Ben Smith has a good suggestion, but I think I can improve it. The conservatives he wants to call ‘liberty conservatives’ should be called ‘anti-freedom conservatives’ (to signal that they are opposed to the people Smith calls ‘freedom conservatives’.) The conservatives he wants to call ‘freedom conservatives’ should be called ‘anti-liberty conservatives’ (to signal that they are opposed to the people Smith calls ‘liberty conservatives’).
This is superior to what Smith is proposing insofar as it is just a notational variant, but appealing to liberals, insofar as it nods at their correct perceptions that both sides, on the other side, are awful. Sauron or Saruman. Kodos or Kang. (I mean: what decent person opposes either liberty or freedom?)
Seriously. The semi-interesting thing that is going on here is this: the sort of typology one is going to need, for analytic purposes, is never going to align with the typology one is going to get, for self-identification purposes. Analytically, we want to know the distinguishing characteristics of each group or sub-group or sub-sub-group. Since most Americans aren’t conservatives, and most conservatives aren’t any particular flavor of conservative, we should expect an accurate thumbnail label of each faction to make it sound like not the sort of club most decent Americans would want to join. There is no such thing as the freedom sub-faction or the liberty sub-faction or the mom splinter cell or the apple pie rebel insurgency. If there were, each of these would already have transcended faction status and set itself up, comfortably, as the ruling party or coalition. But, for advertising purposes, every party is, aspirationally, the freedom party and the liberty party; the scrappy, mom-loving rebels, circulating apple pie recipes in samizdat form. This isn’t lying, exactly. Although it is advertisement. Every group wants to make the case that the good things will come from what they propose.
Getting back to Smith:
“I propose replacing the messy old terminology with a simple new vocabulary, one that has evolved organically, which has deep and consistent intellectual roots, no pejorative implications, and which political leaders use effortlessly and without reflecting.”
This is a perfect storm of incompatible and inadvisable goals, due to Smith’s desire to combine analysis and marketing considerations. For marketing purposes, conservatives need a way to sound like they are opposed to other conservatives, for deep, principled reasons, while preserving a sense that all conservatives are, in principle, always right. You need that pivot for electoral reasons, even though it’s analytic doom. You also need a way for conservatives to come across as deep and consistent and intellectual while actually being rather … uneffortful and unreflective in the thought department – because, hey, politics ain’t political theory. Analytically, if your characterization of each group, or sub-group, doesn’t sound a bit pejorative, you aren’t doing the analysis right. Because any correct analysis is going to make any political faction sound philosophically half-baked and unlikely to appeal to most voters. Whatever the distinguishing characteristic of a given faction may be, it’s certainly not going to be ‘love of freedom’ or ‘love of liberty’.
And of course the same goes for Democrats. Fair is fair. You should no more expect to be able to carve up the partisan terrain, analytically, and have that match the lines drawn in the sand by partisans, than you should expect that a serious analysis can be constructed by stringing together press flak talking points. Partisan self-descriptions are one species of partisan talking point, after all.