The whole Liberal/Conservative labeling has another layer of complexity.
There are two broadly defined topics in which one can be Liberal or Conservative; Social Issues and Fiscal Policy.
Social Liberals tend to believe in the role of government being to protect and enfranchise all citizens, prevent descriminaion, and ensure equality of opportunity. In general, they believe that "banning things" is something that should be done as little as possible, and only for VERY good reason.
-Oppose banning abortion, even if they personally disapprove of it
-In favor of gay marriage
-In favor of social programs for disenfranchized demographics, to include protections for the disabled, minorities, and women, as well as affirmative action to ensure these groups are represented according to their population in government, the work force, and in higher education
-In favor of legalizing marajuana, arguing that it does no harm
Social Conservatives tend to consider government interference in society on sensitive issues as unconstitutional overreach, and tend to resist change as dangerous. They prefer for social progress to occur only organically, when society as a whole is "ready". They tend to be reactionary against measures proposed by Social Liberals. Social Conservatives tend to champion pushing decisons on social issues to the State level, to allow more homogenous populations to implement their own systems according to their own values.
*NOTE* The "Religious Right" gets lumped in with Social Conservatives as allies of convenience, because they tend to be against the same things, like federally recognized gay marriage. The Religious Right, however, takes a more activist approach in that they support federal bans on things that are against their values.
A true Social Conservative would be generally ok with every state deciding for themselves, as long as no one is forcing anything on them in their own state.
Both groups, generally, are defined by the things they are against, rather than the things they are for.
Fiscal Liberals believe in the role of the government to direct, stimulate, and regulate the economy. They are in favor of stimulus spending, and targeted monetary policy. They believe that deficit spending can be justified if it serves a greater good, such as leading to a surplus later. They believe in regulations on industry to protect the economy, environment, and public from abuse.
Fiscal Conservatives believe that government interferance in the economy is distortionary and more negative than positive. They believe that the free market will regulate its self if left alone, and that bubbles and crashs are the result of regulatory meddling. They believe in austerity in order to eliminate the deficit and reduce the debt, even if it means short-term pain, arguing that it will be compensated for when the market stablizes later. They are suspicious of inflation, even as a means to combat debt. They oppose bailouts of banks, companies, and even entire industries, preferring to allow market forces to take their course.
So it is not very specific to simply call someone a "Liberal" or a "Conservative", because one can be Liberal/Conservative in two different areas independantly.
Democrats are generally Social Liberal/Fiscal Liberal, but also encompass Social Conservative/Fiscal Liberals (the so-called "Blue-dog Democrats" mostly found in the South and among Northern Catholics).
Republicans are generally Social Conservative/Fiscal Conservative nowadays. The "Moderate Republicans" who have mostly been hunted to extinction were Social Conservative/Fiscal Liberal and overlapped with the Blue-dog Democrats.
You will notice that this leaves no real home for Social Liberal/Fiscal Conservatives. These people are known as "Libertarians", and either vote for third-party candidates or decide whether Social or Fiscal issues are more important to them and vote for the corresponding major party.
The water is further muddied by the fact that people can be Liberal or Conservative on individual issues, in contrast to their overall stance.
For example, the Republican Party is generally ideologically Fiscally Conservative, except on issues like law enforcement and military spending, which they consider "good" spending.
Similarly, the Democrat party, while generally Socially Liberal, will champion the Social Conservative platform of state self-determination if it allows them a more effective method of accomplishing their goals. For example, gay marriage and marajuana legalization have both been pushed at a state-by-state level due to the inability of the Democrats to gain much ground on these issues at the Federal level.
Last edited by Beltayn
on Mon Oct 29, 2012 3:26 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.