American Political Parties 6

Posted by ryan Fri, 21 Apr 2006 22:24:00 GMT

Despite the fact that "Republican" and "Democrat" are political parties in the USA, while "Conservative" and "Liberal" are social/cultural viewpoints, the term "Republican" has become seemingly synonymous with "Conservative", and "Democrat" with "Liberal". Can anyone out there with a better grasp on American politics than I explain this phenomenon? It annoys me, because I agree with what I know of the core Republican philosophy (about as much as I agree with any single philosophy, anyways), but I definately do not consider myself to have conservative viewpoints. As a result, although I'm a swing voter, I tend not to vote Republican as a result of the strong conservative nature of most of the candidates.

From what I've been able to discern, the Republican philosophy is grounded in a belief that "the private sector and/or the individual are better suited than the government to control their own lives" (Wikipedia). According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "[t]he term Republican was adopted in 1792 by supporters of Thomas Jefferson, who favoured a decentralized government with limited powers." In contrast, the Democratic philosophy posits that "that government should play a role in alleviating poverty and social injustice, even if that means progressive taxation and a larger role for government" (Wikipedia) Nothing in either of those descriptions seems to indicate a liberal or conservative predisposition.

To further analyze the situation, let's define "liberal" and "conservative." The WordNet Search provided by Princeton University "liberal" as "a person who favors a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties" as well as "a person who favors an economic theory of laissez-faire and self-regulating markets." It was hard to find a definition of "conservative" that doesn't sound negative, but the best that I could find is "a loosely defined term indicating adherence to one or more of a family of attitudes, including respect for tradition and authority and resistance to wholesale or sudden changes" from the Glossary of Philosophical Terms. Another fairly good definition of "conservative" is "... to favor things as they are and to be cautious. To be conservative politically is to respect traditional institution and distrust government solutions to problems." This definition, oddly enough, comes from the Warrensburg School District of Missouri's iAdventures program.

Given these definitions, I'm sure someone could hammer out a link between the terms and their associations, but I think it'd be a weak link at best.

On a side note, I would just like to point everyone to a ground-breaking revelation, made by an AOL subscriber, that I encountered while doing research for this article: Proof that The Democratic Party Mocks God!! By the way, this guy's a medical doctor. I'll be sure to avoid anyone named Frank Joseph if I ever need an operation on something.

  1. ardoriel 3 days later:
    Beats the crap out of me. I suck at politics. I try to pay attention during the election and do the best I can. People like Frank Joseph give Christians a bad reputation. Ugh. OMG..he's a medical doctor, and he called DNA "D&A"????????????!!!!!!!!!
  2. WestSideBilly 9 days later:
    The problem of the definitions is that the liberal/conservative paradigm is assumed to be linear and extreme; i.e. far left=liberal=Democrat, far right=conservative=Republican. The truth is that liberalism is really centrist policy, but the word has been mashed to bits and now represents moderate economic socialism and social progressiveness.

    There are really two (and arguably three) poles to the liberal/conservative perspective, typically economic freedom and social freedom, with the third being religion. A modern Democrat is someone who is socially and economically liberal; in American parlance this is freedom to choose what is best for one self socially but with market controls , progressive taxation, and enlarged government programs (socialism). A Republican is someone who is socially and economically conservative; in American parlance this societal restrictions on progressive behaviors but with no market controls and minimized government (corporatism). Religion plays no specific role in American political party functions, but secularism vs state religion would be the 3rd axis, and again a liberal would favor secularism while a conservative might favor some degree of religion in government, on the basis of morality countering social progessiveness.

    In that sense, the NeoCons who currently infest our government are not true Republicans - they are socially conservative but fairly liberal economically. It should also be noted that these definitions are fairly unique to North American liberalism. Classic liberalism is very laissez faire, but modern American liberalism is generally more socialist.

    As for your confusion, unless you've changed substantially in the last few years, your views are socially liberal and economically conservative; people should be free to do as they please and the government should stay away from your paycheck as much as possible. That, in essence, is limited Libertarianism. Who should you vote for? Well, that depends on whether you'd have prefer someone spending your tax dollars on 'socialist' programs or someone telling you how to live your life.
  3. ryan 9 days later:

    West, I don't agree that liberalism is a centrist policy. I think that it's natural for someone with a liberal view to consider their views to be centrist; however, liberalism can be just as extreme or moderate as conservativism. For that reason, I don't espouse a liberal or conservative point of view, either economically or socially.

    I can definately see the state of modern American politics that you've laid out in your comments. However, I'm still not sure about the reasons behind the link between the concepts of republican/conservative and democrat/liberal. In other words, I know I'm screwed in my voting choices; I'm trying to understand why, perhaps from a historical point of view, things got that way.

  4. WestSideBilly 9 days later:
    Classic liberalism is entirely centrist; it was a balance between the extreme economic policies of socialism and corporatism and a balance between extreme social/religious conservatism and progressiveism - pure laissez faire. A classic liberal is now typically called a libertarian - one who favors economic and social freedom, a hands-off government.

    The history of the Democratic party is classic liberalism. They wanted the government to exist to protect the interests of white men w/ money, without dicating religion or excessive taxation. 200 years of changes to our country and the party (particularly the New Deal in the 30s) turned Democrats into social progressives and economic socialists, but the label Liberal never went away even as the party morphed.

    The GOP being equated to Conservative can largely be attributed to the early cold war era. The Republicans had been waging a losing battle for 50+ years against regulation, New Deal economics, Unions, etc. The Republicans merged Communism and Fascism as one enemy and made them "red". Since the liberal Democrats more closely resembled Socialists, Liberal became equated with Socialist. Combined with a split on civil rights issues where some Democrats switched parties, the Republican party become firmly entrenched as the conservative party in the US in the 60s and 70s by opposing the "red" liberals.

    So to hopefully answer your original question - it's simply a matter of history why liberal=Democrat and conservative=Republican.

    It should be noted that both modern parties are actually on the right side of the economic spectrum, the GOP slightly more so, but American society is fairly liberal despite Republicans being the current favored party.

    As an ironic aside, current red state/blue state views have flipped since the 60s, when being red meant you were a Democrat and/or Communist sympathizer.
  5. ryan 9 days later:
    Good stuff, West. That'll give me something to chew on for a while.
  6. tiger online asics about 7 years later:

    This method was patched so that, instead of replacing the protocol used on the URL with "http" or "https", it either adds or removes the "ssl" query parameter.