Liberalism is rooted in the ideas of individual liberty and equality for all people. If you’re an American who believes in the values that founded this country, you are, by definition, a liberal.
Use of the word “liberal” as a pejorative by some “conservatives”, however, reveals the hypocrisy inherent in political identification. Those who use “liberal” disparagingly often champion aspects of liberalism associated with individual liberty, but reject aspects of it that call for equal rights—for example, people that adamantly protect their right to bear arms, but oppose legal marriage rights for homosexuals, or oppose women’s right to choose abortion. (One might try to reject this example as a hasty generalization, but the prevalence of this ideology is self-evident.)
Bifurcating the population into “liberals” and “conservatives” is nonsensical. It’s a form of stereotype no more valid than racial stereotyping, yet it is somehow accepted in political discourse.
Similarly, political parties are just a form of tribalism in civilized society. Political parties aren’t even beholden to their respective ideologies. They can, and have shifted their ideologies drastically through time to adopt to the will of their constituents.
The right to bear arms, for example, is one of the most liberal ideologies a civilization has ever granted to common citizens.* Yet, Republicans and “conservatives” now seem to “own” the Second Amendment as their cause.
It’s time we embrace the messy truth that our ideologies are composites that only superficially align with defined political identities. The more we can move away from political tribalism and toward a unified discourse that produces the best ideas for the greatest good, the better off we’ll be as people, and as a nation.
*I think it’s easy to forget how extreme the idea of a ruling class allowing commoners to own weapons to defend itself against the ruling class was and, arguably, still is. The right to bear arms has been around over 240 years now (via the Second Amendment), and we’ve been living with its existence our entire lives, but it was, then, an extreme example of liberalism in the founding of the United States.