So, I have known for a long time, at least since high school, that when the average person calls someone a "liberal" he means "that person I don't agree with". The "liberals" are the "others", the people who have the whole thing wrong; since our hypothetical interlocutor is obviously right, and he knows he is a conservative, so anyone who disagrees with his must be one of those liberals.
Sure there are intelligent conservatives, but for every politically mature thinker who has read Ayn Rand and Leo Strauss, there are at least 10 and probably 100 who wouldn't know William F. Buckley from Harry Dean Stanton. The mass of self-proclaimed conservatives are Republican voters who moved to that party as a response to the civil rights and associated movements, the "How dare the guvmint give out all that welfare money and hey where's my farm subsidy check" crowd, augmented in recent years by the "Kill a Fag for Jesus" and the "We're Pro-life Til the Kid is Born, Then F*ck Em" evangelicals.
A few days ago, a friend of mine (and yes, he's friend, though we probably do not see eye to eye on any political issues) sent me an email with The Wheel & Beer: A World History Lesson, which fortunately I have discovered he did not write, and which can be found several places on the web (I'll omit including it here). Reading through this, it finally struck me what these folks REALLY mean when they use the word "liberal" - they mean "nigg3r". It is the same jokes, the same lame stereotypes, the same mockery and hatred disguised as humor that I remember from growing in the south in the Sixties. There have always been code words in the South, and they have crept into the national political debate. For a large group of people, and I would dare say the bulk of Southerners who vote Republican these days, "conservative"="white" and "liberal"="nigg3r" or "niggg3r-lover" (a term I remember being called at least a couple of times when I was a kid).
Am I a liberal? Well, yeah, I believe in liberty guaranteed by law in a democratic nation with the greatest possible number of its citizens enfranchised to participate in the political process. I believe in a secular nation where freedom of conscience is an ABSOLUTE, and not a relative, right. I believe in small government, but in those instances where we have to work together corporately through government, the bias should be toward helping the least fortunate in our society rather than most well off. But most of all, yeah, I ain't one of these pseudo-conservatives, and I never will be.