As a second generation Berkeley native and Cal alumnus from the days of Jerry Brown's first stint as California governor, it's not surprising that I have a left, progressive political point of view. It's also not surprising that I agree with Cal professor George Lakoff that the proper use of language and framing is very important to political persuasion and winning political arguments. I believe that the left should use language that frames issues in progressive ways by using progressive framing such as using the term "climate change" instead of "global warming," and "marriage equality" instead of "same-sex marriage, and "voter suppression" instead of "voter fraud." Accordingly, I suggest that many on the left should rethink their use of the term "conservative" when describing current Republican politicians and use the term conservative only when it is truly appropriate to do so.
I think that the term "conservative" is no longer properly used in most poltical discourse today. I believe that a conservative is one who wants to conserve existing conditions and institutions, and who is resistant to change. I believe that most current Repulican elected officials are not "conservatives," but are rather politicians who have a radical, right-wing agenda of change. Therefore, I believe that progressives should not use the term "conservative," in general, when describing current Republican politicians and their agenda.
Dwight Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller were conservatives. They wanted to perserve the status quo. John Boehner, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell are not "conservatives," but are radical right-wingers. The last thing they want to do is perserve the status quo. They want to turn back the clock to the first McKinley administration, when a rich white male elite held all of the power and made all of the decisions in the United States. Those whose agenda includes overturning Roe vs. Wade and rolling back the New Deal and the social safety net that it created are not conservatives. Those people are right-wing activists who want radical change. Leftists and progressives should stop confusing the American public by labelling radical right-wing activists as conservatives.
Ronald Reagan made the term conservative seem honorable to a large segment of the American public. If we accept that many Americans still do believe that being "conservative" is generally a positive attribute, let's stop using the right-wing's framing and start using our own language and framing. In fact, in many ways it's the current leftists and progressives, who want to preserve Roe vs. Wade and the New Deal's safety net, who are "conservatives" of today.