Political Name Calling: When Did Conservative and Liberal Become Insults?
A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, most Americans refused to discuss three things: politics, religion and money.
These days, politics in the United States is no laughing matter. Bickering between Democrats and Republicans is at an all time high, and bi-partisan in-fighting has stalled or even completely ruined the chances of passing legislation.
Over the last several years, it has become particularly nasty. The internet has given rise to armchair politicians. Message boards and blogs are becoming hotbeds of hate, it's even happening right here on Hub Pages. Some comments, answers and forums are being parted like the Red Sea between conservatives and liberals.
Republicans VS Democrats
In case anyone is reading this Hub that isn't from America, here is a quick rundown of American political allegiances:
- The Republican party, also referred to members of the Grand Old Party (GOP), was officially founded by Northern US abolitionists in 1854. Some of these activist had been Whigs (a party originally founded as opposition to the Democratic party) or Free Soilers (a somewhat successful Third Party). Most conservative Republicans promote fiscal conservatism, big business, smaller government and private spending versus government spending. Generally, most Republicans do not favor social welfare programs, graduated tax rates and labor unions. Most, but not all, Republicans identify as conservative and are often referred to as right-wing. There have been a total of eighteen US Presidents who were Republicans.
- The Democratic party was founded in the 1790's by former members of the Anti-Federalists. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are generally credited as being the founders of the Democratic-Republican party which was split after James Monroe's presidency. Until the American Civil War, the Democratic party was the dominant faction in US politics. Skipping forward several decades, the current Democratic party is focused on opposing unregulated business, and favor big government, social welfare programs and progressive taxation. Most, but not all, Democrats identify as liberal and are often referred to as left-wing. There have been a total of fifteen US Presidents who were Democrats.
- Though there are other political parties in the US, they do not hold as much power as the Republicans and Democrats. The Libertarian party, founded in 1971, favors isolationism, social and civil liberties and free trade and is the fastest growing party in the US. The Green party, founded in 1991, favors grassroots democracy, decentralization, gender equality and global responsibility. The Constitution party, founded in 1992 as the US Taxpayer's Party, is anti-corporate, anti-colonialist and opposes illegal immigration. There are several other political parties in the US, but many do not effectively factor in elections.
- The United States Congress is divided into two houses. As of this writing (May 10, 2012) there are 100 Senate members of which 51 are Democrat, 47 are Republican and 2 are Independent. There are 435 members of the House of Representatives of which 242 are Republican, 190 are Democrat with three seats vacant.
- A 2010 Gallup poll concluded that 31% of Americans identify as Democrats, 29% as Republicans and 38% as Independents. A Pew Research Center poll also conducted in 2010, found Americans split as 47% Democrat and 43% Republican.
Though there is some rivalry to be expected, the current verbal violence that each party spews is reaching epic proportions. No avenue is safe from the insults and name calling. 'Libtards' and 'conservapukes' are just about everywhere. Though political banter used to be reserved for television shows and news publications, hatred is spilling over onto internet forums and message boards. Some people have even taken it upon themselves to troll the internet, leaving politically motivated comments on unrelated internet articles and blog posts.
There is no question that the media is cashing in on this heated, passionate rivalry in a very big way. Some conservative news outlets are FOX News, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post. Some liberal news outlets are The Washington Post, The New York Times, MSNBC and CNN. Though polls regarding political bias in the media usually have wildly varying results, the one thing that almost always comes through loud and clear is that a large percentage of Americans no longer trust most news outlets. A Gallup poll conducted in September of 2011 found that 55% of all Americans no longer trust US mass media to report the news accurately.
There have been breakout stars in the political arena as well. Popular conservative personalities inclue Anne Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, while some of the more popular liberal personalities include Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and Rachel Maddow. Each of these personalities and many like them use their television and media time to thoroughly trash the 'enemy.'
This has gotten so bad that some followers of these personalities parrot everything the celebrity says verbatim and will not listen to any other ideas, opinions or even reasoning. Almost any debate devolves into name calling and insults. During President George W Bush's administration, any criticism directed his way caused many people to be labeled as unpatriotic. Currently, three years into President Barack Obama's term in office, any criticism sent his way is often countered by calls of racism.
Even celebrities have gotten themselves in hot water by trying to dip their toes into political waters. Aging rock star and noted gun activist Ted Nugent recently was investigated by the Secret Service for remarking that if President Barack Obama were reelected in 2012 Nugent would "dead or in jail by this time next year." Nugent's press people waved the comments off as metaphors and not threats, and he was alternately praised as a patriot and branded as a terrorist by conservatives and liberals respectively.
Where Will it End?
Unfortunately, most see the current bi-partisan division as only increasing in the near future. Though there are a large number of people who consider themselves to be moderate, and subscribing totally to neither conservative or liberal views, the dividing line keeps getting smaller and smaller. Many people also feel caught in the middle. With many politicians catering to either the left or the right, the ones in the middle often feel unrepresented.
The whole mess brings to mind the famous post-Los Angels riot speech of Rodney King: "Why can't we all just get along?"
Authors note: Any comments that I receive that I consider to be hateful and/or irrelevant to this Hub will not be approved. I have tried my best to be as unbiased as possible. If you have found a mistake in my Hub, feel free to correct me in a respectful manner and I will make the necessary changes. This Hub is not intended as a place for political debate and I expect you to respect it as such.
© 2012 Georgie Lowery