Has the use of political labels as insults run off the rails?

(Gerd Altmann / Pixabay)


Opinion Writer

“It’s time to talk issues; to use the dreaded ‘L’ word; to say the policies of our opposition and the congressional leadership of his party are liberal, liberal, liberal,” said then President Ronald Reagan at the Republican National Convention in 1988. In the 32 years since President Ronald Reagan shaped republican strategy, we have watched every figure in opposition to a conservative agenda become the target of that playbook attack.

Americans in the decades since having been born and raised to treat the political label of “liberal” as an insult. I’m not surprised that the country has become wildly divided and polarized. Is it not time we recognized using political labels in an attempt at degrading people has become an issue itself?

In today’s hotbed of political anger and frustration, the last thing America needs is for politics to degrade further into a practice of name calling and bullying. This day and age, I firmly believe that we as a society need to treat respectfully the right of others to practice different beliefs without resorting to fifth-grade playground insults. Such ill regard for others is juvenile at best and dangerous at worst.

One example within the last few years has come courtesy of one Fox News’ Sean Hannity. The right-wing pundit made the rounds in late 2017 when he got into a publicized feud with CNN host Jake Tapper after both networks had reported on the Manhattan terrorist attack on October 31.

After falsely claiming that Tapper had described the usage of the phrase “Allahu Akbar” as “beautiful” while covering the bombing, Hannity took to his primetime show to mock Tapper the following night and described him as “liberal fake news CNN’s fake Jake Tapper.” Why do commentators like Hannity use phrasing like this against their opponents?

Unfortunately, such phrasing continues to be adopted by those in the right-wing media. Be it mainstream or online, the term “Liberals” is used as a new type of “boogeyman” that seeks to destroy America by merely operating on a different side of the political aisle. It’s a demonizing slander that seeks to cast out anyone left of those with a conservative ideology as wrong in their political views and somehow seeking to destroy the very fabric of the country.

In some instances, the use of the phrases “liberal” and “Democrat” describe the opposing faction as having ideologies that ironically are not in lieu of actual liberal or Democratic party beliefs.

Once in a blue moon, a new leader of the country makes their way to the government’s highest position. Their decisions, no matter how divisive or unifying, are always likely to get most people’s heads turning and their mouths talking. While we wish for everyone to connect with our better natures with order and civility, the 2016 election showcased our country as being more torn apart due to political ideologies than any other period in time.

If America is to prosper again as a stable and functional democracy, we have to move far beyond simple name calling. We must grow to use our cooler temperaments and find a path forward on the issues as a nation.