The New York Times

Off Center

AFTER DECADES AS A TARGET OF REPUBLICAN ABUSE, LIBERALISM IS BACK IN THE MIDDLE OF AMERICAN POLITICS, CRITICIZED ON BOTH SIDES AND SHORT ON DEFENDERS.

“Liberal” has long been a dirty word to the American political right. It may be shortened, in the parlance of the Limbaugh Belt, to “libs,” or expanded to the offensive portmanteau “libtards.” But its target is always clear. For the people who use these epithets, liberals are, basically, everyone who leans to the left: big-spending Democrats with their unisex bathrooms and elaborate coffee. This is still how polls classify people, placing them on a neat spectrum from “extremely conservative” to “extremely liberal.”

Over the last few years, though — and especially 2016 — there has been a surge of the opposite phenomenon: Now the political left is expressing its hatred of liberals, too. For the committed leftist, the “liberal” is a weak-minded, market-friendly centrist, wonky and technocratic and condescending to

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