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Political Name Calling: When Did Conservative and Liberal Become Insults?

Updated on August 15, 2012

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.

Stewart - Colbert 2012
Stewart - Colbert 2012 | Source

Biased Media

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 Georgianna Lowery

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    • Georgie Lowery profile image
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      Georgianna Lowery 4 years ago from Lubbock, TX

      Steven Dison:

      I can't decide if these politicians are more worried about their reelections or satisfying the lobbyist with the deepest pockets. All I know is that the current state of politics in the US is more frightening than just about anything else. If they can't agree or compromise on whether dudes should be allowed to marry each other, why in the hell are they given the task of defining the future of this country?

      ps. Thank you for the comment. :)

    • Steven Dison profile image

      Steven Dison 4 years ago from O'Fallon, Illinois

      Very good hub! Here's my take on why I think Washington D.C is so divided at the moment. On the day of Obama's first inauguration, many influential conservatives (Paul Ryan, John Kyl, Newt Gingrich, etc.) had a meeting at a steakhouse, where they intended to come up with a strategy to fight this President. The strategy they came away with was one of complete obstruction in every way possible. I'd say that's a large reason we are as divided as we are now. Not the only reason, but a large one. The two parties will usually always disagree about something, but it's how they refuse to compromise now that makes it worse. Very informative hub, though!

    • profile image

      CalmDownYDoncha 4 years ago

      What did all these angry, sanctimonious people do with themselves before the internet gave them a place to rant, posture, troll, insult, and generally parrot the same idioms and talking points over and over and over ... I hold a pathetic mental image of them in my mind's eye, sitting in front of their computer all day and late into the night, engaging and antagonizing. Is this their reason for being? Their hobby? Why are they so obviously angry and take their positions so personally? Most of them are men. It this some kind of biological deep wiring to dominate? So often, these sorts of posts remind me of cockfights.

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
      Author

      Georgianna Lowery 5 years ago from Lubbock, TX

      donnaMhicks,

      Politics itself confuses me. And I really don't understand how people can use political ideals and preferences as a reason to hate. I think all of it is stupid, really. They spend so much time bickering among themselves, it's really a wonder they get anything done. They need to remember that, if they're not part of the solution, they're part of the problem!

      Thank you for commenting! :)

    • profile image

      donnaMhicks 5 years ago

      What's so funny is that so many politicians and their cohorts in crime/scams/shams/1% wealth seem to sometimes blame the media, not just for "cashing in," but to suggest the bickering is exagerated by the media. If politicians had it their way, we would be completely in the dark more than we already are about some of the things going on. Last week, one of the local news stations here in Columbus, Ohio (state capital) profiled this mansion-looking house where Republican Gov. Kasich has been holding "secret meetings" with big oil execs & other wealthy supporters as well as some unknowns, away from the Statehouse! Of course (!) the secret meetings were defended and the TV reporters were basically told its none of their business and not allowed past the lobby of the "secret meeting" place. This is the same Gov that tried unsuccessfully to take away union rights, and has made some very unpopular cuts while giving huge breaks to the wealthiest of the wealthy around here. The media lets us know how ridiculous both parties sound bickering like a room full of "terrible two's."

      great hub-voted up!

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
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      Georgianna Lowery 5 years ago from Lubbock, TX

      cherrycrime26,

      I agree, and I'll take it a step further. I believe that nearly all politicians are bought and paid for. I also believe that the few who aren't will never manage to be elected to any major office. I also will not subscribe to any political party, but major elections will almost always come down to the 'least worst' instead of the best candidate for me to choose.

      Thank you again! :)

    • cherrycrime26 profile image

      January Moon 5 years ago from NY, Now Living in Atlanta Ga

      A lot of people are not going to agree with this statement, but, I am an Independent because I believe the republicans and democrats play for the same team, keep all of us blinded and divided so we don't see what there really doing with this country, I'll never join either party. Great hub, voted up :-)

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
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      Georgianna Lowery 5 years ago from Lubbock, TX

      puter_dr, that does not surprise me in the least!

    • puter_dr profile image

      puter_dr 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      I actually think the term bed wetting liberal came from Rush Limbaugh, but I could be mistaken.

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
      Author

      Georgianna Lowery 5 years ago from Lubbock, TX

      Bed-wetting liberal is a new one for me, puter_dr. I'm sorry that your concern for your community has devolved into name calling. I think we may all be going to hell in a hand basket, and I don't even believe in hell!

      Thank you for the comment!

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
      Author

      Georgianna Lowery 5 years ago from Lubbock, TX

      adjkp25,

      I think I noticed it more during George W Bush's administration. It was the first time I really remember people taking cheap shots at a sitting president. But before then, I was young and dumb and didn't care about anything but beer night so I may not have noticed.

      You are right, we all need to agree to disagree.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • puter_dr profile image

      puter_dr 5 years ago from Midwest USA

      I am a lifelong Republican, but with the Tea Party running rampant in my state, my views might be closer to the middle these days. I can't tell you how many times in the local paper I have been referred to as a "bed-wetting liberal" because I would like our legislature to pass things like a budget, and fund schools and roads. Instead of a session where every day there is more discussion on abortion, sharia law and cutting taxes and payments to public schools.

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      I have wondered this same thing for many years. I don't know when it started but I think it really escalated when Karl Rove was influencing the previous administration. His style of with me or against me alienated a bunch of people and, I believe, drove the insulting wedge deep into our political scene.

      Unfortunately people don't know how to agree to disagree anymore without insulting the opposing view.

      Voted up.

    • Georgie Lowery profile image
      Author

      Georgianna Lowery 5 years ago from Lubbock, TX

      Thanks Bob. Your joke made me laugh! :)

    • Bob Zermop profile image

      Bob Zermop 5 years ago from California, USA

      This is a good summary of the (hate-filled) partisanship that's making progress impossible. A friend just told me a joke: "What's the opposite of PROgress? CONgress." :D :D :D

      If only it wasn't so true right now. Good hub, voted interesting.