Periodically, someone will respond to a column I have written with a statement beginning "well, you liberals always…" Being dismissed as a liberal always amuses me, because I hold precisely the same political values I held in 1980, when I was the Republican nominee running for Congress against Andy Jacobs, and a fair number of voters found me "too conservative." The only thing that has changed is the label.
Periodically, someone will respond to a column I have written with a statement beginning “well, you liberals always…” Being dismissed as a liberal always amuses me, because I hold precisely the same political values I held in 1980, when I was the Republican nominee running for Congress against Andy Jacobs, and a fair number of voters found me “too conservative.” The only thing that has changed is the label.
If I find my own “transformation” amusing, however, I find the notion that Buelah Coughenour is now a liberal absolutely astonishing.
For those who missed this particular bit of political theater, the Republican Caucus recently removed Buelah as Council President, criticizing her “liberal” position on taxes. Evidently, she had declined to support a GOP effort to cut the city budget as unrealistic, citing the need to (gasp!) pay for services like garbage collection, wastewater treatment and the like.
A bit of history may be in order here: Buelah was on the City-County Council back when I was a member of the Hudnut Administration. We have found ourselves on opposite sides of a number of issues; she has been far more willing than I to use government to impose moral standards—to regulate what the public library may lend, for example. She was primary sponsor of a 1984 ordinance equating pornography (very loosely-defined) with sex-discrimination, a creative if ultimately unsuccessful effort to suppress sexually explicit materials. But over the years she has also become a nationally-recognized expert on less emotionally charged public works issues, and has become familiar with the complexities of municipal budgets and funding for local government services.
In short, while Beulah has historically been one of the council’s “tightwads,” she hasn’t usually been willing to substitute fiscal ideology for sanity. And that, evidently, is enough to make her a liberal these days.
This mania for labeling people so that we don’t have to engage with them on the validity of their ideas has accelerated during the past few years. Perhaps it is talk radio, with its tendency to reduce everything to name-calling sound-bites. Admittedly, it is much more efficient to call a woman a “feminazi” than to take the time and effort needed to discuss why her positions are untenable. And the tactic certainly isn’t limited to Republicans; Indiana’s very own Evan Bayh has solemnly warned the Democrats against the danger posed by “leftists” like Howard Dean. (I’m not quite sure when Dean’s support for gun rights, the death penalty and a balanced budged became “far left” positions. Perhaps when they were espoused by someone the Senator isn’t supporting.)
In the wake of the unceremonious dumping of Councillor Coughenour, a number of people have suggested that ideology had less to do with the Caucus decision than simple sexism. I think that’s too easy. The problem with the good Councillor is much more serious than her gender: it is her unwillingness to play the political game when she knows it is dishonest.
Maybe that makes her a liberal.