The Atlantic

The Republican Party Needs to Embrace Liberalism

Classical liberal values have disappeared from the right and are now disappearing from the left. Someone needs to adopt them. Why not the GOP?
Source: Edmon De Haro

The word liberal was one of the many casualties of the Vietnam era.

A generation before, Americans competed to own the term. Anti–New Deal Republicans like Senator Robert Taft claimed that they, not their opponents, were the “true liberals.” Former President Herbert Hoover preferred the term historical liberal.

The social turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s ripped away liberal’s positive associations and, in so doing, helped redeem conservatism from the discredit it incurred during the Great Depression. In 1985, Jonathan Rieder, then a sociologist at Yale, vividly described the political evolution of a middle-class Brooklyn neighborhood in which he had lived:

Since 1960, the Jews and Italians of Canarsie have embellished and modified the meaning of liberalism, associating it with profligacy, spinelessness, malevolence, masochism, elitism, fantasy, anarchy, idealism, softness, irresponsibility, and sanctimoniousness. The term conservative acquired connotations of pragmatism, character, reciprocity, truthfulness, stoicism, manliness, realism, hardness, vengeance, strictness, and responsibility.

In 1994, Governor Mario Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, lost his last election to a Republican who devastatingly attacked him as “too liberal, too long.”

In defensive reaction, left-of-center Democrats sought to rebrand themselves as something other than liberal. The label that eventually prevailed was . The Congressional Progressive Caucus now numbers 78; it is the largest bloc on the Democratic side of the House of Representatives. There is no “liberal caucus.”

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