I think you get this backwards. Liberal was turned into a dirty word during the '70s and '80s by the rise of Goldwater Republicans finally reaching theri peak during the Reagan-Bush years. It was a catch all term for anyone to their left.
It was pointless to rail against communism and communists at the time: Not only were the laws banning the Communist Party still on the books, it was the Cold War and Communism was widely understood to be the enemy. Socialists, in this conception, are the same as Communists. So, what do you have left of the left? Liberals.
Yeah, but in this time of fast communications between different cultures, the word "liberal" is returning to it's older definition as a term describing someone who rejects class-based politics in favour of individualism and capitalism. Today's US Democratic Party has a right wing that are basically Whigs, so liberal is a good word to describe them, but people who wish to be further left should absolutely look further left!
Obviously liberalism is to the left of the Republican Party and not everything about individualism is bad. So liberalism is pretty ok and I certainly share causes in common with them, like LGBTQIA rights (which was really their thing in a lot of countries) and voting for Biden.
But a lot of their useful and good values also exist further left. Like anarcho-communists also value personal freedom. Most socialists now support LGBTQIA liberation. And everybody wants Trump out.
Except that old-definition liberalism is squarely within the realm of how many Republicans see themselves, as you say "rejects class-based politics in favour of individualism and capitalism". If you called MAGA people "liberal" for espousing those views people in the US on the right and left would, at the very least, look at you funny.
So the term is in this weird limbo where it is used as a club by both the right and the left.
Its old definition had a lot in it about reform away from feudalism, at least from monarchy, and away from theocracy. There certainly are theocratic supporters and dark enlightenment neo-elitist types who use "liberal" in that same old, unmuddled sense.
It's weird to see the word used and then to wonder whether its being used in this mostly-meaningless contemporarily muddled way or is used in the old way, but by someone playing a longer, older, grimmer game.
MAGA people are intensely focussed on racial identity and I would argue they are neo-feudalists. They certainly are not in favour of individual rights of expression and prefer to focus on hierarchies. There is a concept they have of "ordered liberty" which has elements strikingly reminiscent of the antebellum system.
By contrast, liberalism rejects group identities except as it related to marketing demographics. This leads to capitalist alienation. While modern liberals not anti-heirarchy, they favour corporate structures which are nominally a meritocracy. The contradiction in this is that everyone is treated as an individual and power imbalances between people and corporations are ignored. Or sometimes given to HR departments to sort out.
"focussed" does a lot of work there. Rather, I'd say they "resist" a focus on race, comfortable to occupy a systemically privileged position which does *not* focus on how things are and how they got that way. That is very consistent with an individualistic view in which racism is part of the disregarded background they can ignore.
White supremacists are certainly very focussed on race! This might be under several layers of public and/or personal denial, but the primary thing they like about Trump is his blatant appeal to white power movements.
From his call to lynch the Central Park 5, to his promotion of the "Birther" theory about Obama, he's got nothing to him other than whiteness and unreconstructed masculinity.
I think this view conflates their leadership and propagandists with their base.
"Unreconstructed" works really well here because that's how this is all pitched, as saving "meritocracy," as saving the "just world" that rewards people who oh just happen to be white but who have no responsibility for creating or propagating a racist system in which whiteness is afforded meaning and power.
Denial is essential to this, less to obscure what they are doing from opponents and more to obscure it from themselves. They are "conservative" because the world they want already exists and they need especially their own not to question how it is and how it got that way.
MAGA-ers are not conservatives. In _The Utopia of Rules_ Graeber defines a difference between conservatives and fascists. Both feel like the imagination is dangerous and letting it run free will cause the world to burn. Fascists want that to happen. Conservatives don't.
By this metric, Conservatives would not be supporting Trump.
I understand that it's comforting to assert the US doesn't have a large fascist movement, and I also wish that were true.
What? No. How did you get there?
Is this the Graeber definitions? He said that the left believes that the imagination can be used to dream and create a better world. So the difference between left and right is if imagination is creative or destructive. And the difference between conservatives is whether keeping it contained is good or not. Sorry if leaving that out created confusion.
I got there because of the distinctions you put forward for fascist versus conservative.
You say Graeber says (I've read it, but a while ago and only that once through) that fascists want to watch the world burn.
So, if they are also willing to use racism to make that happen, why would they not?
I think US Republicans by and large did not vote for Obama, and those who did did so for better, more supportable reasons than fascist accelerationism, but that argues in favor more for their being conservative than fascist.
Many people in the US are racist, across the entire political spectrum. It's baked into the fabric of America.
Fascism appeals to the idea of a mythic golden age (maga) and to racial purity, so yeah, Trumpism is a blatantly fash movement.
I'm not sure how we've gotten on to Obama voters, as he was liberal / centre-left. People who liked him them and like Trump now have been radicalised to a new position.
sorry, maybe I'm not being clear when I used the term 'accelerationism".
In this idea, some people who are racist would have voted for him not because they like him, but strategically, because they think doing so would move things further along a path towards the collapse they seek
Whether this is just out of a racist expectation of incompetence or also as a foil for recruting and motivating other racists I don't know. If anyone did this, probably both.
their counterparts would be leftists voting for Trump to hasten the revolution
Anyway, the one meaning of "liberal" that has persisted and still applies, I think, is as a rough synonym to "reformist".
Away from feudalism, monarchy, the church in the old days. Hated by revolutionaries who want more extreme measures taken.
masto instance for the tildeverse