Hey, Progressives! Watch the Language!

Today I return to one of my recurring themes. I’ve been saying this for years. In political confrontations with conservatives, we progressives (aka liberals) consistently concede the other side too much of the argument credibility by defaulting on the labels.

Labels as political shorthand are not going away. Unless we learn to master them the way the other side has, we’re destined to start out with a language deficit on important issues. This has been particularly evident in the culture wars battles over a woman’s reproductive rights.

pro-choiceFrom the beginning, those who would deny a woman the right to determine whether and how to give birth have called themselves “pro-life.” Meanwhile, progressives have been for the most part unwilling to clearly differentiate ourselves as “pro-choice”. Instead, we find ourselves being labeled “pro-abortion”, “anti-life”, and “abortion rights supporters,” which seems to be the latest label being used by journalists like Dana Milbank who are supporters of pro-choice. I do not know of a single pro-choice person who would accept or embody any of those labels. It’s not the right to abortion — and by implication, in the conservatives’ minds, abortions themselves — for which we stand, but the woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion.

If those who are anti-choice (the only proper label for their perspective on this issue) were truly pro-life, they would oppose capital punishment and they’d be concerned with what happens to newborns, infants, toddlers and children. But these are consistently the very same people who support the death penalty and oppose childhood health programs as well as early childhood education and other government-funded activities designed to enable children and young people to live healthy, productive lives.

They hide behind a completely bogus label in a futile effort to disguise themselves as “pro” anything. They are, in fact, anti-government. Except, of course, when it comes to inviting that same government into the most private aspects of their lives to intrude where there’s no room for anyone other than the prospective mother, her doctor and her God.


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