Over the last four months, the concerted right-wing machine has
gone on an all out attack on Senator John Kerry. With
Vice-President Cheney leading the way, they have labeled him as a
“tax and spend left-wing elitist liberal.” The National
Journal ranked John Kerry’s Congressional voting record as
the most liberal in 2003. Most Republicans use this as their basis
of attack. While the use of this tactic by the Republicans comes as
no surprise, I find most interesting the evolution of the
connotations to the word ‘liberal.’

Many of the great pioneers and revolutions throughout our
American history have come as a result of liberals. Martin Luther
King Jr. used his idealistic rhetoric to bring civil rights and
equality to the mainstream. FDR paved the way for liberal policies
such as unemployment insurance and social security. Lyndon
Johnson’s liberal stance on health care enabled Medicare to
become law. These are just a few of the many examples that help put
a positive spin on the term ‘liberal.’

However, thanks to Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, FOX News and
other luminaries, Republicans have used an all out marketing ploy
to encourage a negative spin on the term. With the help of media
outlets such as radio and television, such figures have made
liberals out as elitists, weak on defense, over-taxers and
over-spenders. Liberals have been described as “pro
Big-Government” and “atheists.” The latter can
provide profound consequences as the vast majority of Americans
associate themselves and would like their politicians to be apart
of a religious sector.

As the Republicans work to change this term, a closer
examination shows that such associations are blatantly wrong.
First, the idea that liberals are “pro Big-Government”
and over spenders can be refuted with examples from modern day
politics. President Clinton reduced the size of the government and
curbed spending in order to create the largest budget surplus in
American history. President Bush, on the other hand, has increased
spending and the size of the federal government with his additions
to Homeland Security and Faith-Based Initiatives, thus resulting in
a dramatic shift from a surplus to a 500 billion dollar deficit.
President Clinton proved to be quite strong on defense, as he
increased allocation to the military in his budget. Over the years,
Republicans have viewed spending measures as ways to deter this
countries principle of free enterprise. On the contrary, liberals
understand that our countries’ rock solid foundation was
based on a market system. But they also understand the
interconnectedness and interdependence among all of us and
therefore supplemented the market system with programs that enhance
our society’s goal in creating equal opportunity.

I find the tactics used by the Republicans as childish and
offensive. Their name calling of Senator Kerry as a
“left-wing liberal” is counterproductive in modern day
political discourse, as it oversimplifies complex positions on
rather complicated subjects. It deters any potential of debate on
real challenges and problems America faces today. I would urge
Senator Kerry to embrace the term. He should remind Americans that
many of the great pioneers in our history have had liberal ideas
that still have profound impact on our society.

Kapadia is a University alum as well as a former Daily
columnist and editor

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