Liberal vs. Conservative ~ Democrat vs. Republican

As a social studies teacher, I am often asked by my students what the real difference is between Democrats and Republicans. They seem to sense that parents and other authority figures extol the virtues of one political party, the one to which they subscribe, and vilify the other.  Accordingly, I attempt to teach the subject in as balanced a manner as possible.

Symbols of American Political PartiesAll of what follows, save for my own observations, is readily available else- where on the Internet.  However, I’ve not been able to find a good, unbiased site that compares and contrasts the two major political parties in the United States today.  I shall endeavor to do so.

Political parties exist for the singular purpose of installing people to positions of power and influence in government.  It is the same all over the world and has always been so.  To do this they compete with the opposition for support of the electorate by inciting passion over issues of the time.  Whether the issues have to do with the economy, national security, individual liberties, the environment, Constitutional interpretations, or matters of moral and social conscience, parties stake claim to various convictions then pretend, as necessary, that they have always been philosophically faithful to their positions.  But this is done more often than not to simply gain support in terms of dollars and votes for their own candidates.  Additionally, many people are attracted to particular parties over single wedge-issues like abortion or gun control and discount other party positions.  So the association of any party over time with a particular political philosophy is problematic at best.  Follow along and see if you don’t agree.

The Democratic Party, claiming a position on the left of the political theory continuum, has been labeled “liberal,” both by supporters and detractors alike.  The name is derived from the Latin, liber, which means free.  And until the end of the eighteenth century, it simply meant “worthy of a free man”.  It is from this sense of the word that we speak of “liberal arts”, “liberal sciences”, “liberal occupations”, etc.  Then, beginning in the early part of the nineteenth century, the term came to imply the qualities of intellect and behavior that were considered to be characteristic of those who occupied higher social positions, whether because of wealth, education, or family relationships.  Thus, an intellectually independent, broad-minded, magnanimous, frank, open, and genial person was said to be liberal.  The suffix, “ism,” added to descrip- tive words produces nouns that mean a belief, an ideology, or study, as to be immersed in.  “Liberalism” then connotes a political system or tendency that is opposed to centralization and absolut- ism.  However, the word liberal is generally used in a derogatory way today by those who subscribe to more conservative philos- ophies.  For them, a liberal is someone who believes in big govern- ment and wasteful, giveaway social programs (background/definition).

Most who have political persuasions to the right on the political theory continuum label themselves, “conservative.”  According to Webster, being conservative means a tendency to conserve or to hold back.  But this understanding of the term does not necessarily apply to all who consider themselves to be Republicans today.  Since the end of the Civil War in America, conservatives have tended toward resisting change and preserving established insti- tutions.  Thus, a conservative person would be one who would tend to be more moderate or cautious.  But it was Republicans, as we all recall, who brought about the end to slavery in America though the Civil War years and the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments during Reconstruction – this was major social change (background/definition and History of the Republican Party)!

The Republican Party today attracts many different groups, including sportsmen and other gun owners who consider their right to bear arms to be under attack, business corporations (particularly defense, energy, and pharmaceutical industries) and wealthy individuals who benefit from limiting social programs, limiting regulations, and reduced taxes, as well as various funda- mental or evangelical Christian groups who are lobbying for social change.  The party had its roots in opposition to slavery when, in 1854, former members of the Free Soil Party, the Whig Party, the American Party, and some Democrats came together in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would have allowed these territories to enter the Union as slave states.  Party founders adopted the name “Republican” to indicate that it was the carrier of “republican” beliefs about civic virtue, and opposition to aristocracy and corruption (History of the Republican Party, Republican Party Today, and Reconstruction Period).

In western democracies the terms, “conservative” and “right-wing” are often used interchangeably, as near-synonyms.  This is not always accurate, but it has more than incidental validity.  The political opposition is referred to as the political left (although left-wing groups and individuals may have conservative social and/or cultural attitudes, they are not generally accepted, by self-identified conservatives, as being part of the same movement).  On economic policy, conservatives and the right generally support the free market and side with business interests over rank-and-file workers and environmentalists.  This is less true of conservatives in Europe and in places other than the United States.  Attitudes on some moral issues, such as opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia, are often described as being either right-wing or conservative.  Liberals, on the other hand, have traditionally drawn much of their support from labor unions, small farmers, civil servants, environmentalists, artisans, academics, philanthropists, immigrants and such – the “huddled masses”.  Collectively, liberals pretty much agree today that government should be a force for social change, to improve the lot of the disadvantaged and to protect the individual rights of all Americans, regardless of their race, sex, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.  Liberals would tend to agree that all should have affordable access to quality education and health care (Right-wing, Left-wing).

The Democratic Party in the United States traces its roots back to the early 1790s, when various factions united in opposition to Alexander Hamilton’s fiscal policies, which included a strong central treasury and new taxes to pay-off the states’ debts. Back then it was called the Anti-Administration Party, its subscribers were called Anti-Federalists.  For a time, this movement was added to other minor parties to form the Democratic-Republican Party under Thomas Jefferson.  Yes, in some ways, if not in name only, the two major political parties of America were combined. Then, after the War of 1812, the party split over whether to build and maintain a strong military.  Those favoring a strong military, especially a modern navy, came to be called the Old-Republicans.  Then, during the administration of Andrew Jackson, the Democratic Party was reborn, appealing, as had Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party, to the largely agrarian society of the times and to the common man.  At that time, the Old Republicans strongly favored states rights, while Jackson, even though he was a Southerner, put down the Nullification Crisis which threatened to divide the nation – North and South (History of the Democratic Party).

So, the distinction between liberal and conservative political philosophies and the Democratic and Republican parties in the United States, over time tends, to blur. Philosophies and allegiances have switched back and forth over the years.  For example, after the Civil War, most whites in the South became Democrats (Southern Democrats), known then unofficially as the “White Man’s Party“.  Then, following the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, many of these Democrats switched over to support Republican candidates.

And so it goes; political parties come and go. Sometimes the names stay the same, but the philosophies and respective positions on issues change according to the winds of war and fortune.  As I tell my students, it is impossible to separate politics from economics.  It’s all about power and influence.

For the latest on what U.S. political parties and individual candidates believe, see http://www.ontheissues.org/Quiz/Quiz2010.asp#sec0. At this site you may also test yourself and your beliefs to determine your closest party match.

For more on what I personally believe and how political parties have performed in recent years, see Americans’ Political Persuasions ~  Based More on Myth than Fact?

I invite your comments, pro and con.

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Published in: on December 31, 2006 at 3:36 pm  Comments (92)  

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  1. Hey very good statment but there is a bit controversy like about the republicans getting rid of slavery well the two parties have switched veiws several times I mean Wilson of the Democratic party was considered a conservative before he acted on progressive polocies Though Teddy Roosevelt was a true conservative before they lost some of their major values like enviormentalism the idea to protect resources is all conservative yet they son’t have it anymore but to settle my statement the republican party at the time of freeing the slaves were liberals. For futher evidence the Democrats only cared for states rights during those days who cares about it now the Republicans it is clear that they have changed and switched values and even traded some a liberal today is not what a liberal was in the old days same as for the conservatives though they have kept steady on their main values I would say you have to look at the history of the times and the set of value marked for which party. Have your students do some research see how polices have been switched over the years and why might show a huge change in social progress that is mostly overlooked

  2. I really like the thoughtfulness of this blog. I remember a quote I read from Winston Churchill that has always stuck with me….. Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains. Winston Churchill, Sir (1874-1965)….. It can make you smile a bit regardless of what affiliation you have.

  3. Thanks, Tucknroll… I recall this famous little bit of aphorism quite well, which must mean that I am a heartless nincumpoop.

    Opa

  4. Thanks for a great article. I enjoyed reading it. I think the liberal problem today is that we Americans are not the “huddled masses” they need us to be. If the Left fails to convince us that our state is dire and that we require their enlightened aid to escape it, then they will lose their perceived value to the voters. No wonder they tend to have a negative view of our great nation and its people.

    Philip: Periods are a good thing. I know Thomas Jefferson didn’t need them, but we do.

  5. You are welcome, Zack. Thank you for the comment.

    Obviously, you are among the few Americans today who do not lack confidence in our economy and in the direction that President Bush has taken us for the past seven plus years. That’s okay, as we are each entitled to our various persuasions. But have you not been attuned to the dilemma that Senator McCain faces in this election year — needing to recast himself as a social conservative to win the support of the Republican base despite his moderate voting record while, at the same time, distancing himself from President Bush who currently has the lowest approval rating of any President since Harry S. Truman? Truman’s legacy has improved greatly, by the way, since Eisenhower replaced him in 1953. I seriously doubt, however, that history will be so kind to George W. Bush’s legacy.

    Our economy, Zack, is floundering on the rocks of loose fiscal and regulatory policies. Democrats don’t need to convince us of this reality; we can all feel it.

    My guess… nay, my great hope is that Democrats of all huges, liberals, moderates and “fiscal” conservatives like myself, together with most Independents and even some Republicans, will unite this election year to bring needed change to Washington’s, business-as-usual, my-turn-move-over approach to doing the people’s business. This time around, we need someone in the White House who will be honest with us and who will be President for all Americans.

  6. A very informative review on the political decorum of history but relates to me only because I am a history buff. I negate nothing you said; I only wish you included more modern realtions to what it meant to be conservative and democratic. Because, as you said, “Democratic and Republican parties in the United States, over time tends, to blur. Well after all this blur, where do we stand today?

  7. You are quite right, Jason. My posting, “Liberal vs. Conservative ~ Democrat vs. Republican,” doesn’t go far enough to explain how we got to where we are today with respect to our two major political parties. But this was not an oversight. I did not want in this posting, when I wrote it, to wax judgmental of either party as they exist today. However, given that this year’s presidential campaigns are both selling themselves now as agents of change in the aftermath of what the American people see as “failed” policies of the Bush/Cheney administration and an ineffective Congress, I am compelled to write a follow-on post. In it I will explain how the Republican Party came to be less and less the party of the people, by the people, and for the people as it was with Lincoln as President during the Civil War, and how it became more and more the party of wealth, business, and privilege through Reconstruction, The Gilded Age, and the relatively brief economic depression that was called the Panic of 1893. Through the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, there was still some progressive elements in the party. But when he lost the party’s nomination for reelection to Taft, thereafter to form his Bull Moose party, he drew so many progressive votes from the party that Woodrow Wilson was able to win as a Democrat — this since the Democratic Party now had the backing and full support of organized labor as well as the temperance and women’s suffrage movements. From this point on, with the possible exception of the Eisenhower years, the conservative faction, resisting the change that took place during the Progressive Era, took full control of the Republican Party.

  8. Opa,
    What a very informative articulation of the histories of the republican and democratic parties. Like you, I am also a social studies teacher (2nd yr) and I have been asked to come up with a curriculum that explains the differences between the two parties. However, in my review of material I have found numerous sites which all appear to have a inherent biased to one of the two parties. Outside of digging out my old poli sci or history books from college, can you point me in a good direction to build upon what you have here.
    Thanks Very Much,

    Matt

  9. Thank you for enlightening a non-American like me.

  10. Thanks for your help. I am in 8th grade civics and for homework I had to find 3 things that make up each party.You were the only decent website I could find.
    thanks again

  11. Opa,
    I didn’t know how else to find the answer to my question, so I entered this in a Google search “Why are Democrats called liberal and Republicans called conservative?”. I am glad to have found your page not far down the list. So I was right, there is no definitive answer, but asking a person around here would have only gotten arguments. I have lived in Idaho, California, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia, California again and now Nebraska. Before coming to Nebraska I had been unemployed for 4 years. During those years I watched lots of CSPAN. I decided to become a Democrat because I liked a lot more Democrats than Republicans based on the way they acted, spoke and voted. Their names were always listed with a D or an R (not an L or a C). Also I have observed in over 50 years of life that when we have a R president we get deeper in debt and when we have a D president we get out of debt. So when I got to Nebraska in 95 and got a drivers license I also registered as a D not knowing this was mostly an R state. I learned that in 2000 when the vote was so close and all the people I worked with showed me how much they HATE Democrats and they NEVER say the word without the LIBERAL prefix. I have since learned a bit more about those co-workers and I believe their beliefs and statements come from the preachers they listen to every Sunday. This is the major factor in this topic that you didn’t mention. Well, you said power and money influence politics, but politics and religion are two sides of the same coin. Though they claim to be separate, where one goes, the other is there with it. I believe preachers associate holy with conservative and unholy with liberal which (mis)guides their congregation. At least that’s a problem I have seen around this part of the country. Of course you might also want to consider or mention the psychologic effect of colors on people. Who knows how they would vote here in Nebraska if the Cornhuskers wore blue uniforms.

  12. Opa,
    Thank you for the article, it was very informative. I find it hard to believe that the republican party were the ones who stopped slavery. I recently moved to northeast Florida and cannot believe the reaction here about the President elect. It’s really scary and extremely sad to know how ignorant people still are. As for me I could care less if he was purple as long as he tries to fix this mess that President Bush got us into.

  13. Dear OPA,

    A very sincere thank you! You have spelt out the difference in very simple terms.

    Dave.

  14. Thanks for writing a non biased article. It’s very refreshing to see something thats not the usual, This side did this or that. It is so true that parties have switched back and forth on issues. I had thought the original republicans/conservatives were the fiscally conservative ones. Now it seems as if the roles have switched. However there are always exceptions to the rule. I personally started out as a Democrat and now, more and more I think that it comes down to the individual person/candidate. I now register as non- partisan because I don’t like commiting myself to a certain side which I don’t agree with 100% of their policies. I much prefer being independent. Unfortunately, many people vote only for their party and not solely on the individual candidate, so independents don’t normally make it that far:). Good article, it was a pleasure to read it.

  15. Actually, although the republicans were the one who freed the slaves. Back then Republicans were liberal and Democrats were conservative. Especially if you look on democrats’ and republicans (back then) view on economy, it really defines party stances.

    I’ve checked with several social studies teachers and historians, so I’m pretty sure this is accurate

  16. Your comment is consistent with my article, I think. Political parties, over time, have evolved to capture constituent support. Democrats, since Woodrow Wilson’s time, have become increasingly progressive and socially liberal. In response, Republicans have become more conservative in order to offer an appealing alternative. Nobody wants to pay higher taxes, right? So the party of low taxes and less government has had a significant run of success since the end of WWII. Unfortunately, nobody wants to sacrifice their entitlements either.

    The Republican Party has now become so conservative, so entrenched in principle that, in my judgment, it has lost broader appeal to many moderates and independents. Accordingly, it will either have to reinvent itself as a more inclusive party advocating something other than failed economic and diplomatic principles and appeasement of special interest groups like the NRA, big oil, big pharma, big finance, defense industries, and fundamental Christian groups, or go the way of the Whig Party.

    Opa

  17. Thank you for the article, I am not a historian but I know people. Your article was great and is what suspected to be true all along. That the line in the sand that use to seperate the 2 parties has been erased, and that we will never no what a canidate truly believes in unless you can sit down with him or her one on one of the record and have a heart to heart conversation.

    DM

  18. Thank you for such in depth definition. I am a Democrat and actually hate being called a liberal. After taking several of the tests on “are you a liberal or conservative” online it is clear that I am a liberal. Of course I knew I was but still prefer to be called a Democrat. I am going back to re-read your article and will email it to my brother who does not like the liberals of today. He says that I am a 60′s kind of liberal. That to me is ok.

  19. Hi, I came across this site, and I am in an AP history class in high school. For one whole year, I have not been able to distinguish between republicans and democrats. Thanks a lot. This site really helps!!!!
    But yes, I really do wish that there was an exact table showing the differences between republicans and democrats, but it’s impossible due to the changing opinions.

  20. Hi Opa,
    I had been watching and hearing these terms ( Republican / Democrats / Liberal / Conservative ) for quite some time now and always wanted to know their history without having to read piles of books. I am really thankful to you for explaining the same so nicely that even a Non-American like me could follow and get insights to the American political system.

    It might be good if you can write another article on the American “election” process in a lucid form like this.

    Regards
    Ratul

  21. i loved it it helped me write a paper for English

  22. That’s great, David. I’m glad my posting was helpful. But I hope you wrote your paper appropriately, by referencing the source and putting the information in your own words rather than cutting and pasting.

  23. I am a 70 year old woman and have often wondered why I vote a certain way, not really understanding the differences between the parties. Now I find out that I am not either a liberal or a conservative but on all the tests that I have taken I always fall right in the middle. No wonder I never know who to vote for. My ballot looks like a jigsaw puzzle as I vote for some republicans and some democrats and also the male and female politicians are also just as varied. I vote for the views of the person running to the best I can find information on them Thanks to Google and articles I find like this one. I wonder how many people are like me and fall in the middle. I think we need a new party for the middle and find out how many of us there are. Perhaps this is the reason for the independent party? There have been times I wanted to vote this party but knowing there were not enough to win I knew my vote would help the opposing (R)or(D) to win that I absolutely did not want to win. I now realize that not sticking to my own values is probably what is keeping this party from winning any great election as there are probably thousands more just like me. Playing it safe may not always be the right thing to do but it is the safest.
    Thank you again for this article you have told it like it is and was, but I would like to know what it is going to be especially since I won’t be here to I see it happen. Of course I know that you or anyone can really know until it happens. I am sending this to all of my children and grandchildren and hopefully it will help them be better informed and help them to think before they mark that ballot that will make a difference in their life. Of course I am now having trouble convincing them that they should vote at all. After this last election the president was announced even before the poles had closed on the west coast so they now think that the electoral college is the one that votes for the president and not the people. What can I say to that??
    Thank you again
    Nancy

  24. Thank you for your kind words, Nancy.

    I too have meandered from right to left over the years, voting for what I thought of the man rather than what I thought I understood about the issues. Not being impressed with either Democratic or Republican candidates for President in the 1992 election, I actually voted for the independent, Ross Perot — effectively throwing my vote away. Although he won a significant share of the popular vote, he received no Electoral College votes. So, with the way Article II of the Constitution reads, I’m afraid we’re stuck with the two party system.

    A student of economics now, teaching the subject on a college level, I’ll never again be able to cast another vote for a Republican. The mantra of lower taxes and smaller government has great personal appeal for people, even me. But justified by “free” market principles of anti-regulation and supply-side/trickle-down theory, the numbers just don’t add up. Just look what the past eight years of it has wrought. The rich are a whole lot richer, but the rest of us are either out of work or afraid we will be soon.

    Now that Milton Friedman is gone, Phil Grahamm was sent packing by John McCain during his presidential campaign for telling the electorate that the recession was mostly imaginary, and Alan Greenspan has apologized to Congress for having failed to understand the dangers of deregulating financials and extending mortgage credit to people who were marginally credit worthy, I can’t even name a serious, conservative economist left who is well-respected by the majority of peers. Conservative economists are all just politicians or media people who think they are economists.

  25. I once heard a story that helped me to understand the difference in the two parties.

    A 8 year old girl asked her dad one day. Daddy what is the difference in being a Democrat and a Republican. The father thought a while and replied.

    Sweetheart, you know how you work so hard in school to make all A’s and you are proud of your hard work. Yes, daddy I like the feeling of doing well in school. I makes me proud!

    Well, baby a Republican would tell you great job on all your hard work, all your hard work paid off.
    A Democrat would tell you you did such a good job we are going to take half of your A’s away and give them to the kids who did not work as hard as so everyone can have a C average.

    But Daddy, thats not fair!

    part 2
    Both parties want to help others!
    Democrat: Give a man a fish you feed him for a day.
    Republican: Teach a man to fish you feed him for the rest of his life.

  26. That’s a good story, Mark. I’ve heard it before. But like all fairytales, it uses a simplistic, hypothetical situation to make a point. In this case, the point has scant application in the real world. Teachers don’t take grades away from high achievers and give them to others who fail. Neither do we just let those who struggle to learn fall through the cracks, not if we can help it. Likewise, Democrats do not wish to take fish away from those who can and redistribute them among those who can’t so that everyone has an equal amount. They know, and so should you, that it takes more than a day to teach a man how to fish (an allegory for educating a person to be successful in a highly competative society), and all do not come into this world with equal opportunity.

    An enlightened society doesn’t just let people starve, or go without medical attention for that matter.

  27. When I did a google search for the 2004 Communist Party platform, I found it. Except for the $12 minimum wage provision, the rest of the platform is in use by the current Democrat party. I find it interesting that those who have adopted these Communist/Marxist ideas are the current Obama supporters, the Bush haters, and feel entitled to have government benefits with someone else paying the bill. In contrast, the Republicans seem to be a party of personal responsibility, and support the constitution. Since the election in 2006, the Democrat/Marxists have controlled the pursestrings of the nation, Blamed Bush for their own insanity, and still do. When the dust settles, the democrats have bought a lot of votes by bankrupting the nation.

  28. It is uncanny, Stan, how the ultra progressive platform of the American Communist Party for the 2004 election (readers may read it for themselves at http://www.cpusa.org/article/static/511/#question29) resonates with the most liberal of Democrats today. But then, the nation is in a more progressive mood today than it was back then. However, all Democrats are not of a single mind — never have been. Therefore, to compare ALL Democrats to Marxist/Leninists is most fallacious. True, President Bush was no better at constraining Congressional spending during his second term than he was during his first. Recall that the recession was in full-swing prior to Obama’s inauguration. Also true, government spending as a percent of GDP to combat the recession (first proposed by the Bush Administration and fully supported by Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike in the Congress prior to the November elections), has been higher than at any time since WWII. But, in times like these, government is the spender of last resort and almost all “serious,” non-partisan economists today say that government has no recourse other than expansionary fiscal and monetary policies. As a conservative Democrat myself, I’m hopeful that, after unemployment has declined to reasonable levels, we can once again begin paying-off the national debt as was being done during the Clinton years.

  29. Hi OPA I like your blog and agree with your philosophy. And, I’m not a left or right wing radical. While I’m not as educated as you, I believe in my life I’ve traveled a path similer to you. I’m retired disabled veteran age 76 yrs. I was in Korea 1950/USA got out & joined Air Force. Retired as MSgt E-7 in 73 and spent 22 yrs Job Service helping migrants & farm workers. I’m trying to write a blog “Views of a Jeffersonian Liberal which some people may think an oxymoron but I think Jefferson was our greatest president, and I happen to be a left wing libeal, ergo a Jeffersonian Liberal. I also get angry when I hear right wingers call themselves Jeffersonian
    Liberals, whereas, I don’t believe they are either. I would like to communicate with you.

  30. Welcome to the blogosphere, Joseph.

    Libertarian ideologies, of which there seems to be nearly as many as there are people who call themselves libertarian, are at odds with each other and with history. I too think highly of our third president. But the United States of America in his time was a very different country from what it is today. Society, the economy and our challenges posed by others in the world are very different. We, as a people, have had to change too. For example, when Jefferson was president, ninty percent or more of the people were farmers. Now, less than two percent are even associated with agriculture.

    There is much on the Internet that argues against libertarian claims that various historical figures and classical liberals were libertarians or that the early US government was libertarian: http://world.std.com/~mhuben/revisionism.html. So, yes, I would tend to agree that liberalism and libertarianism today make a strange combination. But go ahead, make your case.

  31. Opa – It’s a good name. It’s what I would’ve called my grandfather if he was living when I was born. Note, grandmother in German is Oma. At this point in time, I guess making my case might be easier with a verse I scribbled when the Iraq War began. I call my verse “I Went to War!”
    ******************************************************
    “I Went to War”
    by Joe Koenigsman
    ***
    I went to Korea, a long time ago,
    when I was only a boy.
    My country sent me, we must prevail,
    enemies, we must destroy.
    ***
    The land was broken, people had fled,
    a war, that almost was lost.
    We fought for freedom, not for madness,
    but madness, it is the cost.
    ***
    I went to War, a long ago,
    I was only a boy.
    My country sent me, we must prevail,
    enemies, we must destroy.
    ***
    Three years, we fought, we drove em back,
    we drove em, outta the land.
    Buddies, they died, mothers, they cried,
    cause blood was left on the sand.
    ***
    When we came home, I still had pride,
    but somewhere, I had lost joy.
    I was a soldier, killer of men,
    I was no longer a boy.
    ***
    Fifteen years later, was Vi-et-nam,
    for freedom, we must prevail.
    When, they said it, I was still young,
    still hearing that old tale.
    ***
    Seven years later, thousands had died,
    Vi-et-nam, it was lost.
    We fought for freedom, not for madness,
    but madness, it is the cost.
    ***
    No longer a soldier, now I just weep,
    cause they, still, tell that old tale.
    For freedom we fight, it’s no longer right,
    still soldiers, we must prevail.
    ***
    Land of E-raq, some won’t come back,
    E-raq’s freedom, isn’t the goal.
    Soldiers will die, in that harsh land,
    evil, grips at our soul.
    ***
    Land of dawn, we fight the spawn,
    and the mullahs of hate.
    Death in the mud, pouring of blood,
    a bloodlust, will nver sate
    ***
    When it’s over, thousands will die,
    but E-raq still will be lost.
    But not for freedom, it’s for madness,
    madness, it is the cost.
    ***
    I went to War, long time ago,
    when I was only a boy.
    My country sent me, I must prevail,
    enemies, we must destroy.
    enemies, we must destroy.

    Opa – I believe Jefferson would understand and agree with my verse, and I believe my verse sums up my case.
    Jokoe

  32. Yes, I’m pretty sure that Jefferson would approve, Joseph. I know I do. As a veteran of that most unfortunate war in Vietnam, I saw the parallel myself between it and Iraq when Bush decided to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime and save the world from WMD. However, I’m not quite sure how your poem defines your particular brand of libertarianism. If you are suggesting that Jefferson was a pacifist, you are a history revisionist. It was Jefferson, as our history books point out, who argued with Washington for a strong navy to protect U.S. commercial shipping — and it was Jefferson, founder of the Democratic Republican Party, who committed us to our first foreign war against the Barbary States’ pirates http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Barbary_War.

  33. Opa – No I’m not saying Jefferson was a pacifist, nor am I saying I’m a pacifist. I know that he sent naval forces to surpress pirates in the Med. Jefferson was a true patriot and believed in the republic. And, he would act when it was necessary. But, he didn’t believe in war for war’s sake if he could negiotiate.

    Jefferson wasn’t like Hamilton who I attribute to start of the excessive greed that’s killing our economy today. Jefferson wore his pants as many Americans do today, i.e. His slave Sally Hemmings, is a historical failure, but he can be forgiven because nothing in history shows Jefferson mistreated Sally Hemmings. And, I believe she may have went to his bed willingly because she cared for Jefferson. He was a lonely person after his wife Martha died. But, he didn’t try to screw all the women in the French court as good old Ben Franklin did. History indicates Jefferson freed Hemmings and other slaves when he died, which is more then George Washington did when he died. But, don’t start me on George. I read some sticky things about him when right wingers were beating up Clinton. There were damn few generals in the Contenental army; and most of note were only colonels. Some right wingers like to build Hamilton up by claim that he was a Major General, with idication hat he held this rank when Aide de Camp to Washington. I cite the Quasi War with France in 1798 when Hmilton was a general. I don’t know much about the Quazi War but undestood it basiocally involved naval engagements with France because France was impressing American seamen. England was also using press gangs, which continued and finally lead to the War of 1812. I know Hamilton was commissioned Major general by John Adams during the Quazi War, and was calling for seasure of Spanish territory because Spain was France’s ally. If Hamilton was successful in his intended land grab, we might’ve fought the War of 1812 with France & Spain instead of England. My verse was just pointing out that Korea was fought alongside an alliance of willing nations to stop agression. Our soldiers but there was a moral reason. Vietnam was diffeent. We fought, but we were the agressors. We were there to take. As NORAD Chemical, Biological & Radiuological Defense Technician I stood in NORAD’s Command Post in Colorado Springs and listened to a CIA briefing to General Thatcher, Commander of NORAD. I know you served in Vietnam, but many people who served in that tragic place, didn’t know why they were there. My son-in-law was an Army transportion officer in I-Corps. He thought we were in Vietnam to keep Commies from taking over the world. Bull crap & propaganda. I remember the NORAD briefing so many years ago. Did you know, the off shore Tonkin Oil Reserves were estimated to exceed Saudi Arabia’s & the hills of North Vietnam are rich in tungstin ore. I think it’s the stuff that makes steel harder, and is used in aircraft and hi-tech industry. Regarding today’s wars in Afghanstan, Iraq, Pakstan, Yemen, & Somalia. It’s all about oil, and our kids will die to allow greedy a-holes to get it.

    Jokoe

  34. Joseph, despite your praise for the virtues of our third president, the person you believe he was, and your denigration of Washington, Adams, Franklin and especially Hamilton, I still don’t know what a Jeffersonian Libertarian actually believes. Your musings have only started to fill-in the picture for me; I think I’m beginning to understand. But let’s cut to the quick here. You say that you are a Liberal, but do you mean this in the classical sense or in some more radical way? Do you believe that more government in our lives is necessarily bad… that taxes, especially progressive income taxes, are necessarily bad… that centralization of the nation’s monetary system is necessarily bad… that all politicians since Jefferson’s time are inherently corrupt… that property rights are or should be inviolate… and that the whole country has basically gone to hell in a hand basket since Nixon ended all pretence of the gold standard?

  35. Hi Opa
    You originally asked me about Jeffersonian Liberalism. I tried to explain with my poor verse. Then in later comments I believe you came to wrong conclusions about what I was saying.I apologize, and will start over.

    After reading all your blogs, I was extremely pleased with what you said, and what you’ve done. Please don’t take me wrong and think I’m labeling you, but your comments in your blogs lead me to believe you are also a Jeffersonian Liberal. I shall endeavor to explain why I’ve come to this conclusion in later blog response. You may agree, or disagree, that is your option. But, right now, the best way for me to explain what Jeffersonian Liberalism is, and what type of liberal I am, and then give explanation of what a Jeffersonian Liberal is not.

    1) In essence, a Jeffersonian Liberal is a “Classical Liberal” but such view can only be defined as a 19th Century Liberal. Liberalism today, as Libertarian John C. Goodman tries to sell is a corrupt and twisted version of 19th Century Liberalism.
    Classical Liberalism has been transitioned into a radical form of civil libertarianism. John Goodman touts 20th Century Liberalism and tries to fool people into believing his brand of liberalism is what Jefferson believed in. It is not. Jeffersonian Liberals may be classified as Clasic Liberals, but are absolutely not 20th Century Classical Liberals as Goodman wishes you to believe.

    *As stated, Jeffersonian Liberals are “absolutely not” Classical Liberals, as John Goodman calls 20th Century Liberals are Libertarians. 20th Century Liberals are Libertarians first, last, and always. Their Libertarian philosophy is the same as the philosophy of right wing economic conservatism. These Libertarians do not provide the same liberal ideas that Jefferson held, or would believe today. People calling themselves 20th Century Liberals are no more than Libertarians who follow Republican conservative economics, and selfish social beliefs. This form of liberalism is not Jeffersonian Liberalism.

    *To provide clear explanation of how so called 20th Century Liberals calling themselves Libertarians operate today, one must view the political continuum. These false liberal Libertarian usually present them-selves as candidates of the Libertarian party, or candidates of the Republican party to avoid being identified as being Libertarians. Often these false liberal Libertarians try to run as Democrat candidates,and if any Democrat politician indicates conservative views or beliefs, the Libertarians label the politician as being a “Democratic Libertarian” with intent to convince voters that Libertarianism is a proper philosophy to follow. An example of this approach is Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. Senator Webb is a fiscal conserative, but hes not a Democrat Libertarian as Libertainins tout. Frequently false liberal Libertarians run for a political office as an Independent to hide fact that they are in reality Libertarians, or because the Libertarian party can’t get enough signatures to place the candidate on an election ballot. And most candidates in the Reform Party are Libertarians, as are Progressive party candidates. Libertarian Ross Perot ran as a Reform Party canditate for president. Sometimes these false liberal Libertarians run as candidates of different parties, or as Independents to split the election vote causing another party’s candidates, to win or lose elected offices. A new Libertarian political movement, has recently emerged in the past year to confuse voters. This movement is called the “Tea Party” movement. This “Tea Party” movement intends to unify the independent voters against any Democrat candidate elected to U.S. Congress, Senate, or the presidency. Leaders at Tea Party rallies are right wing Libertarians, who are very radical, and use propaganda and lies to incite the crowd’s frenzy against government and any politician not acceptable to Libertarian ideas. The Tea Party movement caters to, and solicits approval from all types of right wing nut balls and freak-os, i.e. bigots; racists; homophobic radicals; NAZIs; facists; Klu Klux Klan members; gun nuts, anarchists, religious anti abortionists, and other strange religious groups; and other weirdo like the birth’ers. The Libertarian Tea Party movement, and their rallies are reminiscent of the 1930′s hate rallies lead by NAZI Brown Shirts to incite German hatred against Jews. This form of liberalism is not Jeffersonian Liberalism and individuals who use such foul tactics are not Jeffersonian Liberals. Individuals who engage in these right wing political campaigns and rallies are not Jeffersonian Liberals.

    *Libertarians are right wing radicals who tout Milton Freidman, Robert LeFreve, and other right wing philosophers. Many Libertarians today are so radical they sponsor anarchy; total elimination of all forms of government; eliminating the UN; and other weird ideas like eliminating taxes, but these radicals also seem to be quick in taking advantage of tax supported programs. They want U.S. to return to the gold standard, and condemn use of paper money. They constantly speak of eliminating public education; foster teaching of biblical views of existence instead of scientific; and they wish to change education to spread home schooling; rid the country of unions; eliminate affirmative action; and support carrying of guns in public. This radical right wing thinking also extends to shooting others who step on their property; and support spread of the death penalty to all states. They cloak their personas in patriotism, wave the flag, speak of veteran needs, and strive for war. The most radical of these nuts believe they have a god given right to execute all doctors who carry out legal abortions, and they are against all social programs to help the poor and needy. These right wingers are not Jeffersonian Liberals.

    No Opa, as a Jeffersonian Liberal, I might be considered by some as a Clasical Liberal, but only as a 19th Century Classical Liberal. I’m absolutely not a 20th Century Liberal reject any form of Libertarian.

  36. Ah… I finally see the problem I’ve been having, Joseph. Aricles online about Jeffersonian political philosphy liberally use the term “libertarian,” which as you point out has come to mean something quite different today, at least for most of us. After reading the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffersonian_political_philosophy, I’ve gained a better understanding of where I think you’re coming from. However, Jefferson was a man of his times, my friend. The world and our nation has moved on, so we need to move on too. We cannot go back to the agrarian society that we once were.

    I read in the cited article that Jefferson believed that unlimited expansion of commerce and industry would lead to the growth of a class of wage laborers that relied on others for income and sustenance making the American people vulnerable to political subjugation and economic manipulation. It seems as though his prediction has come to pass.

  37. Hi Opa
    I/m sorry you think I was spreading calumny to defame historical beliefs about George Washington. If there is any denigration, it involves those who recorded history. I simply provided information to explain my views as a Jeffersonian Liberal, and say, “Let the chips fall, as they may.”

    Jokoe

  38. I am intrigued by the division in the us. Until we learn to work together as a team we will continue to fail on a global scale. History lessons can only take you back. Go forward and unite.

  39. the political arena reminds me of preschoolers fighting over the who gets the ball first.

  40. Couldn’t agree more, Kevin.

  41. Opa, I do wonder at your stand today on the matter as opposed to your stand from 2008 (read comments higher up)?

    I would also like to point out that you seem to have deviated from the route you started out on in your “article”, should we call it blog post. You claim to put a non-partisan spin on the post, however it seems to me that that didn’t quite hold water. If you are still a SS teacher, I assume you stick to the un-biased, non-partisan approach in the classroom? I ask this as I am very concerned with the schooling our children receive today.

  42. I certainly have tried to teach my students both sides of economic and political theory, allowing them to express and adopt their own opinions. However, I have increasingly felt the need to counter the conservative bias imposed on them by other social studies teachers, teachers who seem to represent the majority persuasion here in north-central Texas. Accordingly, I’ve decided to hang it up at the end of this school year. No doubt, you will think, “Good riddance!”

  43. Thanks for the post, I am currently writing a response paper to the recent Texas Textbook controversy and I was really confused as to what conservative was. I thought that conservatives were a completely different party than democrats and republicans, but now I I know that it is just how they tend to think and act. Thanks this really helped me.

  44. I love the last line in this paragraph. How is that working out for you Opa?

    “My guess… nay, my great hope is that Democrats of all huges, liberals, moderates and “fiscal” conservatives like myself, together with most Independents and even some Republicans, will unite this election year to bring needed change to Washington’s, business-as-usual, my-turn-move-over approach to doing the people’s business. This time around, we need someone in the White House who will be honest with us and who will be President for all Americans.”

  45. Obviously, no one can please everyone all of the time. Perhaps in the trying, Obama has made the greatest miscalculation of his presidency.

  46. Looking for a simple answer I found your blog and probably learned more here than in an entire year of 8th grade Social Studies in 1962. I can’t blame the teacher, more probable that it was the student’s fault. I must admit that a few responses took me off the deep end; but you managed to bring it all back. I know where I stand on issues and I am all over the map… still not knowing what I am by name. You’ve helped me think and I thank you. I wish you great success in your soon to come retirement. You will be missed in the classroom.

  47. Welcome to the great majority of Americans, David. Not being able to identify with a particular party is, in my opinion, the reason why so many don’t even bother to vote. Those who do vote and are intellectually engaged to weigh the pros and cons of the various issues and take the time to research where the various candidates stand on each call themselves Independents. Personally, I’d like to see a third viable party in American politics, one whose platform is unity, i.e., working together to find common sense solutions.

  48. It is not hard to see that the author of this work is obviously leaning to the left. It started out fair and balance then started to lean left (especially when you said that the democratic party draws from small farmers–that is completely wrong). You made it seem like all of the intellectually inclined people flock to the democratic party which is simply not true.
    When you have one group opposed to change, and one group hell bent on changing everything there can not be ANY compromise without the conservatives giving up something. There is no middle ground for these two parties on the hot issues, there is just the democratic party changing this country for the worse 1 baby step at a time, or should I say, one supreme court justice at a time.

  49. You may be right, David. Afterall, I am a Democrat, and a social liberal to boot. It’s difficult to put aside all bias when we write. But I intended this article to be fair and free of bias, and I still believe that it is. Many others have confirmed that it is. Afterall, I wrote it in an historical perspective employing “generally” accepted historical facts as published in current U.S. History and Political Science textbooks. Of course, some social conservatives today are claiming that history was written by the better-educated who tended to be more liberal. So, you can’t have it both ways. Liberals, by and large, either are or were better educated or they are/were not.

    When the Democratic party became an entity distinct from republicanism during the Jeffersonian Era, it did draw it’s support primarily from small farmers. Of course, there aren’t many small farmers today. So things have changed quite a bit.

    Yes, David, most Democrats do want to see things changed. When reality changes, government needs to change. And reality has indeed changed since the end of WWII and the Cold War Era. We need to change to maintain our competitiveness in the world. We need to change to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We need to change to ensure our national security and a healthy population. And we need to change to restore a strong middle class and the American Dream of a better life for our kids.

  50. Thank you for putting in writing with historical reference and anecdotal examples that which I thought but could never persuade myself conclusively.

    I find it much the same amongst Canadian political parties and,must say, that I am actually over-joyed by the proliferation of parties running to govern my nation as it makes what you are saying so much more apparent ;o)

    Thank you so much for your post – keep up all you undertakings as they will no doubt affect others in a similarly, beneficial fashion during this age of disenlightenment.

  51. You are most welcome, Cassandra. I thank you for your praise and encouragement.

    With so many in my country jumping on the bandwagon which is rolling backward down the hill of progress, it certainly is an “Age of Disenlightenment.” Pray that we survive it.

  52. My 17 yr old gson asked me what is the difference between the Democrats/Republicans/Independents/Libertarians/Tea Party.
    He is in 10 grade and beginning classes in Civics/Social Studies. I am not knowledgeable enough to explain in depth re the parties.
    Your webpage is the best I have found (days of searching) that I feel will help him. But I don’t want him to sit at computer/webpage as “we” all get tired of reading on the web.
    Question is: do you have this published in book form? If not, do you know of a book that comes close to your definition of the party differences? He says he is not interested right now on the history of the parties, just explanation of differences. I thought of printing out your works but he wants a book. I suspect so he can share it with the other guys in his group that are asking the same questions. I just so overjoyed that he is paying attention with what is going in our day to day turmoil. I am able to answer some of his simple questions about the party of no, hell no, Nancy Pelosi, back door lawmaking, lobbying, etc. But my knowledge is superficial and don’t want to lead him into any direction. I want him to choose his own party, if any…
    Could you please recommend a book that I could get for him along your lines? Even if it is more than one volume, is ok. His parents are typical Georgia Republicans and I am red hot democrat. So, neither of us want to lead him to any party. He must choose on his own after reading about the diff parties.

    thank you very much for your time,

    SFP from WV, not GA…..

  53. Thank you for your kind words.

    I’m not entirely sure that political “persuasion” is as much about education and choice as it is about God-given tendencies and acculturation. Most young people end up subscribing to the same political parties as their parents, or so I’ve been given to understand. On this subject you might also read my posting, “Liberal Thinking vs. Conservative Thinking” at https://kgarry.wordpress.com/2008/06/02/liberal-thinking-vs-conservative-thinking-this-election-year/.

    As for a readable, unbiased book on politics, I’m not sure there is one. I’ve not read it, but for the price you could hardly go too far wrong with either or both of these. Check out http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0942617541/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_2?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=0764508873&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0MBQG66T5GXZ6F9ETPQ0 “Are you Liberal? Conservative? Or Confused?” Another possibility is http://www.amazon.com/Politics-Dummies-Ann-DeLaney/dp/0764508873#_ “Politics for Dummies.” These can be ordered on-line.

  54. It boils down to this: There has always been conservatives and liberals. It has just been the names of the parties that represent each of these major views that have changed. Yes the Republicans freed the slaves, but they were representing liberal ideology back then. It wasn’t until Hoover’s and Roosevelt’s positions on the economy seemed to contradict the traditional views of their parties that the platforms slowly changed. Simply put, if Lincoln were alive today, he would be a Democrat.

  55. One thing I would mention is that while there have always been groups in the US which were basically liberal or basically conservative, that in many societies, those twin points of view are not the only ones available. Single member district plurality tends towards 2 parties. To gain over 50% of the voters, they’re actual actions tends to be almost identical, with the difference primarily rhetorical. As far as rhetoric, I would say the biggest difference the two is how they view human failure. Conservatives tend to see it as the result of individual character failure, where liberals tend to view it as the result of environmental failure. Conservatives often focus on “freedom to” (personal freedom) and punishment for wrong doing (removal of personal freedom), whereas liberals tend to focus on “freedom from”…or changing the person by changing the environment.

  56. this probably one of the smartest, more intelligent websites i’ve seen in years. thanks for knowledge and unbiased intellect.

  57. Wow! Praise like yours will inspire me to keep writing. But, of course you know, it isn’t everyone who agrees with me.

  58. Wow cool blog 2 questions
    In recent history, let’s say 30 years what was the major cause for some conservatives to be democrats and some republicans why didn’t conservative ideology unite under one party? That is the question that brought me to this page.

  59. Thank you for question, Jamie. It is a good one, one for which I have no definitive answer. But Americans, according to a recent Gallup poll, have been moving to the right, i.e., becoming more conservative in their political views. But the Republican Party does not have an exclusive claim to conservative thinking. There are Libertarians, conservative Independents and Blue-dog Democrats. See what Gallup has to say about this yourself at http://www.gallup.com/poll/121403/special-report-ideologically-moving.aspx.

    The reasons for this, I believe, are complicated, there being multiple aspects to political persuasions. There are social aspects and fiscal aspects. Thus, a person who has identified with one party or another for many years may be loath to switch party affiliation altogether just because events and political pundants’ interpretations and arguments soften or harden the person’s position on something like abortion or immigration or civil disobedience. I suspect that much of the recent shift to the right has had to do with passionate beliefs about the economy. People in this country tend to feather their own nests to the exclusion of all others since we have a long history of self determination and individualism, this notwithstanding the claim by many that we are a Christian nation. Americans don’t like others, i.e., the government, to deciding how their money should be spent. They hate taxes. And since disposable incomes among the middle class have been shrinking over the past several years, never mind why, they see taxes taking a bigger and bigger bite. However, as the Republican Party has become increasingly conservative/less moderate, more ridged ideologically, and more prone to employ angry, demeaning rhetoric, many who might otherwise have identified with the G.O.P., are now calling themselves independent. This is especially true among younger, better educated voters.

  60. Excellent website, fair evaluation of the parties.

  61. When the term “Liberal” began to be applied to Democrats by Conservative Republicans it angered Democrats and they did not like the expression. This begs the question, “if to be a “liberal” represents so many fine things such as “to be liberating” or “to free” why then would it upset them to be labeled as such?
    It is because that was a time when the word “Gay” was a common name for a woman or an expression of light heartedness and had nothing to do with sexuality, the word Oral was a common name for a man, and the word “dope” was a common expression in reference to information.

    The definition of the word may well be “liberation or free”, but that was hardly the intention of the original application of the expression in political terms.

    To understand the original meaning intended to convey of the term “liberal politics” one need not look any farther than the back of a sunscreen or lotion bottle. To apply lotion “sparingly” or “liberaly” is easily understood and still widley acccepted expressions. To be a liberal in political terms means to freely use the powers of government, the polar opposite of conservative use of government. And wether one agrees or disagrees with the origins of this explanation, it is absoloutly true in reguards to being applicable, even today.

  62. I welcome all opinions, Byren, even those I think are ill-considered. Yours on this subject sounds to me like something a conservative talk show host like Rush Limbaugh would make up.

    Yes, one of the definitions of the word, liberal, is to give in a generous and open-handed way. But isn’t this a character trait that Christianity and most other religions extol? For a complete and accurate etymology of the term, as it applies to political philosophy, see http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=liberal.

    By the way, I have never personally known a true liberal to be offended by the moniker. It’s only the political right which has attempted to use the term, liberal, as a pejorative. Ever wonder why liberals don’t try to turn the word, conservative, into an insult? Perhaps it has something to do with character.

  63. Unfortunately, too many individual ideas get grouped together under the label of “Liberal” or “Conservative”. As a rule, if you think in terms of “tree huggers”, you think liberal, but I’m a republican “tree hugger”. It is a shame that our system pretty much forces us to choose a party based on which one agrees with most of our philosophy. The system used to be the best in the world, but I think we’ve become too polarized.

  64. I have thoroughly enjoyed your post. I woke up this morning in a curious mood, decided to educate myself and found your blog to answer many of my questions. The comments I read afterwards were a bonus, very entertaining. I hope retirement is treating you well. Thank you for an informative read!

  65. I would appreciate some help please, thus I still find it hard to wrap my arms around all this terminologies. I try to pose my questions in the simplest and organized manner possible.

    I am more interested in the application of these terms in our time and in futuristic terms.

    For instance on Wikipedia I found the following: “There is agreement amongst several intellectuals and organizations such as Freedom House that the states of the European Union, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States, India, Canada, Israel,Mexico, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand are liberal democracies, with Canada having the largest land area and India currently having the largest population among the democracies in the world.

    Freedom House considers many of the officially democratic governments in Africa and the former Soviet Union to be undemocratic in practice, usually because the sitting government has a strong influence over election outcomes. Many of these countries are in a state of considerable flux.”

    Question: Is the United States of America a Liberal Democracy? Especially in 2012 as I write this…

    Question: If so, applying it to 2012 and beyond, when we say “Liberal Democrat” and/or “Liberal Democracy“, does the combination of the words Liberal+Democracy gives it a different definition in (social/political/economical) terms and meaning or we are defining Liberal separately and Democracy desperately and combining them together to make Liberal Democracy?

    Question: In simple terms what does Liberal mean in 2012 and beyond?

    Question: Does the term Liberal, Liberal Democrat varies from country to country or is it the same in all countries. For instance when Jacques Chirac of France says Liberalism is the new Communism.

    Question: how does that statement go hand in hand with the list of countries that are considered Liberal Democratic Nations? Are we a nation that is Democratic but with Liberal (left socialist) ideas?

    Question: If the United States is a Liberal Democracy then why the American Conservatives often refer to the Democratic Party Members as Liberals synonymously used to describe them as Leftists, Socialists and even Communists, in terms of their ideology and so on?

    Question: can we call the republican and Democratic party both as Liberal Democrats? If so what makes them different to the point that one calls the other leftist and even communist?

    One thing is certain the Democratic party in USA does seem to portray a more leftist view in fact during the Obama Presidential campaign at one of the Democratic party headquarters (I believe it was in Houston, TX) they had the picture of Ernesto Guevara (El Che) on the wall. That tells me the Democratic party must have made some extreme left or Communists feel comfortable enough to actually place a picture of El Che on the wall during Obama Presidential bid for the White House.

    Which brings me back to the question that when Conservatives refer to Democratic party members as “Liberals” or “Communists”, does this mean the word “Liberal” by itself is so vague or great in meaning that it could actually mean different thing to different people?

    Question: And finally is Liberal Democrat same as Social Democrat?

    I know I have asked lots of questions but would appreciate if someone could even partially clarify these for me a bit. So I can understand what exactly Liberal, Liberal Democrat, Social Democrat means in 2012 and beyond.

    Personally, I tend to agree with Jacque Chirac when he says Liberalism is the new Communism. And I think the communists/socialists/leftists have picked the term Liberal Democrat to hide the fact that they are really of the leftist view socially and politically. Am I wrong?

    One more question: in 2012, If I am to create a new government (not in USA, but anywhere in the world in general terms) based on Liberal Democratic values, am I really creating a Leftist government or a Right wing government?

    One last question: Can one be a Liberal Democrat and a Nationalist at the same time (again not talking about USA or in USA, but rather in general terms anywhere in the world)?

    I know some of you might be laughing at my questions. But, think as if you are teaching a student, who wants to understand what exactly this monster called “Liberal” means in 2012, global wise beyond the borders of USA. Just think as if a Dictatorial somewhere in the world is overthrown, and the people of that Nation are in process of creating a Democratic government, yet some insist on going by the examples of “Liberal Democratic” type of governments and Nations that exist around the world. And you are worried that when they say “Liberal Democratic” they actually have communism in the back of their mind.

    I will be checking this web site regularly to see if anyone had time to answer my questions. Let me thank you ahead of time for taking the time to help me out on this matter, which is driving me up the wall.

  66. In today’s world, the word “democratic” means different things to different people. Even autocratic states claim to be democratic. For example, The People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. For some, the word is used as a pejorative. But, as the Wikipedia site you reference explains, a liberal democracy, AKA “constitutional” democracy, is merely one that is enlightened enough to allow all citizens of majority age to participate. Personally, I would not call the United States of America, or many governments for that matter, liberal as nearly all are representative democracies and employ registration requirements that can disenfranchise the poor and elderly. Clearly,democracy is obviated when the popular vote is set aside and a committee such as the Electoral College or the the House of Representatves chooses the winner of elections.

    I think this answers all of your questions, from my perspective, save for one: the degree to which a truly “liberal” democracy would also be a social democracy. Again, different people will have different answers/opinions. But I think, yes, a truly liberal democracy (in the sense of being enlightened) would employ a degree of socialism. Even our form of democracy does. We have “public” libraries, “public” schools, “public” police and fire departments, all paid for with public funds for the common good. If we had universal health care as many European states do, we might then consider ourselves to be a more liberal/”enlightened” democracy. It’s all a matter of interpretation and degrees of inclusiveness. But there is nothing in our Constitution that precludes governments, whether federal, state or local, from providing public services and regulating commerce. Indeed, the preamble clearly establishes a role for government in the economy. It remains, however, for politicians and academics to argue over how extensive this role should be.

  67. Thank you Opa, that really helped me out. Sometimes, when we sit down and discuss terms like “liberal” and get deep into comparing for instance what “Alexis de Tocqueville” called soft and hard tyranny of modern liberalism, then we go back and compare where John Rawls stood on the matter vs. John Locke, things start getting crazy. But, in general i do tend to agree with your observation.

    I just needed a balanced and fair view just to confirm that I am not completely losing my mind.

    In any case if I have to add anything to Democracy, I will probably pick Secular Democracy over Liberal Democracy.

    Once again, thank you for your time and for your effort to clarify few matters for me.

  68. Well, I think the whole labeling thing is ridiculous. I have a mix of the two views, but I lean more towards the “republican” side, but only in the sense that I don’t think everyone is entitled to all the same stuff. You must pull your weight in the world unless you are absolutely unable to. I have a definite soft spot for people who, because of mental issues or physical issues, are unable to do this, but otherwise, people who are just lazy or make bad decisions do not deserve free rides and should be shunned. If they want another chance to get back in, prove it and do something, anything, positive.

    In life you must have bad in order for there to be a good. Everyone will experience negative things, but those negative things allow you to appreciate the positive things. You must have poor to have rich. You must have sickness to have health. You must have death in order to have life. Without any one of those, life would be a guaranteed, know what to expect, overcrowded, bland meaningless experience. If everything tasted like sweet candy, would it really be a delicious treat, or just another one of the same repetitive things you eat? If no one ever died, would you really appreciate them? Would you feel that their time on earth is limited and care to enjoy what time you do have with them, or would you just think, ahhh there’s always tomorrow, they’ll always be there?

    Pride is a good feeling and it comes from doing the right thing in life ie; working hard, helping others, loving someone, sharing knowledge. Trying to make everyone happy little robots with all the same qualities, possessions and benefits is communism. If everyone were to get all the same things in life regardless, the lazy man will not work but will still get paid and the hard worker will take note of this and eventually lose faith and follow suit. Now you have both of them doing nothing, producing nothing and yet taking the draw from somewhere. Before you know it the country is in debt and everyone is broke and miserable. We are just about there right now! We can continue to allow illegal immigrants to break the law and enter our country illegally, steal jobs and decrease the value of those jobs and turn a blind eye to the fact and give them amnesty. We can also just keep printing worthless money and spread it around, all the while giving up ownership of our country to foreigners. We can keep promising healthcare for all so that way we can all be healthy enough to enjoy a broken, lazy, in debt over populated and over polluted country and world.

    That’s how I would explain it to the kids. Picking sides is stupid. There should be no sides. The future needs to be free thinkers that are not bound to “the way it has always been” rules. Democrat? Republican? No thanks. Free thinker here. If it were a government by the people there would be a massive vote on every single thing that takes place and the general consensus would win the vote. Currently it’s power by the people, to vote in the people that make the decisions for you. That’s our current system and that has always been our system, but it shouldn’t be. I can understand having a representative or speaker, but to have three branches of government that make the decisions FOR US as well as making way too much money and playing way too many games at our expense. Bahhh! I’ll be voting Ron Paul this year as most of his views are a bit closer to mine than the rest, but as usual, he’s just the best of the worst to pick from and then having to deal with it for four years.

    Moral of the story… Sit around all day and think of ever more confusing vocabularies to describe what has always been a problem and you are only making the problem worse. By doing this you make making a choice even more and more confusing for the future generations.

    Freedom Fighter, seriously?
    Question: So a democratic liberal left wing socialist is ___…..
    Question: A Democracy that consists of a Democratic conservative right wing Communist Libertarian is ___….

    I’m not quoting you, but that’s what it sounds like to me. Your whole post was sort of answered with a single paragraph because it was so confusing. A good metaphor would be that the political vocabulary is just like the “buzz words” in computer advertising while the real views of a certain politician are equivalent to the actual “computer specs”. Just read about the person’s views, from which you have to choose from, and decide based on that. Don’t bother understanding all the vocabulary in order to simply pick a party and vote based on this. They join parties, but still maintain their own ideals on things. Just pick the person with the ideals you can “accept”.

  69. I have a son who, despite his strong political views, also resists and resents labeling. Notwithstanding, he too is a libertarian.

    Despite the fact that the American people have a variety of beliefs and persuasions on social, economic and security issues, we remain a country with a two-party political system. In practice, the political spectrum is not multi-dimensional, it’s bi-polar with individuals finding themselves somewhere along a continuum from left to right. Independent politcians and members of other minority parties do not typically fare well. When they do get elected, they end up casting most of their votes with one voting block or the other. So no one is truly independent who participates in our democracy.

    Stupid? Perhaps. But that’s just the way it is

  70. Point taken and you are correct, hence the reason I will continue to choose the best of the worst and hope for a day where independent runners will actually have a chance to win. Without millions of dollars for their campaigns and without lobbying and giving companies the right to chop down whole forests, remove whole mountain tops, or pollute entire waterways for the money. I guess I’ll go with the ole adage though, and “#2 in one hand and hope in the other and see which one fills up faster”.

  71. It’s unfortunate this “bipolar” choice in political affiliation forces (or shall I say squeezes) us into accepting one party or the other. I would want nothing more than to stay independent up until the final election comes to a vote. The whole “bamboozlement” of this system starts right at the primary elections where your choice in affiliation may or may not be required to vote (ie open/closed/semi primaries).

  72. Yes, there is much about our system that doesn’t satisfy everyone. But the two-party reality does simplify the process. Some goverments really struggle to establish majorities and continuity. U.S. states have the latitude to tailor election rules, especially with respect to primaries/caucuses. Goes way back to years under the Articles of Confederation prior to the Constitution when states were much more independent.

  73. Noah Chomsky: ” As you know, popular anger at the political and economic institutions, and the subordination of the former to the latter, has reached historic heights. And for sound reasons. There could hardly be a better time to open up political debate to the just anger and frustrations of citizens who are watching the country move towards what might be irreversible decline while a tiny sector of concentrated wealth and power implements policies of benefit to them and opposed by the general population, whom they are casting adrift.”

  74. In 2003, I wrote a brochure, titled, “The Vote!” In it, I described and juxtaposed the contemporary Democratic and Republican parties, explaining what each believes in and what each stands for. I didn’t fabricate it’s contents (make it up); but contrived it by watching, listening and observing members of both parties. See a copy of it in my Notes on my Face Book page at: Leonard Pettway@facebook.com

  75. Very well done sir! I believe youve’ explained a confusing subject without adding confusion to it. Ill bookmark this for future reference! Greatvjob! Thank you.

  76. I am so thankful to have found your concise explanation on the history of the two political parties. The opening statement about politics in general being a “place” for people to gain power, etc, was an interesting reminder. What I find troubling is the media and its lack of neutrality in reporting the news. Also, I find it paradoxical that republican news programs throw sticks at one rich person who holds opinions against capitalism, but then support rich people who leave the country because they can “save tax money”. One argument they bring up is that xxxx rich person has now denounced citizenship to USA, saving 10′s of millions of tax dollars. “Look at the jobs that person may have created here”, they say. Then, later in the story it turns out that the person did not and would not have created so many jobs. Yet, there is lots of wickedness surrounding George Soros, for example, who is also rich and seems to contribute fairly well to all kinds of things. Where is the truth? How can one begin to sort out the opinions and agendas to get to the meat of the matter on how we average people are affected?

  77. For peoples of the world, like Australians, how do we relate to the above with our main political partie; i.e.Labor v. Liberal. Which one in Australian terms would be regarded as Liberal, for example, given that our polictical party’s names don’t necessarily relate to that of the USA ?
    Do we gather hope or dispair after your next election ?

  78. Do we gather hope or dispare? That would depend on your political persuasion and how the election turns out.

  79. Thank you for this! I was supposed to write an essay for my english class on political views, but I couldn’t find a good definition on the internet. I feel I understand a bit more now. Thanks! ^^

  80. Reblogged this on Life with a cup of tea.

  81. The Republican and Democratic Parties have NOT “changed values” as some have said here. Republicans have always been for individual rights and smaller government. Republicans have always supported black people and their individual and economic freedom. Democrats often voted unanimously against civil rights for blacks up through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Republicans passed Constitutional Amendments 13, 14, 15, and laws against poll taxes. There were black Republican Congressmen 130 years ago. Republicans brought about women’s right to vote, and also founded the NAACP. Democrats,on the other hand, created Jim Crow laws, enforced segregation, and terrorized and murdered blacks via the KKK, the terrorist arm of the Democrat Party. Republicans – not Democrats – passed many versions of civil right legislation for almost 100 years culminating in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Significantly higher percentages of Republicans than Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act. A Republican president – Eisenhower – brought in National Guards so that black children could go to school. The reason blacks left the Republican Party was due to the social programs created by racist LBJ, and racist JFK before him, that broke apart black families, and kept them dependent on the government. Democrats have always been for keeping people enslaved in some way: owning people like property for 100 years, deprived of their rights for the next 100 years, and depriving able-bodied people of their individual freedom for the last 50 years, by encouraging them to become dependent on the government, and for government taking a larger and larger role in the life of the average American. And Democrats, while believing themselves to be the “tolerant” party, are actually the most racist, sexist, homophobic, religiously and politically intolerant, intolerant of the First Amendment right of free speech – against these groups in the Republican Party. Republicans believe Democrats are wrong in their ideas; Democrats believe Republicans are evil.

    Blacks have increasingly been coming back to the Republican Party for awhile, this year more than ever. Blacks had been almost monolithically tied to the Democrat Party for decades, so it will be awhile before they are a significant portion of the Party.

  82. You are welcome to your opinion, Sally. But that’s all it is. Claiming an alternative version of history doesn’t make it so. Here is the real history: http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/accomplishments-of-liberalism/blog-21954/.

  83. Thank you for putting this online. I am currently studying this due to the fact that the electors have gotten chosen. There is an argument at our school about the way it affects our future and why it is important to know what the previous candidates. Most argue that there is no importance in it nor learning about what they promise but people in the same mind as me agree that it is important to learn about their promises for most of there saying are not up to them but to the government. History CAN repeat itself. The battle still rages on and maybe we can come to an agreement. Some may not change but if you can give me more ideas on how to change the minds of the undecided and clueless, that would change the future so much by making wiser decisions than ” This celerity said to vote for him,” or, “he looks better than him.”

  84. To be honest, Anny, I don’t know anything that works to change the heart and mind of those who are conservative thinkers by nature. They seem impervious to facts and reason.

  85. You mention the shift of party allegiances after the Civil War and Voting Rights Acts but that makes it sound like people switched parties which sometimes happens but more often demographics change. In the 26 major civil rights votes after 1933, a majority of Democrats opposed civil rights legislation in over 80 percent of the votes. By contrast, the Republican majority favored civil rights in over 96 percent of the votes. After the Civil War, northerners invaded the south while during the civil rights movement, blacks headed to industrial states.

  86. What you say is true, Mike. But it is also true that many Southern Democrats became Republicans after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law.

  87. “Liberal vs. Conservative ~ Democrat vs. Republican The
    World According to Opa” ended up being a quite wonderful posting,
    . Continue writing and I’m going to keep following! I appreciate it ,Kaylene

  88. I actually was initially browsing for creative concepts for my personal blog and stumbled upon ur blog, “Liberal vs.
    Conservative ~ Democrat vs. Republican The World According to Opa”,
    will you care in cases where I really make use of a number of ur points?

    With thanks ,Diana

  89. Be my guest, Diana.

  90. Dear Opa,

    Thank you for your non-biased article. I am afraid that I am somewhat biased as most of the others who have posted and most active members of our democracy. What I want to know is why modern day “conservatives” tend to think that governments should spend less durring times of economic difficulties if the private sectors are the ones struggling durring these times? Isn’t this the time for government to spend and stimulate, isn’t the capitalist thing to do to keep the markets alive? Once the Markets recover isn’t that when the government should start saving for the possible hard times ahead? I also don’t understand why fiscally liberal corporations and billionaires that believe in higher taxes on the rich because they want a bigger middle class to buy their products, (such as Costcos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet etc..) are not considered conservatives? I mean isn’t that the more capitalist action, to want a stronger economy? I feel like the democratic party today can be categorized by conservatives and liberals and that the Republican party is outdated. Instead of their being a need for a more centerest party (between Republican and Democrat) like you and some of the other posters say, I think the Democratic party will become our conservative party and that if a new party will rise it will be an even more liberal party. I mean president Obama bailed out the banks, isn’t that the least socialist thing a person can do? Wouldn’t a socialist president nationalize those banks and not spend tax payer money on giving those CEOs golden parachutes? Wouldn’t a more radical liberal legalize Marijuana and Same Sex Marriage, end the embargo against Cuba, give its citizens Universal Healthcare and cut our Military spending in half (which would still leave us well ahead of China as the biggest military spenders in the world http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures)? Basically, I would like to hear a good argument for being fiscally conservative durring a recession and I would like to know your thoughts about the possibility of an even more liberal party rising and the Republican party dismantling. My sincerest respects and thanks for your column.

    Kind Regards,
    Rodrigo

  91. Thank you for your comment, Rodrigo. However, if you are wanting to hear a good argument for fiscal conservatism, you are asking the wrong guy. There is a theoretical basis for tax cuts to stimulate economies during recessions. But most economists agree that these should favor lower income households and the middle class since these people spend a higher percentage of their disposable incomes than do the rich. It is spending that drives economic expansion, not saving. There is no good argument, in my mind, for why wealthy individuals and households should pay less in taxes than lower income individuals and households. The rich are not job creators, most new jobs in the private sector being associated with small business startups. It is the poor and middle class, they who buy most of the economy’s goods and services, that generate the need for jobs, this to satisfy demand.

    As for the future of political parties in the United States, one can only speculate. It does seem to me as though the Republican Party has been high jacked by the Koch brothers, other wealthy individuals, and corporations in an attempt to force favorable business conditions (free enterprise) at the expense of the general public. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, retains a “broader tent” of political philosophies — Social Democrats to Blue Dog Conservatives. I do not see much viability, however, for a third major party owing to the Electoral College, the Constitutional provision that favors/promotes a two-party system.

    Your comment contains one glaring error, Rodrigo, a popular misconception about just who bailed out the too-big-to-fail banks and insurance companies in the wake of the Great Recession which started in 2007. The bail-out, officially known as the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, was the brain child of the Secretary of the Treasury under President Bush, Hank Paulson. Although President Obama voted in favor of this legislation as a junior Senator from Illinois, he did not become President until January 2009. You are correct though in your observation that President Obama has proven himself to be a fiscal moderate, notwithstanding “Obamacare”, rather than the socialist his political opposition tries to characterize him as being.

  92. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message
    home a little bit, but other than that, this is great blog.
    An excellent read. I’ll definitely be back.


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