I heard a caller use the term "liberal orthodoxy" on NPR recently. The term, to me, clearly smacks of the phraseology used by the right to frame and control the political discussion in the US. But, for the sake of argument, I considered whether there really is such a thing as "liberal orthodoxy."
My conclusion? Despite the frequent and loud protestations of the right, I do not believe that there is truly a "liberal orthodoxy" that is significant, especially when measured against the right's conservative orthodoxy.
For instance, SF writer and nutbag Orson Scott Card played the "liberal orthodoxy" card in an article about the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts, saying,
And we all know the course this thing will follow. Anyone who opposes this edict will be branded a bigot; any schoolchild who questions the legitimacy of homosexual marriage will be expelled for 'hate speech.' The fanatical Left will insist that anyone who upholds the fundamental meaning that marriage has always had, everywhere, until this generation, is a 'homophobe' and therefore mentally ill.
Were there truly anything like the liberal orthodoxy Card suggests here, then we would expect to find those on the left and in the Democratic party who oppose gay marriage to be shunned and voted out of office, or at least pilloried the way Arlen Specter was for suggesting he wouldn't approve a Supreme Court justice simply based on abortion issues. Guess what? Isn't happening. Many Democratic lawmakers in Massachusetts, the most liberal state in the US, support and have voted for a constitutional amendment to forbid gay marriage in Massachusetts. I know. My state Senator and representative when I lived in Massachusetts, both Democrats, both were against gay marriage. A significant part of the Democratic party leadership, base, and officeholders, in fact, oppose gay marriage, though they do tend to support civil unions a bit more than those on the right. Where, exactly, is the "liberal orthodoxy" here?
In this vein, Bill Frist has been pilloried for going against conservative orthodoxy by voicing support for embryonic stem cell research, but Harry Reid, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, is not pro-choice, and yet he isn't being slammed and threatened by the "orthodox" liberal establishment.
Is there a set of core values that tend to define liberalism in the US? Yes. But the term "orthodoxy" implies a mindless obedience to a set of values, brooking no dissent or discussion, just as the right means it to. There is room for dissent and discussion on the left, room for varying opinions on issues, room for serious debate, things not consistent with an "orthodoxy."
This seems to be the classic tactic of calling your opponent what you actually are. To hide the orthodoxy of thinking on the right, slander the left with the term "liberal orthodoxy."
I'm not fooled.