Sound Destruction

Monday, November 07, 2005

I haven't watched The West Wing for a long time, but I was curious about the "live debate" episode last night, so I tuned in. It was interesting yet a little bizarre. Nonetheless, I found the cross over into our current political climate amusing. "I'll never go to war for oil" and "I voted for it before I voted against it" for example.

But there was one exchange that impressed me. I have been scouring the Internet since last night trying to find the script so I could quote it verbatim for you, but to no avail (anyone who finds it, let me know!), so I'm going by memory here.

Democratic candidate Santos (Jimmy Smits) had an exchange with Republican candidate, Vinick (played by Alan Alda) about his negative connotations in leveling the term "liberal". Vinick retaliated by accusing liberals of being the ones ashamed by the title, as evidenced by their changing it to "progressive".

Santos responded by pointing out liberals were the ones who pioneered and brought about the end of segregation, won the right to vote for women and African-Americans, created Social Security in an effort to help offset poverty among the elderly, and brought about Medicare, the Voting Rights Act and the Clean Water Act. Then, he drove it home the pointing out conservatives opposed every single one of those things. And finally if Vinick wanted to throw the term liberal derogatorily at his feet, he'd pick it up and wear it like a badge of honor.

Okay it was a tad melodramatic but it did impress me. And I'm not pointing this out to knock conservatives, but it's about damn time someone more vocal than just a gal with a laptop in Virginia made this point - regardless of the Rovian-inspired smear campaigns, Liberal is not a dirty word!


Blogger Doug said...

Sar, I agree Liberal isn't a dirty word, but I always wonder about the pedigree. Franklin Roosevelt was a pretty conservative Democrat by all accounts who got pulled into liberalism by the depression. In my opinion, Alan Keyes had the best line of the 2000 campaign season when he criticized Bush for calling himself conservative. Keyes line (non-verbatim: Let's respect the language. A word can't mean the same as it's opposite.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

First of all, I just want to say you guys are doing a fantastic job with your site!

Secondly, You've been tagged!

11:00 AM  
Blogger Mike V. said...

Great way to start the week.

What happened to the term liberal is that is was "hijacked" in a way by the right sometime in the 80's.
(BTW, I think there is nothing wrong with using the term "progressive")

When I hear someone using the term in a bad way, I ask them point blank, please define the word "liberal".

When asked to do it, they usually fumble around, you hate america, you're a commie, you're a socialist, blah blah blah.
Which in turn, I tell them if you are going to use a word, then you should understand what it means.
Otherwise, what's the point of language.

For the record:


1. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
2. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
3. Of, relating to, or characteristic of liberalism.
4. Liberal Of, designating, or characteristic of a political party founded on or associated with principles of social and political liberalism, especially in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Maine said...

"Liberals ended slavery."

"It was a Republican president that ended slavery!"

"Yes... a LIBERAL Republican! Whatever happened to them?!"

*chills from crowd*

11:46 AM  
Blogger Omnipotent Poobah said...

While I whole-heartedly agree that liberal isn't a dirty word, I'd add that neither is conservative, communist, socialist, free market economist, rightie, leftie or any number of other political labels on their surface.

To me, it's the thought and deeds that count and almost all the "words" are turning in piss poor performances these days. We need look no farther than those famous lines, "Leave No Child Behind Act" or "Patriot Act".

So I hereby vote for my favorite "words"...Sound Destruction.


11:56 AM  
Blogger tlm said...

Is progressive merely a replacement for the demonized word liberal? Not a dig in any way.. Just a question.

1:18 PM  
Blogger tlm said...

sar- Dont forget, the word liberal was successfully smeared long before Rove came into the picture. One of the Democratic candidates here in FL (in the late 80s, I think) got pummeled because of TV ads labeling him a liberal. Turns out, he later had a brief stint in the Governor's office and proved to be a decent guy, well-liked by both sides.

Making Democrats turn away from the liberal label (and, thusly, completely abandon their core principles and move to the center!) was one of the few things the Republicans have ever done well.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Sar said...

Doug - That's a brilliant line. Too bad it wasn't uttered by someone more respected.

Laura - Thanks! Strider, I did the last one, so you're up. :)

Mike - Thanks for the definitions. All I can say after reading them is - "Hi, I'm Sar. And I'm a liberal".

Maine - You watched it! I forgot that gem that was part of the same exchange. That's what I get for trying to go by my memory.

Poobah - What's in a name? And *high five* for props to SD! :)

TLM - I personally don't think Progressive is a replacement for Liberal although I do think they're separate terms supporting similar ideals and philosphies. I think in some ways Progressives are more zealous in their endeavors.

And yes, liberal was a term previously smeared but never moreso than by Rove & Co., as evidenced by your point that it was in fact sadly effective.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

TLM, I remember Newt Gingrich used to leave messages about traitorous liberals on phones in Iowa. I agree with Poobah, none of them are dirty words, although most of them are vacant words.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Tan Lucy Pez said...

I like the word liberal. I've never given it up. I'm a bleeding heart liberal. But both "liberal" and "conservative" are relative terms. Relative to the times.

What frosts me about the "right" is that it always twists the issues with misappropriation of words. They call themselves "pro life." But it seems that it's only fetal life they care for. They cut welfare and health benefits for the poor children who are already born.

The conservatives call me pro abortion, but I've never had an abortion nor advised anyone else to have one. I'm pro choice. They're like bullies in the playground. They like to call people ugly names.

Sometimes bullies win. Just not forever.

6:38 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Wonderful, TLP, *claps*

During the whole Schiavo thing, I decided that the "Right to Life" movement could better be called "Right to Pulse"

7:15 PM  
Blogger Sar said...

TLP - *applauding along with Doug* That is exactly my stance and my take. I've never liked bullies or their bullish tactics in any context. But unlike some my partisan friends, I make an effort not to bully back to the name calling from the right because that would be as hypocritical as that which I condemn this administration for being. You won't see me using terms like Repugs.

Doug - "Right to pulse"; yet another great definition update. :)

7:33 PM  
Blogger strider said...

i think the progressive movement is a replacement for the liberal movement.

once the word was demonized it was time to 'move on'. (pardon the pun) always i think the poobah is right on target.

7:34 PM  
Blogger strider said...

as for lauras tag i'm on it.

7:35 PM  
Anonymous JJ said...

This discussion reminds me of the old SNL bit from the late 80's where Matthew Modine played a character called "The Liberal."

He was always on the run, because he was labeled a liberal.

10:23 PM  
Blogger SheaNC said...

Mike V.: Well said.

11:12 PM  
Blogger GABRIEL C. ZOLMAN said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:43 PM  
Blogger GABRIEL C. ZOLMAN said...

I believe I am the authority here, wherein dirty words are concerned.

Is "liberal" a dirty word?

No, but "taintsniffer" and "colonplow" still are.

However, I think with some effort, I could turn "liberal" into something naughty. Maybe if it referred to application of lubricant or something...


6:46 PM  
Blogger Sar said...

JJ - The closest connection I have to SNL is the guy I briefly dated my sophomore year whose father was an Executive at NBC who promised us sweet tickets to the show. Needless to say, neither worked out.

Shea - ditto

Gabriel - A dirty word linguist you are. No doubt about it.

8:30 PM  

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