Democratic Underground

Ask Auntie Pinko
April 12, 2001

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Dear Auntie Pinko,

Why do you call yourself "Pinko?" We're having a hard enough time getting people to respect liberals as it is, what with the Repubs making it into a swear word and all. Don't you think it might scare people away, or confirm all those things the conservatives say about us all being communists? We need to convince people that "liberal" is just as respectable as "conservative," and doesn't have anything to do with Stalin or Castro. I know I certainly don't, anyway!


A Real Liberal in Durham, North Carolina (yes, there are some of us!)

Dear Real,

Thank you so much for expressing your concern. I entirely agree with you that the GOP's strategy of making the word "liberal" synonymous with "pedophile" has been a Bad Thing for the Democratic Party.

Perhaps, however, I take a slightly different approach. For one thing, Auntie Pinko is old enough to remember the true meaning of those words - "liberal," "pinko," "commie," "red," and others which Mr. Rove, Mr. Limbaugh, and their ideological predecessors have used to make a viewpoint anywhere to the left of Mussolini seem like the ravings of a dictatorial lunatic. (Never mind pointing out the irony of this, Real. I am fully aware of who the real dictatorial lunatics were and are.)

But for the benefit of some of my younger readers, perhaps it would help to review the origin of these colorful political labels. They have a long history-even longer than I can remember.

To begin with, "white" has always been the color of the "Old" Establishment. Perhaps this dates from the eighteenth century Jacobite Rebellion, when the supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie wore the "White Cockade" during their attempt to restore the absolute-style monarchy of the Stewarts to an England that had just taken a decided step towards a constitutional monarchy and stronger parliamentary government.

Or perhaps it dates from the wearing of White Ribbon in the nineteenth century by the French supporters of the Bourbon monarchy who attempted to restore King Louis XVIII to power after the fall of Mr. Bonaparte. Certainly the color white had acquired enough symbolism to represent the class of monarchist Russian nobles exiled after the Bolshevik Revolution.

And, of course, we all know that "red" was the color adopted by idealistic young Communists who were attempting to create the Worker's Paradise before Mr. Stalin and his not-so-merry men co-opted the Revolution and turned the unfortunate Soviet into an authoritarian dictatorship of the most appalling type.

And, unfortunately, no real effort has ever been made to separate the rather quaint but lovely ideological communist association from the quite disgusting authoritarian reality that has become linked with the color "red."

I can assure you that, like "liberal," the term "red," too, once had a benevolent connotation.

However, while I appreciate the noble ideals of the true communists, I'm both too old and far too well acquainted with the unsavory realities of human nature to be able to proclaim myself a "red" with a straight face.

And I certainly cannot line myself up with the "white" end of the spectrum, not with that kind of history, can I? Fortunately, the alternative "pink" is available-which, by the way, Mr. Webster defines as "holding or believed to hold advanced liberal or moderately radical political or economic views."

A description which, in spite of the oxymoronic 'moderately radical,' describes Auntie Pinko to a "T."

Or perhaps that should be a "D," for "Democrat?"

Thank you so much for writing to Auntie Pinko.

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