Home / Culture and Society / Stolen Without a Gun: On the Left’s Hijacking of Liberalism

Stolen Without a Gun: On the Left’s Hijacking of Liberalism

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Today, when a pundit or member of the media describes the philosophy of one whose views fall on the left side of the political spectrum, he or she never fails to be labeled as a “liberal”. Really now, looking beyond the stereotypes and vitriol spewed from the partisans and shock jocks on either side of the aisle, is there any truth to this description? Is being a leftist, in reality, synonymous with being a liberal?  Not in the least.

I can already sense that my hard-left and hard-right readers have come dangerously close to spilling their Flavor Aid, brimming with anger at the sheer audacity I must have to contradict the indisputably true proclamations of their beacons of truth and light in this deceptive and dark world; namely Keith Olbermann, Rush Limbaugh, and an assortment of other moonbats who thrive on society’s fringes. Do not fret, though, as I have the evidence necessary to support my claims. In all honesty, only a reference to the definition of the term “classical liberalism” is needed. According to the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University, classical liberalism is, essentially, what would be considered by most to be modern-day libertarianism; placing an individual’s importance over that of a collective whole, allowing for maximum personal rights and liberties, adherence to free market values, and, last but most certainly not least, a peacenik approach to foreign policy. Obviously, this sounds completely different from the current incarnation of American liberalism, which, in a nutshell, tends to deal with people as members of groups, as opposed to free-thinking individuals, and which ranks the mindlessly altruistic concept of “social justice” far above that of citizens taking responsibility for their own actions, discards capitalism in favor of tired-and-failed regressive economic policies, and, of course, aggressively pursues a national security agenda which our enemies both at home and abroad cannot help but love.

How could this bastardization of liberalism possibly have ever occurred, you ask? To find the answer to that question, one must look back to the early 1930s, when the Great Depression was in full swing. Politicians opposed to the more radical aspects of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, virtually all of which were ruled unconstitutional soon after their implementation by the way, were smeared as being “conservatives” (Nonsensical traditionalist relics of a bygone era), and those who supported them heralded as “liberals” (Champions of freedom through taxing prosperous citizens into poverty). Unfortunately, the labels stuck, and, well, here we are. I must say that the left scored a stunning victory in snagging the “liberal” banner for its own purposes. After all, in its quintessence, liberalism means “liberty”, and who in their right mind would even consider being opposed to liberty, the very principle on which the United States was founded?  Certainly not I, though, as all of my frequent readers must know by now, I am a staunch opponent of absolutely any leftist political agenda. History shows that they all end in horrid destruction, and, as a realist, who am I to argue with the facts?

Perhaps in time most will come to realize that post-Depression liberalism is not liberal in the least, but rather socialism, and more often than not, far worse wrapped up in patriotic garb. Despite what many would think, I do not consider myself to be a classical liberal by any means. No, as one of the last standing Rockefeller Republicans, I believe that legislation such as the Patriot Act and neoconservative stances on both warfare and international relations are essential to our well being as a nation. However, it simply would not be right for me to stand aside, abstaining from throwing my two cents into the well of public opinion as the left continues to pull perhaps the greatest fast one of all time on the vast majority of mainstream America.

How much longer can it possibly get away with this farce? Only time will tell.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • I’ll take your word for it that today’s “liberals” are far removed from classical liberalism. But as a Republican, you ought to be well pleased at what the term liberal has come to mean in the everyday vernacular of American politics.

    During the post-World War II era, liberal was a respectable term. The Democratic Party unfailingly awarded its presidential nomination to avowedly liberal candidates: Truman, Stevenson, Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey. Thanks, however, to LBJ’s ruinous foreign and domestic policies, liberal came to be a dirty word. (I’m speaking here nationally. In local politics, such as New York City, liberal retained its appeal.)

    Ever since, Republicans have made humongous hay in demonizing their opponents as “liberals.” You may quibble with this corrupt usage, Joseph. But it’s been tremendously useful as a one-word descriptor of all that is wrong with the left. At this point, the last thing the right would want is to reclaim the word liberal. It’s still working too well for them as an instantly understood invocation of universal opprobrium against Democrats.

  • Clavos

    Good point, Al.

  • Alan does make a very good point, which I would expand by noting that there was a huge surge of personal, cultural and political freedom between the 50s and the 70s of the 20th Century.

    Politicians across the political spectrum, albeit more on the right than the left, and other social manipulators have been trying to roll back that personal freedom for a long time and continue to do so.

    These oppressors use any convenient argument they can to achieve this control and regulation of people’s lives.

    Whether it is their attacks on “liberals”, although more often than not what they are really attacking is tolerance itself – it is just that much harder to sound reasonable if one says they oppose tolerance, the hugely damaging and pointless drug wars or, more recently, the excessive powers granted in the name of homeland security, it seems clear that there is a serious and organised drive to reduce people’s personal freedom that poses serious challenges to fundamental liberties.

  • Alan,

    I understand what you are saying about “liberal” being a pejorative in modern politics, and it is for this reason that I believe that it would be suicidal for the GOP to embrace it in its current form. However, the point of my article was to raise discussion about the fact that the American Left has managed to hijack what was once a word used to describe policies which promoted personal liberty for its own gains, which almost always result in drastically increased governmental interference in people’s lives for the sake of the “common good”.

  • zingzing

    i agree with chris, because he’s paying me. oh, my cash.

    also because you’re [edited] a classic liberal only in the sense that you agree with antiquated opinions which were disproved in the 18th century and you’re hanging on because you’ve grown up thinking that the word meant one thing but then you learned that back in the day it meant something else and now you’re latching onto it as if it meant something else but you don’t realize that things change and that’s the way things progress because you’re a conservative so you can’t recognize progress when you see it you just call it racism or fascism or communism or all three and that’s just the way you think and it’s stupid.



  • zing’s right. Usage does change over time. Classical liberalism is an almost extinct animal, on both sides of the Atlantic.

    Libertarians aren’t liberals. They’re too inflexible in their thinking and not nearly pragmatic enough.

    I think JFK’s definition of modern liberalism is as good as any.

  • The meanings of word do indeed change over time. Sometimes, for reasons I don’t understand, they retain substantial vestiges of their earlier glory while retaining very little relationship to their earlier meanings.


  • Zing, what is the good of progress when the end destination is so undesirable?


  • zingzing

    depends on what you desire, dave. i see history so far as an unsteady march towards what i think is right. we’re progressing in the right direction so far, that being forward, and the end result is in sight: that being total communist utopia, you know.

    actually, it’s not, if you didn’t find that funny. a just society where everyone can happily survive and thrive is the end result i’m looking for. i’m sure it’s the same thing you’re looking for. i sure think we’re better off than we were 50 years ago, which was better than we were 150 years ago, so we’re getting to the goal, in fits and starts. (fits and starts roughly calculated in 4-year terms.)