you, my friends. You have done, and continue to do, a great service to your nation. You expose us for what we, in our heart of hearts, sometimes are: backwards, petty, ignorant and fearful. You, and you alone this day, have made it possible for me to proudly state:

    I am a Liberal and I love Barrack Hussein Obama.

  14. Veritone Jones Says:

    “As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.” George Washington

  15. Monorprise Says:

    The definition of Liberal was not changed by the far right or conservatives of American politics but rather the big government (inherently totalitarian) practices of those who clam the term as their own description.

    Most such people tend to tell themselves that they are ” magnanimous; benevolent; open-minded; generous; and unselfish” but:

    Using government(force) to make other people to bare the burden of your “generosity” and sacrifice does not make you “magnanimous”.

    At the same time using the same big government(force) to impose upon everyone a specific such “social policy” does not make you “benevolent”.

    Refusal to allow other people to openly debate “proven science” like “global warming” does not make you “open-minded.” nether does for that matter insistence upon the forceful implementation of YOUR way in a collectivized big government(force) system.

    Giving away the money taken from other people using government(force) does not make you “generous”.

    Giving less charity from your own pocket and your own time in favor of using government(force) to take it from someone else’s does not make you “unselfish”.

    Indeed using government to accomplish all theses things makes you “totalitarian”.

    As our First President George Washington pointed out:
    “Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. Government is force; like fire it is a dangerous servant — and a fearful master.” -George Washington, 1797

  16. Gary Hart Says:

    To “Monorprise” and others, it must once again be pointed out that liberals do not “use government” any more than conservatives do. The American people vote for one party or another to achieve certain objectives. In recent decades both parties and both ideologies have spent vast amounts of taxpayer dollars but for different purposes. I doubt that “Monorprise” seriously objected to the vast costs of the two current wars, though they were “using government” to achieve the stated objective of creating democracies in two nations that didn’t have it. When I wrote that this was our stated objectives in those wars I was merely repeating what our political and military leaders gave as our reason for fighting those wars.

  17. Mark Hansen Says:

    Senator Hart, I agree that conservatives use government just as much a liberals. Both parties have been fiscally irresponsible, and yes it was because those who elected them, as well as special interests who contributed to their reelection demanded it. In that I believe we are witnessing the selfish side of human nature . . . but that is another subject.

    While Liberals and conservatives are not opposites, they differ greatly in their view of legitimate use of government.

    Conservatives strive for equality under the law.

    Liberals strive for equality enforced by the law.

    There’s a huge difference, and it begs the question . . . Which of those two would the founding fathers say is the legitimate use of government?

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