The New York Times reports his Inaugural Speech with a banner headline, “Obama Offers Liberal Vision,” and a new generation encounters the adjective for the first time without a pejorative like “elite” attached.
GOP wannabes get into the act. Bobby Jindal blurts, “We must not be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys,” even as he pushes to replace Louisiana’s income tax with a sales tax to squeeze the poor.
Paul Ryan complains the Inaugural proves the President is “not looking to move to the middle. He’s looking to go farther to the left.”
Rhetoric aside, how liberal can America be in coming years? How much can it recover from as far back as 2004 when the extreme right was beating drums about a “tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New-York-Times-reading...body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show?”
Most casual observers are unaware that, from FDR on, “liberal” was a label for those trying to turn an American plutocracy into an inclusive democracy by eliminating racial, ethnic and gender bias and by creating social safety nets for society’s most vulnerable from children to the aged.
As Obama II begins, with the body politic turning away from the political cliff of a Romney victory, the rehabilitation of “liberal” is looking like weak tea.
Joe Biden’s anti-gun crusade starts by blowing kisses to the Second Amendment and setting its sights low while only Dianne Feinstein and a few Democrats without Oval Office dreams push for real change.
A “bi-partisan” start on immigration reform is hobbled with Marco Rubio booby traps.
What we get in coming months may be minor changes for the better, but it will bear little resemblance to the dictionary definitions of “liberal:”
“a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
"b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.”