Being a proud liberal
I'm always surprised when I see Phyllis Schlafly's name pop up in a story. I associate her more with Goldwater-era Republicans or anti-Equal Rights Amendment conservatives of a time gone by. But she's still out there, still saying the kinds of things people like her have always said.
I guess we shouldn't be surprised that she would make an appearance in light of the non-controversary generated by Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney's lack of experience with the financial pressures that many Americans feel raising a family.
Conservatives like Schlafly took this as an attack on women who choose to stay at home instead of what it was, a frank recognition that many women don't have a choice between working outside the home and being at home to raise their kids. They have to find a way to do both.
While it's universally recognized that Rosen could have found a different way to make her point, the main issue is still worth debating, which is the extent to which the Romney's can understand the kind of financial pressures most Americans feel.
Anyway, it wasn't my intention to go on about this. It's been widely covered. I only wanted to mention that, with this opening provided to Shlafly, she decided to get on her high horse to say that conservatives now have an opportunity to banish the word "feminist" just as, she claims, they were able to discredit the word "liberal" in modern political discourse.
It's a strange argument given that some conservative women are actually in the process of claiming for their own the word feminist instead of rejecting it, so I don't think the word is going anywhere.
As for the word "liberal," it is true that it has taken a beating going back at least as far as the 1988 Dukakis campaign. That fact is an irritant to those of us who proudly call ourselves liberal or even something further to the left on the political spectrum.
On this, I noticed that the terrific blog Simply Left Behind has a section on the banner of the site quoting the character Matt Santos from the West Wing, as he describes what the word liberal means to him. The quote is taken from a fictional presidential debate in which the Republican candidate is attempting to smear Santos, the Democrat, simply by calling him a liberal.
This is Santos' response:
Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things...every one! So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, 'Liberal,' as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won't work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor.
Jimmy Smits as Matt Santos
It's a great quote. I remember watching the original when it aired. I wanted to stand up and cheer. It was amazing to me that a fictionalized account of the White House did a better job explaining the mission of the Democratic Party than the real people doing the job.
I'm not holding my breath that the word liberal will make a big comeback, but I wouldn't mind seeing it happen. Yet another rule in politics is that when you let the other guys define you, you're losing.
(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)