How to Understand Political Parties and Party Politics

On this page, we look at political parties from a historical perspective to better understand the underlying left-right politics all political parties are based on.

Taking this approach, rather than only doing an issue-by-issue breakdown of the modern parties, will allow us to understand any political party, of any nation, in any point in history, in the context of political theory; including the modern American parties like Democrats and Republicans, the British Tories (conservatives) and Whigs (liberals) of 1680’s, and even the old Roman parties the Populares (populists) and the Optimates (aristocrats) of the 100’s BC.

WARNING: Try not to get sidetracked by what you think terms like liberal and conservative mean. Each term has a specific historic meaning that can be fact-checked against the history books and past philosphers, but often often differs slightly from its modern usage for a given nation. Just click a corresponding link or do a google search of a term if you need justification or clarification.

What is a Political Party?

A political party is a group of citizens and politicians who share a political ideology and come together to win elections and to influence government.

In America, modern political parties have names like Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and the Green party. Past American political parties have names like Democratic-Republicans, Whigs, and Federalists.

Although each party gets a name that hints at their founding political ideology (but often not policy in practice), and their platforms tell us their views, and some specifics change nation-to-nation, the parties are best understood by looking at the fundamentals from a historical perspective (as while the times change, the fundamentals never do).

Considering Left-Right Ideology

Generally, we can look at left-right ideology to see if one party is more left or right than another party, and then look at their basic political philosophy to see if a party is more liberal or conservative (or socialist).

We can then compare this to more specific left-right factors like:

  • If a party is more realist or idealist (do they believe people are generally bad or good?)
  • If a party is more empiricist or rationalist (do they favor their senses or their reason?)
  • A party’s favored form of government (democracy, republics, monarchy; see the social contract).
  • A party’s stance How much authority they think government should have in terms of creating and enforcing laws and checking and balancing powers.
  • A party’s general stance on concepts related to individualism vs. collectivism. Do they generally favor collective rights or individual rights and do they favor collective authority or individual authority to enforce this? Who rules, who says so, and who the government favors.
  • A party’s general attitude toward taxation, subsidization, and regulation.
  • And then, to add complexity, how progressive a party is on an issue-by-issue basis. Specifically, how conservative, liberal, moderate, or progressive they are on an issue such as economic policy (whether they are fiscally conservative, classically liberal, socially liberal, or communist), social policy (whether they favor collective or individual rights), military policy (whether they are laissez faire, protectionist, or interventionist), trade policy (whether they are protectionist, globalist, fair trade, free trade, or anti-trade), immigration policy (nativist, moderate, progressive), religious policy (to what degree they want separation of church and state and religious law), etc.

We can then state the overarching dichotomy that arises from the above factors as:

  • LEFT: Liberal, collectivist, toward direct democracy, idealist, progressive, liberty, populist.
  • RIGHT: Conservative, individualist, toward aristocracy, realist, authority, elitist.

By placing the above stances in broad categories like left and right, and liberal, conservative, socialist, we can get a pretty clear view of any party.

Sometimes that view match’s the parties name like Jefferson and Madison’s Democratic-Republicans (who favored a states’ rights Republic with strong individual rights’ Democratic values) or Hamilton’s Federalists (who were pro-central-government Federalists), and sometimes it doesn’t, like with the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (a one-party faux-communist dictatorship).

As Thomas Jefferson, the great founder and philosopher, once said describing the fundamental nature of parties and the above dichotomy,

Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties:

  1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. [conservative realists who favor aristocracy, be they Republicans, Tories, or Optimates]  
  2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depositary of the public interests. [liberal idealists who favor democracy, be they Democrats, Whigs, or Populares]

In every country, these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves.

Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object.

The last one of Aristocrats [elite republicans, conservative, center right, toward aristocracy] and Democrats [populist republicans, liberal, center left, toward democracy] is the true on expressing the essence of all.” —Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, 1824. ME 16:73 See also realist vs. idealist, empiricist vs. rationalist, and other fundamental dualities. Also, see physiological differences in conservatives and liberals.

In other words, if we look at the fundamental ideology of political parties and of people, we will see that political beliefs create the parties rather than parties creating political ideology.

It is the human condition itself which divides the house and creates coalitions and factions, not the parties that create core ideology. Luckily this slightly disturbing truism lends itself to analysis and makes it easy to differentiate the naturally occurring populist and aristocrat parties of any nation or time.

Below we further examine the political ideologies noted above and then we compare those to the modern and historic British and American political parties.

TIP: Populist parties can be despotic or tyrannical, and they can most certainly be cronyist or monopolistic. Monarchs can be populist like Lenin, Oliver Cromwell, Julius Caesar, or Napoleon. The worst is the tyranny of the mob and the oligarchs that form from mob-like private interest groups. At their best populists ensure the needs of the people. Aristocrats can also be despotic or tyrannical, and they can most certainly also form cronyist or monopolistic entities. Monarchs are most often aristocratic, but King George III comes to mind as an example. The worst is the corrupt senate (elected or not) who favors special interests. At best, the aristocrats keep law and order and ensure a strong and wealthy nation. This is to say, neither party offers a perfect solution, they arise naturally, and then a whole lot can go right or wrong depending on how well the government ensures liberty and rights. This is why many from the Romans to Americans have attempted mixed systems that check and balance the powers.

The Political Systems. This video is on point, but leans toward the libertarian view.

TIP: Conservatism is the opposite philosophy to liberalism. The terms Liberal and Conservative from the European Enlightenment in the late 1600 and early 1700’s, left and right come from the French Revolution in the late 1700’s. Socialism comes from the Enlightenment thinkers like Rousseau, then as a form of liberalism, but takes off in the Mid-1800’s via Marx. Meanwhile, the basic related forms of government come from the Greeks thinkers in and around the time of Aristotle and Plato.

TIP: Some nations use liberal to mean conservative and conservative to mean liberal, and this can happen for a varied of reasons. We use the traditional historical meanings and denote when meanings change.

Understanding the Political Parties By Understanding their Underlying Political Ideology

To add detail to the above summary, lets examine each aspect of left-right political ideology in more detail for a more clear view of each factor that creates a political parties ideology.

Basic Left-Right Paradigm

Two major questions underly all political ideology from left-right ideals, to the forms of government, to social contract theory, and to the modern party platforms. They are:

  • How much authority does the government have?”. The more power it has, the more right-wing; the more liberty it has, the more left-wing.
  • Who says so?” This almost always nets the same result as asking, “who benefits?” The more people that benefit and have a say, the more left-wing; the fewer people, the more right leaning.

The Basic Left-Right Political Affiliations

The basic political affiliations that arise from the authority vs. liberty and individualism vs. collectivism paradigm are as follows:

  1. Non-Authoritative Collectivism (“Left-Left”) – This is classical liberalism; it is anti-authority and believes in collective rights.
  2. Non-Authoritative Individualism (Left-Right) – This is social conservatism; it is anti-authority and believes in the rights of the individual.
  3. Authoritative Collectivism (Right-Left) – This is social liberalism; It is pro-authority and supports collective rights for the group.
  4. Authoritative Individualism (Right-Right) – This is classical conservatism; it is pro-authority and for collective rights.
Left-Right Chart Liberal Vs. Conservative

This chart shows the different types of liberalism and conservatism as the political “left” and “right”.

NOTE ON THE ABOVE CHART: Socialism spans both the authoritative and non-authoritative collectivist ideologies, and Libertarianism spans the non-authoritative ideologies, and all parties are generally “mixed”. Both classical liberalism and libertarianism are similar ideologies, but different types of each would be placed in different spots on the above chart. The chart is showing broad views using historical terms.

19th Century Isms (AP European History). Before we move on, let’s take a level-headed historical look at the 19th-century “isms.” This way we won’t have the debate sidetracked by what we think they mean circa America 2016. We can center ourselves instead in historical fact.  The terms we use above in the chart and below in further descriptions are historical and not based on a modern viewpoint.

TIP: The political terms always work best as comparative terms. X party is “more left”, Y party is more Republican, etc. See the history of liberalism, origin of left-rightsocial contract theory, and the basic forms of governments for more reading.

Basic Liberal, Conservative, Socialist Paradigm

All historical and modern political parties can be described by as types of liberalconservative, and socialist. Each denotes an array of left-right ideology and is rooted in history (specifically the enlightenment and the liberal revolutions).

Liberal and conservative groups can be further broken down into either classical or social varieties. Liberal includes both classical liberal and social liberal. The conservative spectrum includes classical conservative and social conservative. Meanwhile, socialist comes in a range of styles based on how authoritative it is and who it favors.[1][2][3].

Liberalism, socialism, and conservatism can be further described as:

  1. Liberalism comes in two styles. First, there is classical liberalism, which favors individual rights and a rejection of absolute authority. It can be subdivided into a leftist radical French Revolution style classical liberalism and a right-leaning conservative English Whig style classical liberalism. Second is social liberalism, which is a rejection of the social injustice that sees authority and law as necessarily and can be thought of as liberalism informed by socialism.
  2. Socialism, which is rooted in Marx and appears in several variations ranging from the laissez-faire social libertarianism, to the liberal minded forms like social liberalism and democratic socialism, to national socialism. The latter can, in a place like NAZI Germany, exist as a fascist mix of conservatism, nationalism, authoritarianism and socialism), and become communist, a socialist type of authoritarianism. This should not be confused as only meaning authoritarian Stalin-like Communism, nor should it be seen as a pure left-wing ideology. It is often left-right. Socialism can typically be described as a mix of liberalism and conservatism, depending on what manifestation we are referring to. It’s a mistake to think all socialism is Communism; this is not even remotely true from a historical perspective. See the history of History of socialism.
  3. Conservatism, which can be seen as either rejecting any type of liberalism or socialism, or simply pushing for “traditional values”. Thus it can be broken into two broad forms classical conservatism (which favors authority and opposes classical liberalism) and social conservatism (which opposes all social minded ideology and government authority). At its worst, this implies a lack of inclusion and tolerance, and at best it a means avoiding “moving too fast” toward idealist change.

Mixed Ideologies and Complex Party Ideology

We can use all the above terms to paint a clear picture of any party and where they stand on each issue. However, it’s important to keep in mind that parties tend to have mixed views and that the terms are best used comparatively.

For example, American Libertarians are classical liberals who favor democracy (although, they often form coalitions with social conservatives, as both groups have an aversion to most types of authority). Thus, they are both left-left and left-right as a group, as long as its not statist ideology, it can fit into libertarian ideology.[4] Despite this, Americans don’t typically refer to Libertarians as liberals; instead they refer to Democrats as liberals, even though Democrats favor classical conservative authority to ensure social justice. It only gets more complex when we consider the deregulatory small government rhetoric of a modern conservative is also classically liberal (as it is adverse to authority). Etc. (I.E. don’t get side tracked by what you think a term means!)

With that said, and the above fundamentals covered, lets move on to the modern political parties. First we will define them broadly, then in detail.

Defining the Basic American Political Parties

Now with the above in mind, in America each party represents a big tent of ideologies, but can be described as:

  • Democrats: Social liberals and classical conservatives. Favor authority to ensure social justice for the collective but favor laissez-faire government in terms of things like allowing for LGBT marriage.
  • Republicans: Social conservatives and classical liberals. Favor deregulation and stand against expansive social justice programs except on some specific issues like those related to the second Amendment or religion.
  • Libertarians: Classical liberals who sometimes find political allies in the left and right in terms of policies that reject statism.
  • Green Party: Social liberals who tend to favor a more radical progressive spirit than the more centered-left Democrats. Being further-left, they tend to be the only semi-major party in America that openly welcomes socialist movements as part of its coalition. (See history of socialist movements in the U.S.) The necessary statism and anti-captilism needed to be Green can be very authoritative, but on some issues, they take classically liberal or capitalist positions more in line with Libertarians, for instance on cronyism, they are classically liberal capitalists.

TIP:”Progressive” isn’t a party. Past progressive parties (like Teddy’s Bull Moose Party of 1912 or Bryan’s People’s Party) have been populist mash-ups of different “progressive” movements now found in parts of Libertarian, Democratic, and Green Parties. Progressive as a political term, not a party name, describes how quickly one moves toward change.

TIP: The chart below from Wikipedia shows how all the concepts we have discussed so far apply per-issue to prominent U.S. political parties. You’ll notice it aligns perfectly with our theories (as again we are attempting to work with historical fact and not opinion).

Political Parties: Crash Course Government and Politics #40.

TIP: See the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy for a detailed look at political philosophy. You’ll note that all respectable sources back up our classifications and reinforce the concept that there is no single way to sum up political history since England’s petition of rights in mid-1600.

TIP: Each party has a faction of “neo”-fill-in-the-blank in their ranks. By this, I mean members who favor trade, globalization, and free-market capitalism, which are all classical liberal ideologies but are otherwise informed by the political ideology of their given party. The factions within the parties aren’t always representative of the party ideologies in practice. For instance, a social liberal may favor single-payer-healthcare, while a neoliberal in the same party may favor a privatized version of this. Likewise, a neoconservative may favor a flat tax in order to increase the power of American business, while others in their party may want the same thing, but because of a classically liberal belief in small government. We will give more attention to these factions below; first, let’s focus on the non-economics-and-trade-centered versions of the parties.

TIP: See the history of the parties switching platforms, or the birth of liberalism for more reading (all the parties arise from liberalism, and most current parties are “mixed,” so these concepts are important).

English Traditions of Government (US History EOC Review – USHC 1.2. The easiest way to understand the parties is to step back, way back, back to the Middle Ages in England and trace a straight line of political philosophy to America. Luckily, Tom Richey exists.

basic-left-right-political-spectrum-2.0

An updated basic left-right political spectrum which shows the type of liberalism and conservatism. Notice how in this chart we put classical liberalism on the bottom right. That is because it is a range of subtypes (French Radical and Whig-like specifically) that span a few sections of the chart. Views are complex, these models are meant to be a visual aid, not a final word on complexity.

The Historical Difference Between Traditional Classic Liberalism (Libertarianism), Social Liberalism, Socialism, Traditional Classic Conservatism, and Social Conservatism

Below are the major ideological groups explained above with more historical detail. Compare to our page on liberal vs. conservative and our page on conservative, moderate, liberal, progressive.

Classic Liberalism (Libertarianism): The school of thought that John Locke (major work 1688), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (major work (1762), and Adam Smith (1776), and the Enlightenment thinkers in general first expressed. Ideals of life, liberty, and the ownership of property, and the pursuit of happiness. Believe all men are created equal, must consent to be governed, want separation of church and state, separation of government powers, and want democracy rather than kings. This comes in two basic types, radical classical liberals (like the French revolutionaries and Anti-Federalists) and moderate classical liberals (like the English whigs and Federalists). Both types of classical liberalism, but especially the more radical or laissez-faire style, lost popularity after it [supposedly] failed to protect people from social and economic injustices like Slavery and the Robber Barons, but no type has ever fully gone away (instead all evolved or were revived). A staunch classic liberal like Andrew Jackson might value liberty at the cost of slavery (the radical form), but classic liberalism is based on the enlightenment concept that all people are born free, more like Gouverner Morris thought (the moderate form). Thus we have to note that what is radical and moderate changes depending on the time (as Morris was generally more conservative, but today we consider wanting to own slaves conservative) and we have to distinguish types of classical liberalism and classical liberalism in practice. As a founding philosophy of modern governments, many forms of liberalism grew out of classic liberalism, including modern libertarianism (a right-wing revival of the more radical classic liberalism), Bourbon / New Democrat-ism (a modern moderate classical liberalism), social liberalism (a type of liberalism focused on social welfare), and socialism (favoring central power to enforce social justice). What we consider “liberal” in America is generally a mix of social liberalism and New Democrat libearlism. In many respects, America was built on liberal principles. True classical liberalism in the French style is very libertarian-populist, while the English Whig style is more like a modern social liberal or a Hamiltonian or Madisonian federalism.

Classical Liberalism vs. American Liberalism (Drive Home History #3). We have to be very clear; American liberalism is not the same as classical liberalism. Here is someone else backing up the concept. “American liberalism” is essentially social liberalism (which we explain below).

Conservatism: Always pushing against liberalism. Starts in the 1600 and 1700 as those who support Monarchy and aristocracy and don’t want separation of church and state. Important founders of conservatives are those who stood against the liberal enlightenment, but from an intellectual and not just an anti-intellectual viewpoint. These thinkers include Marquess of Halifax (1633–1695), David Hume (1711–1776) and Edmund Burke (1729–1797). It isn’t that Hume is, for example, a modern neocon, it is that conservatism is very short on philosophers, so we sometimes dual attribute empiricist thinkers like Hume, or say free market thinkers like Smith, to conservatism. Even though Burke is a liberal-conservative (an enlightened critic of liberalism, not an enemy of it), and although Smith advocates a free market, such a thing was very liberal in its day. On the other hand, many great politicians like Churchill and Eisenhower are figures conservatives can look to for inspiration (although both were moderate and liberal at times similar to Burke). This can be explained by understanding that what is conservative changes over time and culture, but in it’s most pure classical form it is a push toward tradition, church, and aristocracy, authority, and away from liberalism. Conservatism looks very different for each issue, for instance, religion, nationalism, or economic policy. Many parties, like the American Libertarian party, tend to be right-wing conservatives in terms of some polices and classical liberals in terms of others. They are sometimes conservative on issues such as believing that abortion laws should be handled at a state level, or opposing civil rights in 64′ with Goldwater while remaining classically liberal on other issues such as individual rights and limited government taxes or power. Neocons, another type of conservative focus on big business, sometimes at the expense of big government, and tend to favor private business and tax breaks, which is classically liberal, but hold a conservative ideology. A true far-right modern American conservative would be someone who opposes liberalism and socialism, and wants government only for ensuring guns, God, and nationalism (i.e. Traditional American and religious values at the expense of government). In simple terms, if it opposes social issues, it is social conservatism. If we are just discussing authority its classical conservatism. If it is focused on big business and global trade, it is classical liberalism or neocon-ism (a Reagan Republican, essentially a right-wing version of a neoliberal).

Edmund Burke and Classical Conservatism. “You can almost say contemporary conservatism is more like classic liberalism.” Indeed you can. This is a great video on Burke.

Social Liberalism / Social Libertarianism: Social liberalism is liberalism with a strong safety net, social libertarianism (if we want to give an often unexpressed concept in practice a name) is just a less authoritative version of this. Although there is no clear point when classic liberalism becomes social liberalism, I consider those who favor government and regulation to ensure liberty to be social liberals. We could very well trace the roots of social liberalism back to the birth of liberalism and look to figures like Rousseau, but its easiest just to start with figures like Marx and Engels. In England we can say it starts with the New Whigs, in America, we may say this starts with Lincoln, or we may say this starts with FDR. More than being a school of the socialists, social liberalism is more the school of thought of a new breed of liberals like John Stuart Mill (who some consider a classical liberal, but we will instead consider concepts like “the harm principle” and “utilitarianism” precursors to social liberalism) and John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946, who is famous for his social liberal post-WWI economics). After slavery and the great depression and other disasters, many began to turn from liberalism to Communism (or back to traditional conservatism). Thinkers arising from the school of thought of Mill and Keynes “save” liberalism from itself by stating that liberty cannot be obtained if one lives in squalor. Thus a safety net is needed, Mill discussed the politics of modern social liberalism and Keynes was the father of modern social liberal economics. Social liberals range from those with classic liberal ideology, but who favor social justice, to those who want a very bureaucratic system which verges on an authoritarian nanny state. The word social libertarianism describes those who favor less bureaucracy and authority. Neoliberals are social liberals who tend to favor private industry over socialism and favor globalization in terms of banking and trade (a modern Bourbon / New Democrat; a Reagan Democrat). A true progressive social liberal is a populist who favors people and social justice over classism, it is the liberal alternative to a socialist (meaning one who favors republicanism and democracy over idealistic Marxist ideas like pure central planning and the total elimination of classism). Neoliberalism denotes a hybrid ideology that favors classical free-trade and classical conservative authority, as well as many aspects of progressive social liberalism. Despite the similar name, social liberal ideology typically rejects pure socialism (this is clear in America at least given the way Unions and Democrats responded to the Red Scare).

Classical Liberal vs Social Liberal.

Socialism: Socialism is a form of extreme social liberalism, thus like social liberalism we can say it starts with the liberal revolution, or we can look to its more proper starting point in the mid-1800’s. Some thought liberalism was the great answer to “the Robber Barons“; some saw the shortfalls of Civil Wars and Social Injustice and turned to social liberalism; others lost faith and turned to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Socialism describes an anti-free-market government with a strong safety-net. This can become social democracy, social liberalism, social libertarianism (liberalism with a utopian tinge), or it can be pure Marxist or Leninist Communism (where it becomes an anti-Capitalist centrally planned socioeconomic system). Communism in practice can take several forms, this includes the super oppressive authoritarian tyranny of the mob or dictator in sheep’s clothing, like we saw under Stalin, or it can take the shape of a little commune (it tends to work better in small groups, as this avoids authoritarians). With that said, today, countries like China have tested the anti-Communist sentiment of the 1900’s by allowing capitalism inside their communist state (arguably the most successful example of Communism in the history books). Again, in practice, most governments and parties are “mixed” and embrace pluralism, as the 1900’s showed the pitfalls of the pure idealistic form.[5]

POLITICAL THEORY – Karl Marx. Actual Marx, the philosopher not the modern conservative talking point.

TIP: It is hard to say words like socialism and communism without people getting defensive (which is a little silly as Marx is probably the most influential political thinker in history outside of Aristotle; for better or worse, this is true!). Stalin’s brand of Communism and Hitler’s brand of National Socialism (a type of right-wing fascism that offers socialism to nationals) certainly don’t help matters. We, therefore, called Socialism “Social Libertarianism” when we are talking about the non-aggression based commune kind, “Social Liberalism” when talking about the Democracy-based quasi-capitalist kind, and then big “C” Communism when talking about the full state control kind. The “dark aftermath of Lenin” AKA “Stalin” type of Communism is its own beast. History shows that good intentioned Marxism is easily usurped by authoritarian power, so it’s hard to separate the two in practice.

Political Ideology: Crash Course Government and Politics #35.

Further Differences Between American Political Parties:  Social-Liberal Democrats V. Libertarian-Conservative Republicans

Above we discussed the basic American political parties, below we simply offer more detail and describe some additional factions within those parties.

  • Democrats: Social liberals who favor social liberalism and the necessarily authoritative welfare state. When they favor big business and trade, it is called neoliberalism. The party contains both classic liberals and socialists and includes those who simply stand against any type of conservative values. Since using authority is classically conservative, Democrats are classically conservative in terms of taxation and authority.
  • Republicans: Classic liberals with a strong social conservative ideology. They tend to favor classic liberalism as a way to undo the welfare state and social liberalism. The pro-business conservatives are called neocons. The traditional right-wing part of the party that is pro-church is simply a traditional conservative.

If we want to divide this up a little further, we can say the current political factions in America look something like this:

  • Neoliberal Democrats: Big business Democrats who favor the private market as a means to achieve social justice, tend to favor big government. Pro-globalization and trade.
  • Populist “Progressive” Social-Liberal Democrats: Democrats who favor a less privatized version of social liberalism, social justice, and environmental issues take precedence over free-market economics and big business. They don’t cross that line into actual socialist and form coalitions with neoliberal Democrats instead.
  • Neocon Republicans: Big business Republicans who favor the private market, traditional conservative values, and aspects of free-market libertarian ideology. Favor classical conservatism in terms of authority, but classical liberalism in terms of free-market. Tend to favor native business.
  • Modern Populist Nativist Social Conservative Republicans: Conservatives who are voting only on modern conservative issues of religion, immigration, gun laws, etc. Tend to want small government, unless its for specific social issues they favor. They don’t take things to that next level where they become part of the radical-right, they form coalitions with libertarians and neocons instead.
  • Libertarian Republicans: Limited government classical liberals who tend to organize around right-wing ideology.
  • True Libertarians: Just pure Mises-like classical liberals. Government intervention is the only sin. The religion of individualism.
  • Green Party Progressives: A single voter issue party focused on the environment, as the only far-left American political party it sometimes attracts Communist and Socialist allies. There is no major party in the U.S. that is socialist or Communist. Thus the radical progressives tend to be socialists and the less radical simply social liberals who favor more progressive policies than Democrats.
  • The American Socialist: This is typically an armchair western socialist or protester, although real Big “C” Communists exist as a minority without any major party representation. Whether it’s Trumbo or the far-left professor, most of America’s far-left are western Marxists (and not radical Stalinists). This is to say, most Americans practice armchair socialism (i.e. big on workers rights and ideals, not so much on really understanding the merits of classical liberal economics). It doesn’t make it good, but its a little less a boogyman than some would like to think… which brings us to…
  • The American Fascist: This is a radical-right nativist nationalist who seeks to “purify” America (by kicking this group out or by persecuting that group). Like the American socialist there is a lot of armchair fascism in America. Where the American Communist is misguided, the American Fascist follows suit. The House Un-American Activities Committee lynch mob that went after the American communists is a type of nativist nationalist fascist group. The Red scare was real, but unfortunately so are groups who use ideologies as a right-wing club with which to beat their opponent over the head with are too. If I sound bitter, it is because I know the History of WWII where the nationalist nativist Hitler fought the far-left Communists and find it insulting we didn’t all learn a clear lesson.

TIP: Consider, Robert Nozick and Noam Chomsky are libertarian thinkers, and worldwide Thatcher and Reagan are considered neoliberal/neocons. We have to be careful about trying to paint an overarching ideology in a narrow frame. Libertarianism is a flexible ideology.

TIP: In other countries the names change, but the affiliations described on this page don’t. In the yesterday of the U.K., a Tory was a conservative. A Whig was a classical/social liberal. The French had a more classic form of liberalism which often butted heads with Britain and America as part of ongoing tension since the Middle Ages, see the Hundred Years Wars. Today similar splits occur on the left, right, center-left, and center-right. The New Democrats in Canada are social-liberals, while the slightly more classic liberals (The Liberal Party of Canada) led by the current President Justin Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Both countries also have progressives and communists, and both parties have gone through “party systems” (like we did in America when “the parties changed“. The names change, but we are always talking about the same philosophies and issues. Thus we will always see clear patterns to single where we should stand based on our own belief systems.[6][7]

A left-right paradigm using a four point graph to show how common government types relate to left and right in terms of who has authority and who says so.

A left-right paradigm using a four point graph to show how common government types relate to left and right in terms of who has authority and who says so.

Citations

  1. liberal
  2. conservative
  3. socialist
  4. statist
  5. pluralism
  6. List of political parties in Canada
  7. List of political parties in the United Kingdom


"The Basic Types of Political Parties" is tagged with: Abraham Lincoln, Adam Smith, Alexander Hamilton, American Politics, James Madison, John Locke, John Maynard Keynes, Left–right Politics, Liberty, Theories, Thomas Jefferson, United States of America

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