Friday, February 9, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 93


 
 









 

The evolution of political epithets

Brandon Lacour

In the late 1980s, a sketch on Saturday Night Live called "The Liberal" featured a longhaired, bespectacled man roaming from town to town in search of work and companionship. 

The townsfolk would eventually discover that this young man was "The Liberal" and he would be on the lam again. 

While obviously not the subtlest political commentary, the sketch reveals that "liberal" had become a dirty word by the late 1980s.

It killed Michael Dukakis in 1988. The word was banished from the Bill Clinton and Al Gore's lips.

Few politicians would care to have the terms, liberalism and compassion, tacked on to their platform. That would make too much sense. 

Conservative commentators continue to argue about the inherent dangers of liberal skullduggery across these fruited plains. 

Some choose to paint the liberals as a surly pack of sore losers, who, having failed at everything else, aim to poison the waterhole of nice, peaceful, bipartisan George W. Bush America.

The status quo seems a bit overwhelming with conservatives controlling every branch of government.

Congress has a razor thin margin between parties, with a similarly close margin for the presidency. These figures do not really constitute a mandate.

At most, the latest election results indicate the growing similarities between the two parties as it becomes harder and harder to tell the difference between the two.

Last year saw the first election where issues like campaign finance reform, the environment, and corporate welfare came to light. This, along with the candidacy of Ralph Nader, reveals a strong contingent of liberals working under the radar of the major parties. 

However, most are concerned with the alleged liberals lurking in the wings of the Democratic Party. The GOP's latest grudge with the loyal opposition came during the first little riff in the bipartisan world: the John Ashcroft confirmation hearings. 

Though Ashcroft was waved on through as our new Attorney General, some conservatives are still fuming at the Democrats' behavior during the hearings. The Democrats apparently decided to actually ask Ashcroft questions instead of giving him the usual "through the turnstyle" treatment.

These weren't just any questions; these were questions about race, abortion, etc; because wouldn't it be a novelty to know how the future Attorney General felt about civil rights.

Maybe they should have asked more questions. As attorney general of Missouri, Ashcroft opposed school desegregation, and as a senator helped defeat James Hormel's nomination to be ambassador to Luxembourg because Hormel is gay and "would promote a sinful lifestyle."

He has also appeared in a neo-Confederate magazine praising "Southern patriots," and accepted a degree from Bob Jones University, which bans interracial dating.

In some circles it's worse to be called a racist homophobe than to be called a liberal.

Lacour, a junior creative writing major, 
can be reached at jlacour@bayou.uh.com.

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