Limousine liberal

Limousine liberal (also latte liberal, limousine leftist, learjet liberal, lakefront liberal, Lexus liberal, MasterCard Marxist, parlor pink, white wine socialist or champagne socialist) is a pejorative North American political term used to illustrate perceived hypocrisy by a political liberal of upper class or upper middle class status, such as calling for the use of mass transit while frequently using private jets (ergo 'learjet liberal').

Formation and early use

Democratic New York City mayoral hopeful Mario Procaccino coined the term to describe Republican Mayor John Lindsay and his wealthy Manhattan backers during a heated 1969 campaign. It was a populist epithet, carrying an implicit accusation that the people it described were insulated from all negative consequences of their programs intended to benefit the poor, and that the costs and consequences of such programs would be borne in the main by working class or lower middle class people who were not so poor as to be beneficiaries themselves. In particular, Procaccino criticized Lindsay for favoring unemployed blacks over working-class whites.

One Procaccino campaign memo attacked "rich super-assimilated people who live on Fifth Avenue and maintain some choice mansions outside the city and have no feeling for the small middle class shopkeeper, home owner, etc. They preach the politics of confrontation and condone violent upheaval in society because they are not touched by it and are protected by their courtiers". The Independent later stated that "Lindsay came across as all style and no substance, a 'limousine liberal' who knew nothing of the concerns of the same 'Silent Majority' that was carrying Richard Nixon to the White House at the very same time.

Later use

In the 1970s, the term was applied to wealthy liberal supporters of open-housing and forced school busing who didn't make use of public schooling. In Boston, Massachusetts, supporters of busing, such as Senator Ted Kennedy, sent their children to private schools or lived in affluent suburbs. To some South Boston residents, Kennedy's support of a plan that "integrated" their children with blacks and his apparent unwillingness to do the same with his own children, seemed like hypocrisy.

By the late 1990s and early 21st century, the term has also come to be applied to those who support environmentalist or "green" goals, such as mass transit, yet drive large SUVs or literally have a limousine and driver. The Weekly Standard applied the term to Sheila Jackson-Lee for being "routinely chauffeured the one short block to work--in a government car, by a member of her staff, at the taxpayers' expense.

It was reported in October 2007 that Al Gore flew to San Francisco from Nashville, followed by an onward journey to Camarillo in a non-hybrid Lincoln. Similarly, Ann Coulter has pointed out that he lives in a home with an average energy consumption more than 200 times bigger than that of the average American household. She has also reported that several Hollywood celebrities routinely drive most of the distance to a big event in a Lincoln, before switching over to a hybrid vehicle very shortly before their arrival. South Park's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone poked fun at the tendency of many liberals to be more concerned with image than actually helping the earth in the episode Smug Alert.

Recently, the New York Observer has applied the term to 2008 Democratic candidate John Edwards for paying $400 for a haircut and, according to the newspaper, "lectures about poverty while living in gated opulence".

Other countries

In Australia and New Zealand, a roughly equivalent insult of chardonnay socialist is used; in the United Kingdom the phrase champagne socialist or Bollinger Bolshevik is preferred, and in France such people are referred to as the gauche caviar ("caviar left"). In Portugal "Esquerda caviar" is used, basically a direct translation of the French term. In Germany "Toskana Fraktion" is used. In Italy, the term "radical chic" (borrowed from American journalist Tom Wolfe's satirical 1970 book Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers) is used.

In Peru, many former Maoists and Fidel Castro supporters, who had renounced those views, worked in state agencies during the governments of Valentín Paniagua (2000-2001) and Alejandro Toledo (2001 - 2006) and were paid very high wages in comparison to the income of the average population. They were given the name of "Izquierda Caviar" or "Izquierda Rosa", terms similar to gauche caviar and parlor pink, respectively.

In the Netherlands, a near equivalent of "limousine liberal" would be "salon socialist". The point of a salon socialist, however, is not that he does not spend money charitably, but rather that he or she is too high to be actively involved in the class struggle. Charity is seen as a capitalist and conservative project, because it leaves the alleged social structures of hegemony intact, and would even reinforce them (by making the poor dependent on the rich). Charity also implies that mandatory taxation is not needed, or need not collect sufficient funds.

Note that in the United States and in Canada, the usage of the term liberal differs from most of the world. In many countries outside the United States and Canada, "liberalism" refers to right-of-center politics, and particularly to support for laissez faire capitalism, or libertarianism. In contrast, in the United States and in Canada, 'liberal' has a left-wing connotation and is sometimes used somewhat pejoratively, even by the mainstream media.


See also

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