During this year so filled with fear and uncertainty I have had the opportunity to do some soul searching. An avid listener to A.M. Conservative talk radio, I happened upon an oft used word – “libtard”. My first thought was that the hosts of these shows were describing a liberal who hated retards.
However, upon further investigation I discovered that this term refers to what conservatives see as a low-intelligence person who holds liberal views.
I have for decades thought of myself as a Democrat; and in 2016 after learning about Bernie Sanders and his run for President I thought I might be a Progressive. I have only recently discovered what these words mean. I am beginning to see the difference between a political party or movement, and a deeply held worldview. Although similar, they do share some differences. I think that in American politics many of these words, somewhat erroneously, are used interchangeably. With this short essay I hope to explore these words.
Democrats and Republicans are political parties. Whew! That was easy. The modern-day Democratic Party was founded around 1828 by Andrew Jackson, making it the world’s oldest active party. (1) Historically the Democratic Party has held a belief in Liberalism and social justice. Over the years they have also held Conservative economic views, populism, and have advanced the idea of a welfare state. Today, in my uneducated estimation, the Democratic Party finds itself without an identity.
The Republican Party was founded by anti-slavery activist and modernists in 1854 and is named after republicanism, the dominant value during the American Revolution. (2) I know this will be shocking to some of you given what we understand them to be today. Modern Republicans have adopted American Conservatism as their platform. Conservatism can take many shapes but generally it is characterized by three beliefs – 1. the promotion of traditional social institutions 2. stability and continuity, and 3. an opposition to modernism. (3) A more accurate read on Conservatism in contemporary America is espoused by Corey Robin: “limited government, devotion to the free market, or a wariness of change are not the essence of conservatism” but mere “byproducts” of one essential idea — “that some are fit, and thus ought, to rule others.” (4) As I watch the puppet theater unfolding in D.C. right now, the actions of the Republican Congress make complete sense when viewed through this lens.
Conservatives hold two values to be most important – power and the acquisition of capital.
By comparison, Liberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. Like Conservatives, Liberals hold a wide variety of views, but generally they support 1. freedom of speech, religion, and of the press. 2. civil rights, 3. secular government, 4. gender equality, and 5. international cooperation. (5).
A fairly new word for me, Progressive, describes is a philosophy based on the Idea of Progress, which asserts that advancements in science, technology, economic development, and social organization are vital to the improvement of the human condition (6).
In my previous articles I have tried to articulate why Conservatism is a bankrupt philosophy. With this article I have tried to highlight the differences between three major American political ideologies and along the way I have discovered a more clear understanding of why I reject Conservatism and wear the “libtard” badge with pride.
Daniel Cashman, EAMP, MS(AOM), NCCAOM Dipl. of Acupuncture