Liberals Are the New Silent Majority

By Timothy Noah, The New Republic - February 18, 2013

The current debate over gun control is one of several signs that liberalism is back, sort of. President Barack Obama gave a second inaugural speech forthrightly celebrating liberal principles (equality, environmental stewardship, collective action) and didn't get impeached. More Americans now support gay marriage than oppose it. Universal health care survived a Supreme Court challenge and a presidential election. Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge has lost its juju.

The catch is that it's still not entirely acceptable to be a liberal. It remains common, when making a liberal argument, to shroud it in non-liberal language. For example, in 2004, John Kerry described his opposition to the Bush tax cuts as a sign of his fiscal conservatism. "Oh, he's liberal, he's liberal," Obama said four years later, mimicking his critics. "There's nothing liberal about wanting to make sure that everybody has health care." The lingering taboo is anthropological rather than ideological. Liberals are judged inauthentic because (at least according to stereotype) they live in cities, avoid church, and don't own guns; they consequently feel the need to describe themselves using other terms. 

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