A quadrennial feature of the past half century has been the spectacle of some liberal grandee indignantly denying that he is anything of the kind. In 1988, when George Bush the Elder referred to the “liberalism” of his opponent, Michael Dukakis, the Dukakis campaign accused him of “mudslinging.” In 2004, John Kerry, asked if he was a liberal, remarked, “I think it’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.” So comprehensively was “liberalism” anathematized by a combination of liberal timidity and conservative demonizing that it became the political orientation that dared not speak its name. “Pragmatist,” “progressive”—these were acceptable, though even the latter was deployed cautiously. A common liberal dodge was to dismiss “labels” per se. Conservatives, by contrast, have evinced no such reluctance about their appellation. They say it loud and they say it proud.
Glad to join ’em.