This morning, as I surfed the news and social media, I came across a Freedomworks Facebook post. The content of the post aside, what clicked in my head was the organization’s choice of name, and how the name suggested the goals and mission. So, I decided to explore the spectrum of organizations, conservative and liberal, and see if I could find patterns.

I did a Google search for “top conservative organizations” and culled from the first few lists all the names that signaled something (rather than being just a name – “The John Birch Society,” “Townhall,” and “Newsmax” suggest nothing about the organizations’ missions to one who has never heard of them). I culled this unscientific list:

The Heritage Foundation
Freedomworks
Family Research Council
Club For Growth
Americans For Prosperity
American Family Association
American Enterprise Institute
Moral Majority
Freedom’s Watch
Citizens Against Government Waste
Freedom Frontier
Freedom Vote
Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce
Citizens For a Working America
Citizens For a Sound Government
Federalist Society
Christian Coalition of America
Focus on the Family

I then searched “top liberal organizations.” Some names that suggested a focus:

Southern Poverty Law Center
Fairness And Accuracy In Reporting
America Coming Together
Campaign For America’s Future
Alliance For Justice
Electoral Reform
The American Civil Liberties Union
Border Angels
The Center for Reproductive Rights
The Council on American-Islamic Relations
NARAL Pro-Choice America
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Organization for Women
Americans United for the Separation of Church and State
The Human Rights Campaign
Majority Forward
Fair Share Action
Center For American Progress
Fight Back Fund
Working Families Organization

The conservative list has a couple obvious themes: those of “freedom,” citizenship, and matters economic. The liberal list’s commonalities are a bit harder to cull, but one that stands out is that certain groups make overt declarations that they’re about an identity group or specific issue, e.g. Women, “Colored People,” “pro-choice,” “poverty,” etc. Even the organizations whose names speak of rights and liberties narrow them with descriptors.

This very cursory survey tells us what we already know. Today’s Left purports to be about identities. Not “identity” at the individual level, but “identities” as in checkmarks on a list. Todays’ Right purports to be about freedom, citizenship, and economic prosperity. Whether any of these organizations actually fulfills the promise of its name is a wholly different matter, and there’s plenty to debate and critique about specific ideas, policies, actions and messaging. Here I am interested in the “name-as-bait.”

The name is the lure, the name is the first point of contact with the public, the name suggests the mission, the name is the lead. The name is what will attract people of particular predilections.

These organizational names confirm that which we generally know: that the Right purports to the ideals of freedom, family, history, and success, and that the Left purports to the defense of particular identity groups, to a specific basket of issues, and to a generic “forward-looking” viewpoint. No surprises there.

The troubling matter is what’s lacking in the Left’s presentation: that which is abundant in the Right’s presentation i.e. freedom. The Left’s presentation, via the names of its organizations, is that rights and liberties are curated according to identity. This sends its own message: that rights vary with identity, a message that’s anathema to any true lover of liberty.

There is much to criticize about many of these organizations, both Left and Right, in their execution of whatever core pursuits they promise, and, indeed, some of the organizations on the Right signal the same narrow-focus agenda style that some on the Left do, but at least the names on the Right start from an all-inclusive ideal. There is much irony here, given that the Left claims inclusiveness as its own, while the Right’s lurch in the direction of nativism contradicts some of its promise of universality.

Luring a prospective member, ally or sympathizer is only the first step an organization must take to build its following and cachet. It must “close the deal” with those it lures in. The names tell us who an organization targets – what sorts of mindsets, belief sets, and world views it expects to have the most success closing on. In their choices of names, organizations tell us what they believe to be the truth about constituencies, and if we pay attention, we can learn a lot.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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