Sunday, August 24, 2008

What's in a label? (Conservative, Moderate, Liberal)

Lately, I've been pondering the use of labels by the local media outlets here in Kansas City and I think many are coming to the realization of how labels are incorrectly applied. For full disclosure, I consider myself a moderate conservative, but I've been called a liberal and a far-right conservative at different times (when you're running for office, it's especially entertaining to receive email side-by-side accusing me of representing opposite sides of the spectrum).

I find it revealing that in Kansas, according to our local news media, there is no such thing as a "liberal" Democrat. All Democrats are "moderates" (including Dennis Moore, who now votes with Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats 97 percent of the time, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Nancy Boyda, and others). Despite liberal voting records and professed solidarity with the fringe of their party, Democrats in Kansas are always "moderates. On the contrary, at least according to Johnson County's own opinion tabloid The Sun, there is no such thing as a conservative, only "ultra conservatives." All other Republicans are moderates.

Other terms like "mainstream" are apparently owned and monopolized by certain special interest groups--attempts to use this age-old, un-registered moniker will land you in hot water by those who think they have enough money and influence to own words.

Of course, this phenomenon is not restricted to the local media. I cringe when I hvear McCain referred to as a liberal--he may not be very conservative, but he is no liberal--he has a solid pro-life voting record, has supported the military, and voted for spending limits, spending cuts and an end to earmarks. Mike Huckabee, on the other hand, is referred to as a conservative primarily for his pro-life and anti-gay marriage platform. Yet Huckabee supported increased taxes, increased spending, in-state tuition for illegal immigrants in Arkansas, and opposed school choice. Yet somehow, he is labeled by many as a conservative. And Rudy Giuliani, who is pro-abortion, is the best example of conservative city governance in American history and one of the most fiscally-conservative mayors in the country, is frequently referred to as a moderate or a liberal. And the best example--the media love to still refer to George W. Bush as a conservative despite a record over the last four years that deviates significantly from conservative principles.

Point of the story: these words are not owned by anybody, and be wary when supposedly non-partisan special interest groups and mainstream media outlets tend to use these terms as identifiers when referring to candidates and personalities. Do your own research--one or two issues does not identify you ideologically, or even a tendency to win elections on normally unfriendly turf for your party. Look at a candidate's record, their governing philosophy, their stance on a broad range of issues, and examine how a candidate approaches the issues, their role, their relationship with colleagues on the other side of the aisle, and their responsibility to their constituents. That matters much more than media or special interest-driven political labels of convenience.

1 comment:

Neotrotsky said...

Democrats feel the term liberal hurts them. So they tend not to use it for themselves.
great blog