Anytime Americans are asked to self-identify themselves politically, far more are willing to call themselves conservative (usually in a 40-something percent range, in most of the accounts I’ve seen) than liberal (from 19 to 22 percent). As a result, far more conservative politicians are willing to call themselves conservative than liberal ones are willing to call themselves liberal. They keep trying new names. "Progressive" was big for a long time, and at an editorial-page-editors’ conference I attended a few years ago, the assembled liberal pundits had some fun trying out "communitarianism." Now there’s a new name in town:
Ned Lamont uses it in his Connecticut Senate race. President Clinton is scheduled to speak on the idea in Washington this week. Bob Casey Jr., Pennsylvania candidate for Senate, put it in the title of his talk at The Catholic University of America _ then repeated the phrase 29 times.
The term is "common good," and it’s catching on as a way to describe liberal values and reach religious voters who rejected Democrats in the 2004 election. Led by the Center for American Progress, a Washington think-tank, party activists hope the phrase will do for them what "compassionate conservative" did for the Republicans.
Whatever it’s called, it’s still the same old nonsense — what you owe the group instead of what the group owes you, how every solution to a problem that doesn’t come from the federal government is suspect, why you can’t be trusted to live your own lives until you hear from your betters.