Why would a term like liberal come to mean the opposite of what it's supposed to mean? From Yastreblyanksy's blog:
I'm not sure yet how I feel about the tariff situation. But I annoyed to see liberals start defending free trade, not to mention tax breaks for Delta, just because conservatives do something. Can't we be more complex than just knee-jerk responses to fascists?
Does it strike you how etymologically bizarre that is, objecting to the way "liberals" "start" to defend "free trade"? I thought the simple problem with tariffs on solar cells and now iron and aluminum was that they'd clearly cost far more jobs than they saved, but.....
Once upon a time, the sine qua non of being liberal was supporting free trade.
But then it got applied to party politics in the United States as part of the political spectrum metaphor which supposes, incorrectly, that politics is an ideological debate between conservatives and liberals, principally about the size and scope of the Federal government.
That liberal has come to mean the opposite of liberal suggests it wasn't a good name for a group of people in the first place. To illustrate, a baseball allegory...
The term "White Sox fan" has proven to be enduring and useful. It neatly refers to a group of people that has existed continuously for more than 100 years. There's never been a point where someone said, "Given how things have changed, does it still make sense to call them White Sox fans?"
The reason why the term White Sox fan has survived is that it refers to the critical aspect of the thing named, an aspect of the thing that will not change. It's a good name because the best way to understand baseball fans involves recognizing the intense loyalty they develop toward a particular team.
But... say in 1950 someone wanted to study the people who showed up to watch baseball games at Comiskey Park. Say he didn't know anything about them at the start except what he saw at Comiskey. What draws these people? What should he call them? He looks onto the field and sees a young star named Nellie Fox, a speedy second baseman and the heart of the “Go Go” style of play, a term he picks up from someone in the stands. Our researcher zeros in on the "Go Go" aspect that the fans are cheering as he publishes his first paper: Understanding The Go Go Fans of Chicago.
Other scholars jump in and soon whole journals are dedicated to debating whether Go Go fans are most interested in base stealing or high batting average. When Luis Aparicio joins the team in 1956 scholars call it a "natural experiment." Aparicio steals 21 bases and even more Go Go fans show up, confirming that the Go Go style of play is drawing the fans and that base stealing is the aspect of Go Go that fans find most appealing.
Vindicated by this confirmation, this school of thought attracts more and more scholars who take its (well confirmed) findings for granted and go on to explore the nuances of how race and socioeconomic background influences fans' attraction to Go Go. These scholars note the Irish immigrant fan base of the Go Go Sox and show how the Irish resentment of English landlords fuels their love of scoundrels who “steal” bases.
Meanwhile, studies of the fans showing up at Wrigley Field discover fans attracted to a home run hitting short stop named Ernie Banks. Loads of scholarship now explores the contrast between Go Go fans' love of the slap hitting Fox and Homer Fans' support of the power hitting Banks. Irish vs WASP, Racial diversity, potentially trans players... every possible intersection is explored by academics in pursuit of the truth about baseball fans.
Things really get interesting where we learn how Go Go fans have more closed personalities than Homer fans and that both being a Go Go fan and having a closed personality are strongly correlated with living near the Chicago stockyards. Soon, the relationship between man and animal is being explored in the Go Go fan literature.
Then, in 2000, Erik Loomis--a Go Go fan since before you were born, son--overhears a fellow fan say, “Frank Thomas strikes out too much.” Loomis, concerned that Go Go fans have lost the true faith blogs: "Go Go Fans should beware criticizing a power hitter."
But the term Go Go fan means a fan of contact hitters and basestealing!!! The very essence of being a Go Go Fan is the love of these things. And Frank Thomas is bad at stealing bases. He should be admired by the Homer Fans in Wrigley Field, not the Go Go fans of Comiskey Park.
Or, as is far more likely, maybe Go Go fans was a bad name for these people in the first place. If we had called the denizens of Comiskey White Sox fans from the very start, wouldn't that make it pretty easy to see why someone could love both Nellie Fox AND Frank Thomas?
Does this mean base stealing doesn’t exist? No. But does "style of play" exist? No, not the way the Go Go scholars have changed its meaning. In the hypothetical, even if you realized they were White Sox fans all along, the term "style of play" would have been laden with an intellectual superstructure. In the hypothetical, there is no way to undo the language change.
There is no way to rescue the word liberal. We need whole new words for our politics that allow the language to accurately describe the group of people who consistently vote for Democrats and various sub-groups therein.
The pennant winning Go Go White Sox of 1959 featured a lineup of contact hitting speedsters led by Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox.
The 2000 team won the division with power hitters Frank Thomas, Carlos Lee, Maglio Ordonez, and Paul Konerko.