This list has been a long time in the making. So many times when I debate someone from the left, I find their arguments boil down to little more than code words and accusations. "You must just be homophobic... How can you be against equality and choice?..." and so on. Yet the left's intended meanings of most of these code words are far removed from their common usage. I've even seen fellow conservatives fall into the word traps laid by those on the left; and when they do, they inevitably lose. So I present this list in the hopes that any conservatives reading this will take heart, and speak up the next time the left tries to frame the argument in their twisted words.
The first mis-used liberal code word is Liberal itself. The truth is, I am a liberal. The word "liberal" comes from the Greek eleutheros through the Latin liberalis, from which we also get words like liberty. Eleutheros means "free", while liberalis literally means "pertaining to a free man" and later took on the meaning "noble, generous". We could go with either one of those definitions. Ask yourself this: Which political philosophy is freer, the one that encourages individuals to be masters of their own actions and consequences, or the one that is willing to take away the individual's life and property for the good of "society"? Which is more generous, the philosophy that encourages the poor to become dependent on cradle-to-grave government care, or the one that ensures opportunity and class mobility for all, rich and poor alike? And which is more noble, the philosophy resting on coercion and "spreading the wealth around" or the one that emphasizes the rights and dignity of the individual? Moreover, even today Europeans use liberal the same way I'm using it here, the same way they always have, meaning support for individual freedoms. It seems only in Canada, the US and a few other select countries has liberal become twisted to mean the opposite of what it actually means. And if you need more evidence that it was truly twisted, consider this: By the end of the 19th century, usage of the word had so deviated from its original meaning that true liberals were forced to adopt a new, entirely nonpolitical word to describe themselves: libertarian.
With that confession out the way, I might as well make another one: I am a Progressive. In fact, supporting progress or advancement is not only central to democracy and capitalism, it is best accomplished through democracy and capitalism. Since leftist "progressives" usually use the word in terms of social progress, I'll leave the obvious benefits of the free market for technological and economic progress for another time and focus on social progress alone. Furthermore, since progressivism has its roots in the struggle for women's suffrage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it's appropriate to consider just how women did win the right to vote. The first modern country to grant women's suffrage was New Zealand in 1893, and it was done over the objections and political manipulations of the authoritarian leftist Prime Minister Richard Seddon (called "King Dick" both by his opponents and his own party members). In Canada, women's right to vote was established by the creatively named Act to Confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women, passed by Parliament under Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, a thorough-going Conservative who led a Conservative majority in Parliament. During WWI, he formed a unity government with sympathetic Liberals in the 1917 election, and it was this Unionist Party that gave women the right to vote in 1918. His only serious opposition was from the Liberal Quebecois. In the United States, women's suffrage was granted by the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1919. Consititutional amendments must first pass the House, then the Senate, and then must be ratified by the States. The Nineteenth Amendment had no trouble passing the House; when it finally passed the Senate 56-25, 82% of voting Republicans voted to give women the vote while only 54% of Democrats did. Just as telling is how the amendment faired in the states. It was rejected by only 8 states: Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi. Only two of these, Delaware and Maryland, were Republican states at the time; the rest were Democratic states.
And what about racial progress? It's well known that the Republican Party was founded mostly as an anti-slavery party. During the Reconstruction of the South following the Civil War, black Americans enjoyed freedoms they had previously only dreamed of; it was only when southern Democrats gained power that the Jim Crow laws stripped black Americans of their civil and voting rights and instituted widespread segregation. The Klan was founded by Democrats not just to perpetrate violence against blacks, but also in political opposition to southern Republicans. Nearly a hundred years later, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 was pushed by Republican President Eisenhower, but was rendered ineffective through amendments under the leadership of Democrat Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson, after Democrat Strom Thurmond opposed the bill with the longest single-person filibuster in US history, lasting 24 hours and 18 minutes. Similarly, the Civil Rights Act of 1960 was met with the longest filibuster on record, an amazing 125 hours and 31 minutes led by 18 Democrats. But it was the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that finally made a difference. The former was passed with the support of 80% of Republicans but only 64% of Democrats. The latter was passed with the support of 87% of Republicans but only 79% of Democrats. For both blacks and women, it was conservative Republicans who fought to give them the vote, opposed by leftist Democrats at every turn.
Then there's Choice, the real inspiration for this list. I trust I won't have to give an etymology or history lesson for choice. Even so, it's astonishing how the left has twisted the word in the political realm even while it still has it's original meaning in everyday conversation. After all, I'd have to say that I am pro-choice under any common definition of choice: I support parents' rights to choose their child's school, and to choose what values to teach their child. I support the rights to choose my doctor and to choose how I'm going to pay that doctor, the right to choose to dissent from the President's policies and the right to choose to arm myself in my own defense. Furthermore, I support every individual's right to choose what to do with their own life, to choose their own religion and political affiliation. I support every individual's right to choose where to shop, what to buy, how much to spend or save, and where to work (as well as every firm's right to choose who they employ). I also support every producer's right to choose what they want to charge for their products. The left may say they are pro-choice, but socialists would take every single one of these choices away from the individual. On top of that, they want me to believe that pro-choice means supporting the right to kill a defenseless, unborn human being? Don't get me wrong, I support a woman's right to choose not to raise a child. I support her right to choose to abstain from sex, her right to choose to use multiple varieties of birth control, and her right to choose to give the child up for adoption. The thing is, I also support the father's right to be involved in his child's life, and more importantly, I support the child's right to life. I'd like to hear the definition of choice that takes all of this into account and still puts me in the "anti-choice" column. That definition just doesn't exist for those with common sense.
I suppose, having mentioned socialists in the paragraph above, I should now mention Socialism. Socialism comes from the Latin socialis and is the same root from which we have society. Now I'm all about society. Despite what radical environmentalists would have you believe, society is humankind's greatest achievement. When property rights are guaranteed and markets are free, society prospers. People are pulled out of poverty and hunger, and lives are saved. Yet so-called "socialism" routinely destroys every culture it touches. The "socialized" nations of Europe have consistently higher unemployment figures, especially among immigrant populations; innovation and growth are stymied in most sectors. Eighty years of "socialism" in Russia gutted the country both economically and culturally while killing millions of people. India and China have seen massive growth and lifted millions out of poverty in recent years only because of pro-market reforms taking them away from "socialism". Now that they are embracing capitalism, these nations are thriving. So why is it that the political philosophy that is so destructive of every society it touches is the one that gets the label of socialism?
Now for a phrase whose meaning even most conservatives seem to have forgotten: Special Interests. Closely related is Lobbyist. I am both a special interest and a lobbyist. No, I am not a registered lobbyist, nor have I ever received payment of any kind for lobbying. But I have sent letters and emails to my representatives at the local, state and national levels. I have participated in and contributed to organizations that directly lobbied my representatives. I am a special interest. I have lobbied my representatives and I have worked with those who lobbied my representatives. If you have ever supported a political cause or organization, then so have you, and you are a lobbyist. When politicians talk about keeping the lobbyists out of Washington, it's you and me that they want to keep out. When they say they won't listen to special interests, it's you and me they won't listen to. This is how democracy works. I don't have the time or money to fly to Washington every time I have a political opinion. Registered lobbyists do this for me, and it's not a bad thing. If they didn't, nobody in Washington would ever hear my voice. Now, I get why the left has embraced the negative connotations of special interests and lobbyists; the less we control the government, the more the government can control us. What I don't understand is why so many conservatives have bought this hook, line and sinker.
[To give credit where credit's due, I'd like to acknowledge Warner Todd Huston and his August 6th column "The Liberal Lexicon... Emphasis on the Con"  on Right Wing News . Although a lot of the thoughts in my own list have been kicking around my head for awhile, Huston's column finally spurred me into writing my own list. Since my list shares only one entry with his, I feel safe that I am not duplicating efforts too severely. Etymologies taken from the Online Etymology Dictionary . Nineteenth Amendment Voting Records from the New York Times: June 5, 1919 .]