I'm starting to think it would be more useful for the political center-to-left to aggressively embrace the term "liberal" than to remain continually on the defensive in explaining why we're not. I haven't particularly thought of myself as a "liberal" for a long time, but if it distances me from the SOBs who have usurped the good name of "conservative" lately, color me liberal.
Demurring that we prefer the term "progressive" just strengthens the right wing's continued ability to define what a "liberal" is in the public mind, and it certainly won't stop them from applying the L-word to us. (See, liberals know they're such degenerates that even they are ashamed to admit that's what they are!) The right has forged the word into a potent weapon in recent years. It's time to take that weapon away from them.
What I'd like to see happen, helped along by a little savvy editorializing and blogging and
message-awareness, is that when the 48% of the American electorate that went "blue" this November realizes that the wingnuts are all too happy to keep tarring all of us, along with the often all-too-moderate candidates we supported, with the "liberal" (big-government, tax-and-spend, welfare-loving, criminal-coddling, unpatriotic, non-troops-supporting, baby-killing, immoral, gun-confiscating, anti-Christian, etc.) brush, the idea that liberals are some kind of lunatic fringe that's "out of touch with America" will start to evaporate. That's just too big a group to marginalize, or at least it ought to be. A lot of people are angry at the idea that opposing Monkey Boy and the neocon agenda somehow means we're not true Americans, and there's an opportunity to tap into that anger to start swinging the whole liberal/conservative propaganda complex in the other direction.
Personally, the political atmosphere being what it is, I wouldn't have many scruples about caricaturing "conservatives" as warmongering, witch-burning, flat-earther, corporate suck-up bible-thumpers who want to keep women in the kitchen, shred the Bill of Rights, clear-cut the National Parks, and make us all flip burgers for a living, either. Maybe if both labels are equally discredited we can get back to discussing real issues.