I have not read a more clear definition of a liberal than this one at “Oh, That Liberal Media”:
This blog will use “liberal” to describe a worldview that sees society as a struggle between inherently “underprivileged” and inherently “overprivileged” classes. Along with the central belief in the class struggle, there is a conviction that the primary role of government is to redistribute wealth from the haves to the have-nots and to transfer perceived privileges from the perceived haves to the perceived have-nots. These core beliefs call for domestic policies that prefer government micromanagement to private enterprise and favor high taxes, escalating social welfare benefits, environmental regulation with scant regard to economic impact, racial preferences and mandatory “universal” systems of education, pensions and healthcare, while also limiting consumer choice in nearly every sphere of economic activity. Differences in outcomes between groups are reflexively attributed to racism, classism and/or sexism. Liberals are suspicious of the police, criminal justice and penal systems, mainly on the belief that poor people and minorities are disproportionately harmed by them. Immigrants are assumed to be underprivileged and therefore deserving of special protection, while “undocumented workers” are assumed to be both as legitimate as lawful immigrants yet also requiring of extra-special protections.
In national security and foreign affairs, the liberal attitude is to level American “privilege” relative to the “underprivileged” governments abroad and to forswear American power, appease our foes and delegate sovereignty to unelected transnational bodies. This entails an unnatural reverence for the United Nations and the European Union, reflexive criticism of Israel and quick sympathy for terrorists and tyrants (as long as they oppose the United States). Consistent with the impulse against national self-defense is the discomfort with individual self-defense and the hostility toward gun ownership by law-abiding citizens.
On social issues, “Liberal” connotes laissez-faire attitudes in most realms of private behavior, such as abortion rights, sexual conduct, assisted suicide and drug use (with the exception of tobacco). Liberals tend to be more secular than religious and are typically hostile to religion in public life, but would be reluctant to criticize any religious practices of non-Christian people of color.
Liberals also tend to support the expansion of federal and judicial authority and restraints on plebiscite, legislative and state authority, along with certain restrictions on political speech and campaign contributions — but only to the extent that tipping the scales in one direction or another helps to ensure that liberal policies would prevail. Liberals favor Democrats over Republicans in nearly every case, even to the point of excusing away decidedly illiberal behavior when committed by a Democrat.
So now, when I, or others, talk about liberals, you know who we mean.