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Conservative? Liberal? Moderate? Or Just Don't Care?

Updated on December 27, 2012

What's Your Label?

Do you consider yourself a liberal, conservative, or moderate? Do you know the difference between these political terms? For most of my life, not only did I not know the definition of these words, but I didn't really care to. And I hate to admit this publicly, but for many years I didn't even vote. Why? My excuses were many. I was too busy with everyday life, didn't know anything about politics, and mostly, I was too embarrassed because I had never voted and didn't know how it was done. I would have to show up at the polls in my 30's and ASK someone how to vote- then EVERYONE would know what a political slacker I was. How mortifying!

My husband didn't vote either. His excuse? He didn't believe it would make any difference who was elected because he believed all politicians were crooks and wanted the same thing-power.

I still don't understand everything about politics. But bit by bit I am learning. My husband is learning much faster than I. And we both vote. First we had to determine what we believed. The following is a very short, simple explanation of what it means to be conservative, liberal, or moderate.

Labels, Labels...We All Love Labels

How would you label yourself?

See results

Great Books to Read

My political education began one year at a homeschooling convention when I came across the Uncle Eric Series written by Richard Maybury. I believe these books explain politics, economics, and law in a way that anyone can understand. The books are short, easy reading and written so that middle school to high school age kids can make sense of them. You will also find information in them that you can use to teach important life lessons to your younger children. All in all, the best civics and political science program I have ever read. After reading this inexpensive series, you will have the basic information that you need to choose and vote for political candidates that support what you believe in.

Are You Liberal? Conservative? Or Confused? (An Uncle Eric Book)
Are You Liberal? Conservative? Or Confused? (An Uncle Eric Book)

One of the best books I've ever read on this subject. Told in a simple and fascinating way so that anyone can understand. I loved all of the Uncle Eric books!

 

Liberal

Just What Does That Mean?

Dictionary.com defines the word Liberal in ways that I find confusing. It says that liberals "are favorable to progress or reform, favorable to concepts of maximum individual freedom possible."

Wikipedia states, "The main focus of modern liberalism in the United States includes issues such as voting rights for all adult citizens,equal rights, protection of the environment, and the provision by the government of social services, such as: equal education opportunities, access to health care, transportation infrastructure, basic food for the hungry and basic shelter for the homeless."

Hhmmm. These all sound like good things. And maximum individual freedom? That really sounds good.

But Mr. Maybury, in his book, Are You Liberal? Conservative? or Confused?, has a different definition of Liberalism. He defines a liberalist as "A person on the left side of the left-right political spectrum." He says that Liberals believe in less government control in social issues such as drug use, illegal aliens and homosexual rights, but more government control in economic issues ( how we spend our money), which includes such things as taxes, socialized medicine, education, and gun control.

That doesn't sound like maximum individual freedom to me.

Conservative - Another confusing label

Dictionary.com defines the word conservative as "disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change."

Wikipedia says this about Conservatives: "conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism and seek a return to the way things were."

These definitions both sound on the negative side to me, as if conservatives want to live in the past and are resistant to any change.

Mr. Maybury defines a conservative as " a person on the right side of the left-right political spectrum." He says that Conservatives want no government intrusion in economic issues such as taxes, socialized medicine, education and gun control; but support government control in social issues such as pornography, abortion, homosexual rights, and illegal aliens.

What Do I Believe?

Then and Now

I always believed LIBERAL meant a belief in rapid change from the status quo and high government involvement in every aspect of our lives. And I thought CONSERVATIVES believed in less government intrusion in our lives in all areas and in slower and carefully thought out changes in government when needed. So I considered myself a MODERATE, which I thought meant some point in between the two - change when needed and less government control in all areas.

After reading Mr. Maybury's books, I found that both Conservatives and Liberals both want government control, just in different areas. And that Moderates want government control in all areas, not less. No wonder we are all confused! The word "moderate" sounds like it means the middle ground and I think that's what many people believe when they use that term.

Here's a great example Mr. Maybury gave, of the difference in these two belief systems: During the Vietnam war, the Liberal's objective was peace; the Conservative's objective was victory. Neither one wanted war, they just disagreed on how to get there. A current example would be Obama's Healthcare Reform. All Americans know that we desperately need a better healthcare system; both liberals and conservatives can agree on that point. But the way to solve the problem - that is a different story and one that is causing extreme controversy between liberals and conservatives today.

Have the definitions of these political terms changed over time? I would venture that most people don't really know the true meaning of these political words. We just see the "other side" as bad. Maybe the real issue we need to think about is how much do we want the federal government to intrude in our lives?

Mr. Maybury coined a new label, "juris naturalis" which is the belief that government should be limited in all areas, the exact opposite of moderate. I believe that describes my belief. I think a more well-known term is "Libertarian." I don't like this word because it sounds too much like the term "liberal" and seems to be somewhat associated with bunches of people holed up in the woods building their own arsenal to protect themselves.

The Question Should Be:

Just how much DO we want the Federal government to intrude in our lives?

The Debate Is On! - Is Our Constitution Outdated?

There has been recent debate over the past few years on whether our national constitution is in need of change. Liberals say it is outdated and needs to be changed to reflect the changes in our society over the past 200 + years. Conservatives say it is perfect the way the founding fathers wrote it is and it would be disastrous to make any changes in it. What do you say?

Should we change the United States Constitution ?

The LIBERAL view: Yes, it is outdated and needs to change to reflect current issues in American Society.

The LIBERAL view: Yes, it is outdated and needs to change to reflect current issues in American Society.

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    • bossypants 4 years ago from America's Dairyland

      I'm not as well read on this topic as I should be, but since all things in life change, perhaps we should EXPLORE change in this area as well. It seems to me those who don't wish to change the Constitution still seek to interpret it in a way that supports their views. Isn't that change, too?

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      Some aspects need to be remade in order to translate into the modern era. It was perfect for the time and is still mostly accurate but could use some changes

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      The way I see it, there are multiple meanings associated with the wording of the Constitution, but interpreted meanings give it life. It changes with the addition of amendments to adapt to society, and therefore, is changing all the time. It is a basic format for our country's law, but it changes, no matter what.

    • Echo Phoenix 4 years ago

      I believe the fabric of the US Constitution has already been compromised in legislature that is stripping our citizens of rights we were once guaranteed. We need to restore it to it's original intentions and get back to being truly free and to being a government that is truly Of The People.

    • Vortrek Grafix 5 years ago

      Liberal believe change is healthy and inevitable. If there are elements of the constitution which constrain natural social evolution, then these need to be made more flexible.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      Yes, we need to go with the times. Things are changing in the world, media is booming, money has a different meaning and we must adapt to our environment if we want anything to get better.

    • Edutopia 5 years ago

      You misrepresent the liberal side of this equation. Most conservatives adhere to either originalist (what is the original intent) or textual (only what is exactly written) interpretations of the Constitution while most liberals ascribe to the concept of the Constitution created as a living document to be interpreted in the context of the age at which the interpretation happens.

    The CONSERVATIVE view: No, it is fine the way it is. Changing it in any way would open the door to widespread changes that would destroy our country.

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      • adiehltwin 4 years ago

        No, we should UPHOLD the Constitution. The principles enshrined in there are timeless.

      • TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

        No, it's the best thing ever written besides the holy scriptures. Politicians ignore it anyway, so why would they bother arguing in favor of changing it?

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        NO Change is what the whole problem is... We started having all these problems with our children when they took away the school's ability to paddle these kids bottoms..And spanking your kids I was taught by being spanked, and learned from that how my Parents expected me to be, and that was that...I was not hurt but understood real well that if I broke the rules there were consequences to pay..Nowadays these kids have no respect for their parents or elders like when I grew up. So keep changing everything and it will keep getting worse each and every way.

      • TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

        Mostly no, although some amendments might be a good idea.

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        I don't know but I think that we only need to make amendments to the constitution. I think it was good enough when it was created but since things have changed, we've needed to make changes to it. So it's fine to keep adding amendments but a total change would be difficult.

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        no i don't think it should be changed completely. completely is the key word there. i mean u can't just get rid of everything the founding fathers did because they worked really hard on the constitution. i think parts of it can be changed for today's society so certain issues can be solved. but the general constitution should be kept the same. i think once the economy picks back up and things like that, it wont be such a big problem.

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        NO!!!!!

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        No,

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        We all grew up with traditional values that should never be changed. To not teach our children the same values that we grew up with will destroy the values of life. Take the internet vs. playing outside for example. Just because our times have changed, doesn't mean our rights should be violated. We don't need to change the laws because of crime, we need to change the way we parent our children to prevent crime! It's because people aren't using traditional values to raise our following generations!!!

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        hell no we should not change it.what's to change?polititions need to stop trying to ruin this country for there own gain.

      • anonymous 4 years ago

        No the Constitution is not outdated! That is absurd! The Constitution is a timeless document intended to be interpreted based on the times and the circumstances. The Constitution is a fluid document forever evolving through judicial interpretation and application.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        No

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        The Constitution of the United States of American is and was a well planned and thought out document! this government is of the people, by the people and for the people! People need to use common sense.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        No it is as it was written and will always be defined as it was.... Things should be viewed always in its simplest form so when things get confused and there are too many changes we can go back and work them out from their simplest form.... Otherwise forever changing events and policy will turn to chaos and the simple way will be forgoten and basic humanity will no longer excist.

      • anonymous 5 years ago

        hell no. If you change the federal document we are all lost.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        Our country is heading in the direction of too much government intruding into our every day lives. The United States Constitution was written by our founding fathers who had personally experienced and fled from that so their children, grand-children - you and I would not have that worry and burden. There is no need to change anything.

      • Susan Deppner 6 years ago from Arkansas USA

        Opening the door to changing the Constitution could have disastrous results. I say leave it alone!

      Let's Take Another Look - Did you change your mind?

      Now that we've looked at the real meaning of the political terms: liberal, conservative, moderate, and juris naturalis, have you changed your mind in how you would classify yourself? Let's redo the poll and see.

      What political label would you call yourself now?

      See results

      Leave Your Comments Please - And if you want, share with us if you are politically active or not

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          TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

          The terms/labels are almost meaningless and the definition changes depending on who is using it.

          For example, George W. Bush is often called a "conservative." Many who take upon themselves the title of conservative don't consider him anything of the sort, and say he's a "neoconservative" which is like a fascist warmongerer.

          Or many neoconservatives call Ron Paul a "libertarian" even though many conservatives called him a conservative.

          Confusion abounds due to dishonesty, and people like ex-President Bush who want you to think they're something that they're not.

        • bossypants profile image

          bossypants 4 years ago from America's Dairyland

          Very thought provoking lens! Like you, I used to see moderate as the center of the continuum and didn't realize its true meaning. The comments posted here demonstrate what a hot topic this is!

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          TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

          @anonymous: Well said.

        • Vortrek Grafix profile image

          Vortrek Grafix 5 years ago

          Liberals understand freedom (what the USA is supposed to be founded upon) considerably better than conservatives. Conservatives are more resistant to change and are less tolerant to new ideas and ways of life which transform the spirit of the times throughout a given culture's history. My mantra is: Thesis, antithesis, synthesis ... all things morally or cosmetically arbitrary in nature are in a perpetual state of evolutionary refinement. Learn to accept and assimilate anything, however potentially controversial, which is freedom of choice and does not impede upon anyone else's freedom. Conservatives sometimes have a hard time dealing with the inevitable reality of that statement, and try to legislate morality to counter change.

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          anonymous 5 years ago

          There is no difference really between democrats and republicans, just two branches of the same tree of fascism. They pretend that they have different philosophies to keep the sheep going to the polls and voting. I dropped out of this game a long time ago.

          If you vote, you have no right to complain...I know most of the sheep think it's the opposite, but that's why they are sheep.

        • profile image

          Edutopia 5 years ago

          Both liberals and conservatives want the government to intrude on your lives, but like you said, where they want it to intrude on your life depends on which party you are talking about.

        • profile image

          anonymous 5 years ago

          After reading the definition of a moderate how in the world can people refer to Romney as being a moderate because he sure as heck does not believe the government should be more involved in everything. Maybe Gingrich doesn't understand what a moderate is? Which I highly doubt. Something here doesn't make sense.

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          Shelly Sellers 5 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

          The older I get, the more Politically active I have become. I have always been an Independent, I used to more liberal, but the older I get, I have become more conservative. I have always cared about debt in my personal life and the government. I am debt-free, except for my home.

        • KimGiancaterino profile image

          KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

          I have always voted, and have also taken time to learn about the issues and candidates. It's so frustrating when my informed vote is cancelled out by an uninformed voter who pulls the level for the same party over and over again. I'm with stargazer00 ... if you don't know what you're voting for, please stay home!

        • SandyMertens profile image

          Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Frozen Tundra

          Nice write up and glad that you are trying to get informed in politics. And to give the confusing definitions and labels on these terms, which you have. However, I would not take Mr. Maybury's book as gospel.

          It has always been said that (I hate these terms) liberals believe in more government control and conservatives, less government control. However, what I have seen all my life is completely the opposite. As far as illegal aliens go, Republicans (better term) have been more lacks on them. Supporting big business and allowing illegal aliens into this country. In fact, President Bush (Republican) wanted to make it easier to give citizenship to these illegal aliens, instead of kicking them out of the country. Bush was also a warmonger and started the mess that we are in now.

          Conservatives give tax breaks for the wealthy and big business. They have tried for years to cut out Social Security and Medicaid and have compromised both.

          My state right at this moment has a conservative governor (Governor Walker, Republican), who is not willing to compromise, gave tax cuts for big businesses, in the process of cutting Medicaid, school funding, health care benefits, lowering the standards on pollution control and taking away recycling. If this is not government control, I don't know what else to call it.

          I do agree with stargazer00, that we should vote for the candidate for what they stand for. This should be looked at regardless of party lines. But you can not believe any of the ads for the candidates either. They can legally lie to the public.

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          Carol 6 years ago from Arkansas

          @SandyMertens: This is exactly what Mr. Maybury is saying: BOTH liberals and conservatives believe in government control-just in different areas! He calls the Juris Naturalis (which is what I would call Libertarian) as being against big govrnement. That's probably what the Tea Party movement is about. Thanks for reading my lens and commenting.

        • SusanDeppner profile image

          Susan Deppner 6 years ago from Arkansas USA

          I love this! I have a few of the Maybury books and need to pull them out and review them. He makes the issues clear enough for middle schoolers but not too simplified for adults. I second your recommendation. Fabulous lens!

        • Dianne Loomos profile image

          Dianne Loomos 6 years ago

          I want the government to stay within Constitutional bounds. This is our best hope for America. I believe that people who have not been paying attention to the process should not vote. You should know the candidates and what they stand for if you are going to vote. I know that everyone has the right to vote but it comes with responsibility.