I've written about this before and others have commented on it as well, the history of the rightwing Republicans using language to mischaracterize Democratic or "liberal" or centrist or anything other than the latest rightwing position as not just stupid but evil. They do a pretty great job of it. As The Daily Show showed over and over again, when the rightwing Republicans were in control of the government in recent years, everyday it seemed like anyone from their side who you saw on TV being interviewed or making a speech or answering a question, all used the same terms, the same talking points (ala "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud").
There's very few "party line" moments for the Democrats. The definition of "liberalism" and the humanism it's based on is that everyone has the right to be heard, as well as all the other rights guaranteed by the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, as well as inherent in being human, at least from a humanist perspective (like the right to healthcare even if you're poor).
But there must be a lot of poets and advertising copy writers who are "liberals" and Democrats and to the left of the rightwing, so why aren't they being used to frame arguments and label positions and talking points. When the rightwing Republicans renamed what had for decades been called "the estate tax" into "the death tax"—they started winning the argument against it, because people who would never get anywhere near enough millions to qualify for that tax somehow thought they're few possessions or small savings or home or whatever would be taxed upon their death, even though for the vast majority of us, that'll never happen.
Smart move. But what do the Democrats come up with, things like "public option" or calling themselves "progressives" or calling the stimulus package the "recovery act" or whatever. They should have called it the "repair the Republican destruction of our economy act"! And they should call the tax suggested on the wealthiest to pay for healthcare the "fat cat tax" or something like that.
I remember when I was a young jazz musician, the music we played (or tried to) was called "progressive jazz"—anyone remember that? Before that came "bebop" and after it "free jazz"—two monikers I bet more people remember. "Progressive" is so abstract that it's almost impossible to grasp with the mind in any imaginative way—there's no imagery in it or lyricism, it almost sounds like "gradual" or like something you might hope for even if you can't define it.
Airy. Artsy. Lame. Unlike "blue dogs" which at least resonates in the mind and creates a sense of something real, something maybe pugnacious, something common and usually beloved (the dog part at least). They should call the public option the "fair share" option or the "screw the insurance companies" option. Okay, maybe a little extreme, but that's the problem, there is nothing too extreme for the right, as we've seen in the Town Hall meetings and elsewhere.
Obama was a pretty good word man during the campaign, but he seems to have retreated into academic wonky explanations for the most part, with dollops of regular guy cliches like "we don't want to pull the plug on grandma"—ugh. He should be repeating over and over again the story of his own mother's death and how that made him a crusader for the right to healthcare for everyone, rich and poor, like he is now and once was, white and black, like he is, or his mother and father were, etc.
He should have stood up and articulated what most of us are feeling right now, that somehow even though we voted for a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress to overturn the destructive policies of the last eight years, the media and too often Democrats themselves, are still busy behaving like they have to placate a handful of rightwing Republicans by compromising their principles into mush.
And he and the Democrats should be calling the rightwing Republicans what they are, lying traitors who are hellbent on destroying the democratic process in this country when it goes against them.