It is common knowledge that the two main political parties in the United Sates are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Each of these parties enjoys a huge following across the entire country. Nevertheless, some states are known to be red states or Republican Party strongholds while others are known to be blue states or strongholds of the Democratic Party. The main reason that Americans choose which of these two parties to follow is because they stand for certain ideologies. Consequently, a citizen has the option of choosing a party which he or she feels has ideologies that are agreeable them. There are a number of differences in ideologies between the Democratic and the Republican Party. For example, while the Democratic Party has a more liberal philosophy, the Republican Party has a more conservative philosophy. Another example of their differences is with regard to the increasingly emotive issue of abortion. In line with its liberal philosophy, the general position of the Democratic Party is that abortion should not be illegalized. They generally support the position advanced in Roe v. Wade. On the other hand, adherents of the Republican Party’s conservative philosophy believe that abortion should not be legalized and consequently oppose the decision in Roe v. Wade.
While the Democrats and Republicans will not form the subject of this submission, it was important to provide a summary about these two main parties. This is because of the fact that other political players in the United States derive the positions they hold with regard to various issues in relation to the positions of the Democratic and Republican Party. Such a discussion was therefore necessary so as to be able to better understand and contextualize the discussion on conservatives and progressives in the United States. At this juncture, it is important to highlight the fact that the Democrats and Republicans have not occupied the entire political space of the United States. There is also an increasingly significant space which has been occupied by the progressives and the conservatives. This is the space which will form the gist of this submission. Consequently, this article will define what it means to be a conservative or a progressive. It will seek to highlight the differences and similarities if any between the two. Furthermore, the article will enumerate how different or similar the conservatives and progressives are from the political parties. Ultimately, the article will address the question whether it is possible to be a conservative Democrat or a progressive Republican or whether it is actually possible to be both a conservative Democrat and at the same time a progressive Republican.
Being a conservative or a progressive in the United States in 2013 connotes a belief in certain ideologies. These ideologies are distinct from each other. Nevertheless, in some aspects it can be argued that they are more convergent than divergent. What does it mean to be a conservative in the United States in 2013? This is the question that this part of the submission seeks to address. Gregory Schneider, a historian, has argued that there are a number of constants or fundamental beliefs that underlie American Conservatism. This includes support for republicanism which encompasses the notion that there is no aristocracy or inheritance of political power. The key values which underlie Republicanism are unalienable rights and liberty of each individual. Additionally, Republicanism entails a firm belief against corruption and expects individuals to have autonomy or a degree of independence in the performance of their duties which are of a civic nature. Apart from support for Republicanism, there are other tenets of American Conservatism. These include respect for tradition, protection of western civilization from pressures of the modern world and any forms of authoritarian governments. American conservatism also entails support for the rule of law as advanced by Dicey as well as support for the Christian religion.
While the above paragraph highlights what it generally means to be a conservative, it is important to highlight which of these aspects are applicable in today’s American Society. Consequently, it can be argued that being a conservative in America in 2013 encompasses support for republicanism, vilification of corruption and a belief that individuals should be granted a greater degree of independence and autonomy in the performance of their civic duties. Being a conservative in 2013 also entails respecting traditions and ensuring that western civilization is protected from the pressures of the modern world. In other words, being a conservative in the United Sates in 2013 entails being a vanguard of western civilization and ensuring that it neither succumbs nor is it eroded by the pressures of the modern world.
There are various types of conservatives. These categories or classifications arise from the various topics which on conservatives have taken positions. These types of conservatives include fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, neoconservatives and Paleoconservatives. Paleoconservatives believe that the immigration laws should be stricter so as to curb immigration into the United States. They also prefer a foreign policy that does not interfere in the affairs of other states and are also opposed to the idea of multiculturalism in the United States. Fiscal conservatives believe in small and lean governments as they will be cheaper to run. They also believe in low taxation and very limited regulation by the government. Fiscal conservatives also believe that the market should be left to operate freely as per the forces of demand and supply and that the government should not intervene to curtail free enterprise.
On the other hand, social conservatives believe in the protection of traditional values that have always existed in the United States. They view secularism as a major threat to traditional social values. Social conservatives support capital punishment in its various forms including the death penalty and also support prayer in schools. With regard to the increasingly controversial matters of abortion and same sex marriages, social conservatives take the position advanced by the Christian doctrine. They totally oppose abortion as well the legalization of same sex marriages. The last category of conservatives is the neoconservatives. Neoconservatives believe that American ideals should be spread throughout the world. Put differently, they believe in the “Americanization” of the world in terms of such ideals as democracy and free enterprise among many others. By extension, neoconservatives believe that America should not take a back seat as other countries strive to increase their spheres of influence in terms of culture of ideals. To the neoconservatives, America is a global leader and as a global leader, it has an obligation to provide leadership to the world in terms of what is ideal when it comes to such matters as governance and human rights.
This article contends that in the current American societal set up, only certain categories of conservatives are viable. Their viability is because they advocate for positions which are likely to attract support from across political and cultural divides. It is this support that makes them remain relevant. Thus, in the America of 2013, this article contends that being a conservative entails embracing and advocating the ideals encapsulated mainly by the Fiscal conservatism and Paleoconservatism schools of thought.
Having made a discussion on American conservatism and conservatists, this section of the submission will now make a detailed discussion of progressivism and progressives. It will also highlight what it means to be a progressive in the United States in 2013. Like American Conservatism, progressivism traces its history to earlier periods of the history of the United States. Progressives can generally be defined as individuals who start and run the course of reform movements. They are persons who are dissatisfied with the status quo and consequently seek various means to change the current state of affairs. To this extent, progressives are likely to be individuals who would prefer a change in tradition if in their opinion such a change will serve the society better. This is a sharp departure from the position advanced by conservatives who believe in supporting traditions.
A reform movement can generally be defined as a movement that seeks to effect and implement changes in some of the aspects of a society in a gradual manner rather than through sudden fundamental changes. The difference between reform movements and more radical social movements is that while reform movements seek to achieve a gradual change in the state of affairs, radical social movements seek to achieve a sudden and rapid fundamental change of a given state of affairs. Thus, in both cases the end sought to be attained is the same, it is only the means employed which defers. One the one hand, one method seeks to achieve quick results while on the other hand the method seeks to achieve gradual results.
Progressives usually comprise of persons who are reformists and mostly belong to the middle class. The whole notion of progressivism arose due to the phenomenal changes which came about as a result of modernization. Such changes included the increase in corruption in American politics as well as the rise of large corporations. In today’s world, while progressives still seek to point out such issues as the corruption in American Politics, they have also embraced other diverse concepts. Such concepts include the increasing need for social justice as well as environmentalism. Social progressivists advance the argument that the government of the day has an obligation to keep pace with the evolution of the society. In other words, the practices of the government must be in conformity with the evolving practices in the society. Social progressivists believe that it is wrong to maintain the status quo in terms of governmental practices yet the practices in the society are changing. This is yet again another example of the stark contrast between conservatives and progressives.
While early progressives such as Robert La Follet focused on such issues as the working of democracy, these are not necessarily the issues which may define progressives in the United States in 2013. On the contrary, progressives in the United States in 2013 are likely to be defined by such issues as efficiency of government, regulation of large corporations and monopolies as well as increased governmental regulation in the economy. Progressives believe that governments should streamline their operations so that they can be able to serve the citizenry better. Efficiency also demands minimization or total elimination of wastage by the government. This is arguably the same position advanced by fiscal conservatists who believe in lean governments. The overriding objective of both progressives and conservatives in this instance is proper utilization of public resources by the government.
Progressives also advance the argument that regulations ought to be put in place to regulate large corporations. This is because large corporations and especially those which enjoy monopolies in the market are likely to take advantage of industrial capitalism to impose restrictions on human liberties. The United States could arguably be said to be the headquarters of capitalism in the world. This is not a position which progressives have traditionally been comfortable with. They have consequently advanced the argument that the government ought to put more regulations in place so as to ensure citizens are not left at the mercy of capitalistic forces. The contention by the progressives is that when the economy is left to operate without any form of regulation, it is the capitalists who benefit while the citizens suffer. They posit that the government has the singular obligation and duty to protect the citizens from any capitalistic practices in the economy which are likely to harm them.
A common strand that runs through progressivism is the fact that progressivists seek gradual change. This can be seen by the way of bringing about reform where they seek legislative changes so as to attain the desired end result. It must be remembered that enacting fundamental legislative changes is an expensive, energy sapping and time consuming undertaking due to the sheer amount of lobbying that it requires.
Are progressives and conservatives the same as political parties? Are they different and if different how do they differ? This article contends that progressives and conservatives are not the same as political parties. From the very onset, progressives and conservatives arise from the progressivism and conservatism schools of thought respectively. On the other hand, political parties are not schools of thoughts but rather are entities comprising of individuals who share certain ideals which are usually of a political nature. This in itself provides another difference between conservatives and progressives and political parties. From its definition, one can deduce the fact that a political party’s main aim is the advancing of certain political positions or ideas. On the other hand, while conservatives and progressives may advance some political positions, this is not their cardinal aim. Indeed, even where this happens, it usually arises in cases of overlap between what the conservatism or progressivism schools of thought postulate and the political positions advanced by certain parties.
There are also some similarities between progressives and conservatives and political parties. The similarities are of such profound nature that that many conservatives have traditionally identified with the Republican Party while progressives have largely identified with the Democratic Party. The reason for this alignment is plain and simple. Parties stand for certain ideals which they seek to implement when they are in power. Both progressives and conservatives also stand for certain ideals which they would like to see the government of the day implement. It is often the case that a number of these ideals may be similar. This in turn creates a situation where it can arguably be stated that both the political parties and either the conservatives or progressives are in pursuit of the same of goal. However, such similarities ought to be examined on a case by case basis so as to avoid mixing the two. At the end of the day, political parties are institutions, progressives and conservatists are individuals who subscribe to certain schools of thought. They do not necessarily subscribe to the ideals enumerated by a given political party.
The positions and ideology adopted by the Democratic Party seems to be parallel with the Conservatism school of thought. Likewise, the ideologies envisaged by Republican Party seem to be completely different from those enumerated by the progressivism school of thought. The fundamental two pronged question thus arises; is it possible to be a conservative Democrat? The second ambit of this question equally seeks to establish whether it is possible to be a progressive Republican. This article contends that the response to the two questions raised above is indeed in the affirmative. In other words, it is possible to be a conservative Democrat. It is equally possible to be a progressive Republican. However, it is impossible to be a combination of the two. This is because of the clear cut differences that characterize both conservative Democrats and progressive Republicans such that one can only choose one option out of the two but never pick the two options simultaneously
As a matter of fact conservative Democrats and progressive Republicans have always existed in the United States. However, they have only existed as minorities in their respective parties but this has not prevented them from having their say in as much as they may not have their way. A conservative democrat can simply be defined as a member of the Democratic Party who has conservative political views. One must keep in mind that the underlying philosophy of the Democratic Party is that of liberalism. Nevertheless, it is possible to disagree with some of the positions that arise from the liberal philosophy that underlies the party. In such cases, individuals usually retain their subscription to the liberal philosophy of the party but adopt a conservative approach when it comes to certain matters. Two examples could be used illustratively. One is the Democratic Party’s stand on the death penalty and the other is the party’s stand on the issue of abortion. The general stand of the Democratic Party is that it supports the death penalty but there is a substantial number of party members who disagree with this position and oppose the death penalty. On abortion, the general party position is that it should not be illegalized but there are some party members who are of the view abortion should be illegalized. The above two cases highlight the fact that it is indeed possible to be a conservative Democrat.
It is also possible to be a progressive Republican. The party’s stand on gay marriages can be used illustratively. The general party position is that it opposes any forms of same sex marriages. However, there are some party members who despite supporting the general conservative philosophy of the Republican Party, are strong supporters of same sex marriages. Such persons can be termed as progressive Republicans. They want the change in government practices and processes to be in line with the evolving nature of the society. Therefore, just like it is possible to be a conservative Democrat, so is it possible to be a progressive Republican.
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