Americans are not strangers to political division, and while it may seem that we are more politically polarized than ever, the country has historically been through many periods of division. One of the key principles of our republic is that we have the right to disagree, voice our dissent, and enjoy checks and balances built into our constitution. We’ll look at some terms that categorize most people based on their political positions and beliefs.
Let’s begin with a term that fits most Americans: “moderate.” The moderate political coalition is comprised of people who fall somewhere in the center of the political spectrum, and while they may identify with one major party more than the other, they are more objective and less extreme and committed to party politics than those farther to the left or right.
“Liberal” is a term applied (usually by political opponents) to people on the extreme left-wing of American politics, generally associated with the Democratic party, or in some cases, a third-party like the Green party or Socialist party. Liberalism espouses concepts like entitlements such as welfare and social security, marriage equality, reproductive and worker’s rights.
“Conservatives” often proudly self-identify as people affiliated with the Republican or Libertarian parties, who believe in limited government and traditional values. They believe strongly in personal responsibility and self-determination. Core Conservative concepts include the state’s rights, low taxes and regulation, religious freedom, and support for the second amendment and pro-life movement.
Some people consider “liberal” to be synonymous with “democrat” and “conservative” to mean “republican.” This is a somewhat simplified view, but for our purposes, we should look at a few other popular terms that are a bit more nuanced. Many Democrats don’t like to be referred to as liberals, citing that their views are not extreme. They prefer the term “progressive” as it connotes a movement towards a culture more accepting of different lifestyles and personal choices.
While conservatives don’t tend to dislike that label, some like to expand upon it by identifying as originalists. Originalists revere the founding fathers and believe that the constitution should be adhered to strictly. They cite progressive-ism as responsible for many of society’s issues and believe that a return to a more family and religious-valued centered society is critical to the nation’s survival.
There are many other political identities that American’s use to describe themselves or their movements. That said, one of the core American freedoms is our right to hold our beliefs, disagree, and still function as a country.