“Limousine liberal” is pejorative for wealthy liberals who do not want to bear the cost of the liberal policies they support.
It is typically used by populists to criticize the “fat cat” members of the Democratic Party.
This phrase was first popularized in the mid-20th century and is often used to imply a level of hypocrisy or insincerity in a person’s political beliefs.
Origin of “Limousine Liberal”
The term’s origins are tied to the image of a wealthy individual being driven around in a luxurious limousine, while expressing concern for or claiming to understand the struggles of the poor, the working class, or marginalized communities.
The implication is that these so-called limousine liberals are out of touch with the realities faced by the people they claim to support and advocate for, as their wealth and privilege insulate them from these experiences.
“Limousine liberal” is often used to criticize individuals who support progressive policies such as higher taxes on the wealthy, increased welfare benefits, or stronger regulation of industries, while themselves enjoying a comfortable lifestyle afforded by wealth.
Critics argue that these individuals advocate for policies that they, due to their wealth, will not be personally affected by or will be better equipped to navigate.
For instance, a wealthy individual advocating for higher taxes on the rich could be labeled a limousine liberal if they employ accountants to minimize their own tax burden.
Similarly, a celebrity who advocates for environmental conservation while maintaining a high-consumption lifestyle could also be accused of being a limousine liberal.
In essence, the term is used to question the sincerity of a person’s progressive beliefs and to suggest that they may not be willing to make personal sacrifices for the causes they advocate for.
It is worth noting that the term “limousine liberal” does not only apply to politicians.
It can also be used to describe wealthy or influential figures in other sectors, such as business, entertainment, or academia, who espouse liberal views.
According to Time, the term comes from the 1969 NYC Mayoral race, where it was first used by candidate Mario Procaccino to attack his wealthy opponent:
Limousine liberals were, according to Procaccino, who was then the city’s comptroller, insulated from any real contact with poverty, crime, and the everyday struggle to get by, living in their exclusive neighborhoods, sending their children to private prep schools, sheltering their capital gains and dividends from the tax man, and getting around town in limousines, not subway cars.
Not about to change the way they lived, they wanted everybody else to change, to have their kids bused to school far from home, to shoulder the tax burden of an expanding welfare system, to watch the racial and social makeup of their neighborhoods turned upside down.
Use of “Limousine Liberal” in a sentence
- Critics often label the Hollywood star as a limousine liberal, arguing that her advocacy for climate change, while flying in private jets, shows a disconnect between her actions and her professed beliefs.
- Despite his working-class roots, the tech billionaire has been branded a limousine liberal due to his support for progressive tax reform, while his company employs strategies to minimize its own tax burden.
- Many accuse the city’s wealthy residents of being limousine liberals, as they vocally support affordable housing initiatives, yet object to these projects being built in their own upscale neighborhoods.
Taegan Goddard is the creator of the Political Dictionary.
Goddard spent more than a decade on Wall Street as managing director and chief operating officer of a prominent investment firm in New York City. Previously, he also served as a policy adviser to a U.S. Senator and Governor.
Goddard is also co-author of You Won – Now What?: How Americans Can Make Democracy Work from City Hall to the White House, a political management book hailed by prominent journalists and politicians from both parties.
His essays on politics and public policy have appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazines across the country.
Goddard earned degrees from Vassar College and Harvard University.
He lives in New York with his wife and three sons.