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What is a liberal? What is a conservative?

What is a liberal? What is a conservative?

It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

These words of the late Minnesota Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey have always best defined for me what it means to be a liberal Democrat. I still believe them to govern my political philosophy.

The key is belief in government not as the problem but as the needed counterpoint to over-concentrated power – to level the playing field, as progressive presidents from Teddy Roosevelt to Franklin Delano Roosevelt to John Kennedy to Bill Clinton would say, for equal opportunity, individual responsibility and social justice for the average American.

In recent months, however, some people who sincerely believe they are liberals are being quoted in the national media and on the blogosphere as if their definition of liberalism is the only one.

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What is a liberal? What is a conservative?

For example, if a Democrat is on record as pro-choice, pro-gay aCare, pro-minimum wage, pro-labor, pro-strong environmental regulation or pro-preschool supported by taxes, if that Democrat also believes in the value of business, believes in the private sector as being the best job creator and often more efficient than government, that Democrat still risks being called a conservative or, to many even worse, a centrist.

This reminds me of something I wrote about my own personal liberal political hero in the 1960s, the late Sen.