Am i a republican, democrat, or liberal?
February 27, 2007 5:10 AM   Subscribe

Political filter: Tell me the main differences between republicans, democrats, and liberals. I'm trying to find out where i fall into.
posted by flipmiester99 to Law & Government (37 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
It's interesting that you distinguish between Democrat an liberal but not Republican and conservative. Try taking the Political Compass test.
posted by Dave Faris at 5:27 AM on February 27, 2007

"liberal" is a political standpoint which is often compared to "conservative."

Democrats and Republicans are members of specific political parties which have both liberal and conservative standpoints on different issues.
posted by beerbajay at 5:29 AM on February 27, 2007

a lot of people find the political compass a useful tool - some people think it's biased, but IME the results tend to be at least in the right zone. In any case, it's interesting to take the test and think about the issues.
posted by mdn at 5:30 AM on February 27, 2007

d'oh. that's what I get for searching for the old mefi thread on the topic - lost 3 minutes.
posted by mdn at 5:31 AM on February 27, 2007


These are traditional definitions that might not match up exactly to the parties (or officials) today, but nonetheless:

Democrats: Socially and fiscally liberal
Lots of personal freedom
Government runs redistributive social programs
Concerned with equality over efficiency
Typically support higher taxes to support social programs

Republicans: Socially and fiscally conservative
Small government that enforces moral standards and protects markets
Low taxes and few redistributive programs
Concerned with efficiency rather than equality (although they argue that a high tide raises all ships)

Libertarians: Socially liberal, fiscally conservative
Small government that basically stays out the the way beyond enforcing contracts and protecting markets
Government doesn't regulate morality
Extreme personal freedoms

posted by jtfowl0 at 5:40 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Republican and Democrat are party affiliations. Liberal and conservative are broadly-bracketed ideological polarities which accommodate social, economic, ecological, etc. issues.

In the past, there was considerably more ideological overlap between Republican and Democrat, and differentiation was easier to make by region than by party: Southerners were more socially conservative and tended to vote Dem, while Northeasterners tended to be more fiscally conservative and might vote GOP (in rural New England) or Dem (in New York City). Large swathes of the midwest were Dem; some of it socially and fiscally liberal, some of it not. By stereotypes the Republicans were a party of the urban upper classes and the Democrats were populist, although there was more crossover than that capsule description implies. By party registration, there have always been fewer Republicans than Democrats, the difference in elections made up by unaffiliated voters and those crossing party lines.

These days, the Republican party is more conservative than the Democratic party. While the Democratic party is generally considered liberal within the United States, much of the rest of the industrialized world considers it fairly conservative, and the Dem party itself eschews the 'liberal' label. Various self-identified liberal independent parties (the most popular at the moment is the Greens) also consider the Dem party to be only slightly less conservative than the GOP.
posted by ardgedee at 5:44 AM on February 27, 2007

political compass
posted by tom_g at 6:06 AM on February 27, 2007

Ostensibly conservatives believe in the conservative use of government to solve problems; liberals in liberal.

That formulation is completely out the window now, though. If the Bush administration believes in small government then I'm a television antenna.
posted by futility closet at 6:18 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't have an answer as much as an observation, and that is that your ultimate conclusion is likely to be decidedly different than if you'd asked the same question 10 years ago, particularly if your final answer is Republican.

Between the political chaos engendered by the Bush Administration and the apparent takeover of the GOP by the Christian Right, there have to be a lot of people who self-identified as Republicans up through the late 90's that are shaking their heads today, wondering what has become of their party.

jtfowl0 gives some canonical precepts of the GOP above, but bear in mind that when Mitt Romney visited the Michigan GOP last month, he declared that he'd established his conservative credentials by his opposition to gay marriage, Plan B birth control, and stem cell research. Not a hint of small government conservatism there at all. Pure social conservatism.

Certainly the Democratic Party has changed as well, but I think more out of economic realism than anything.

Libertarians are yesterday's Republicans. Republicans are today's reactionaries.
posted by hwestiii at 6:18 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Liberal does not equal libertarian in any way. Perhaps jtfowl0 was asking about the original questioner's terminology though.

The most important thing to note about such terms is that they are fluid - they change over time - and their definition is often in the eye of the beholder.

It should also be noted that some such terms have multiple definitions depending on what you're talking about.

"Liberal" is the best example of this. "Liberal" in the US has at least two meanings with respect to politics. First is the canonical political science definition. In this context, liberal refers to any system that is identifiable along several axes: a strong conception of individual rights, a market-based economy, some kind of democratic system in which all participants have a vote, an independent judiciary, etc.

In this sense, the US is a predominantly liberal state, as is Canada, France, the UK, Australia, most other European countries, etc. To say that the US is a liberal state in this context is to say nothing about the US-specific political spectrum - and none of the important participants are suggesting that the US become anything but a liberal state.

At the same time, "liberal" in the US party politics context means something very different. It is mostly a shorthand, usually used as an epithet by Republicans, against people who argue for more government participation in the economy and a greater degree of government oversight over everyday affairs. It also generally assumes the rejection of cultural, religious, or traditional norms as the formal basis for the organization of society in favor of one set of rules for everyone.

Also note that "liberal" in the US is usually identified with the "left wing" - though in global terms, even the most liberal Democrat is quite centrist or even marginally right-wing.

In the US, the Democratic Party has been most closely associated with "Liberal" views (in the US-centric sense of the word), but there have been drastic shifts. In the 60s and 70s, "Liberal" also meant tax and spend (redistributively), and for many, this is still what is meant by the term. This assumes also that conservative = fiscal conservative (NOT the religious right) and that this is associated with the Republican Party.

However, in the 90s, globally, nominally left-wing parties were actually the first governments since the 60s to balance budgets and effectively limit government spending, while more right-wing parties (i.e., the Republicans under Bush) are ALL about spending more even if it leads to deficits. In the US this was the case under Clinton, which is why he (and his wife) are viewed with such distaste by many on the US left even as they are derided by the right as being ultra-liberal. How you feel about them depends on where you sit, really.
posted by mikel at 6:33 AM on February 27, 2007

Don't label yourself. It's a sign of insecurity. The world would be a much better place if people quit identifying themselves by groups.
posted by any major dude at 6:59 AM on February 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

A century and a half ago, the Republicans were born as an anti-slavery party and went on to rebuild the South during Reconstruction.

Post-WWII, the "Rockefeller Republican" faction of the GOP was quite liberal domestically, probably fairly close to what the Democratic Party is today (though that seems to be changing as the Dem base swings left).
posted by mkultra at 7:01 AM on February 27, 2007

Ostensibly conservatives believe in the conservative use of government to solve problems; liberals in liberal.

That formulation is completely out the window now, though. If the Bush administration believes in small government then I'm a television antenna.

Well said, futility closet. And also, you nearly made coffee come out of my nose.
posted by desuetude at 7:25 AM on February 27, 2007

@mikel: You are right. I figured that since the OP was asking about political parties, liberal was accidentally listed instead of libertarian, since libertarian is a party while liberal is not. Certainly, liberal =/ libertarian.

@any major dude: True, labeling is problematic, but without identifying with a party, you can't vote in primaries in many states (although in some states this doesn't matter). I'm registered with the party with which I identify more closely, specifically for this reason.
posted by jtfowl0 at 7:27 AM on February 27, 2007


Democrats - Favor big government in public matters (in your wallet)

Republicans - Favor big government in private matters (in your bedroom)

In the US, there is no longer a choice, both parties are virtually identical.
posted by sandra_s at 7:39 AM on February 27, 2007

Fascinating Washington Post article detailing how the two parties have changed over time. (WaPo reg may be required; try it and see)
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:46 AM on February 27, 2007

jtfowl0 - Your stance is similar to the reason most people will not vote for a 3rd party - the vote won't count. We are never going to see change if we continue on with a 2 party system.

Someone should start a movement to get people away from being just a Republican and Democrat. It would be great if we could move a segment of this country to vow not to vote for a Democrat or a Republican for just one political cycle. That would probably get enough 3rd, 4th, 5th etc party candidates into office to shake things up a little.
posted by any major dude at 7:51 AM on February 27, 2007

traditionally, the democrats were the party of the working man, and the republicans were the party of the rich. this started to change in the 1960s when both parties lost their way. corporatism and christianity got a stranglehold on the repubs, while the dems conceived the poor strategy of uniting all the minorities and malcontents against the vast middle. this would have worked if they'd gotten more of the women, but women tend to vote in roughly the same proportion as their menfolk, save for a modest gender gap (wait and see what happens when roe v. wade gets overturned though).
i am a libertarian. most libertarians believe in just a few basic principles: maximum personal freedom and minimum government power. fiscal responsibility, a government living within its means and balancing its budget. civil rights that inhere in individuals only, not groups or corporations. environmental stewardship and planning ahead - many republicans will deny the relationship between "conservative" and "conservation". a strong national defense, but an unwillingness to act as world policeman. upholding the values expressed in our bill of rights - look around you, you'll see these values are mostly honored only in the breach by the two major parties.
the way it has become now, the republicans are the scary party and the democrats are the laughable party, we really need a third option. i don't have the url handy, but check out the site of my favorite congressman, ron paul of texas. he occasionally loses house votes by a margin of 434-1, but he's almost always right.
posted by bruce at 8:31 AM on February 27, 2007

To understand the different usages of the term "liberal" in the United States, I'd think of it this way: one sense of the term is the old sense in which "liberal" means little government control. One still occasionally runs across this usage, for example in discussions of economics, but it's a pretty uncommon usage.

The second, more common usage of the term (to elaborate on mikel's point, above) comes from the 60's and 70's when politicians like the Kennedys embraced the term "liberal," to contrast their mode of progressive politics against radicals like Malcolm X or the Weathermen, or other Hippie types (not to mention the Communists!) who frightened the mainstream. This ideas of being a political liberal was borrowed from from the academic notion of "Liberal Education," which referred to a broad-minded and rational approach to politics, rather than a violent one based on mere group self-interest. Thus the idea of progressive "liberalism" grew popular as Americans sought to endorse progressive politics (redistributive policies supposed to help the disadvantaged) without sacrificing basic freedoms, or embracing more extremest groups (in this respect, the political philosophy of John Rawls was an important influence on American liberal politics).

However with the success of some elements of the liberal agenda, the feared "radical" groups of the 60's disappeared or became invisible to most Americans, making it possible for conservatives to paint liberals as the "far left" end of the spectrum, while still making fun of them for being milquetoast compromisers.

So, that's what's up with the term "liberal" in the US nowadays imho.

So where do you stand, politically? As others have noted, it's hard to say. Since the US has two major poltical parties, these are very heterogenious, and usually about to fall apart. Republicans are now divided between pro-religion and pro-business types, while the Democrats are also divided (with lots of overlap) into: 1) centrist DLC-types, 2) economic populists, 3) environmentalists and 4) those who emphasize "identity" questions as such as race, gender, and sexual orientation as especially crucial to progressive politics.

Personally, I do wish the US had a more viable socialist party for those who'd like to see a more international approach to the alleviation of suffering and injustice in the world, and as an alternative to government by corporations, which imo you tend to get nowadays, whichever American party you vote for.
posted by washburn at 8:33 AM on February 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Well, are you afraid of social change, foreign interests and terrorism? If so you should consider being a Republican.
If you're afraid of environmental damage and political change, consider being a Democrat.
If you're not afraid of anything, then politics may not be for you.
posted by Citizen Premier at 8:48 AM on February 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

To put it simply, all rational human beings fall into the "Libertarian" party. Everyone else gets to fall into the other two.
posted by Phyltre at 8:55 AM on February 27, 2007

Try not to categorize yourself. In my opinion, that is the problem.
posted by bradn at 8:58 AM on February 27, 2007

To put it simply, all rational human beings fall into the "Libertarian" party. Everyone else gets to fall into the other two.

Spoken like a true Libertarian. No wonder I hate you guys so much.
posted by mkultra at 9:01 AM on February 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

I'm agreeing with those above. Don't fall into the trap of identifying yourself with a party or even ideology. That is the sign of a weak mind full of blind ignorance. If someone says "I am a liberal" or "I am a libertarian" then they probably don't know what the hell they're talking about.

People like that start from the ideological talking point and then use reverse justification to align their world view with the party line.

Don't be that guy (or girl I guess). Just read the news (READ don't watch) and monitor OpenCongress for issues. Really ask yourself how you feel about these issues and hopefully you will vote accordingly.
posted by Willie0248 at 9:15 AM on February 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

You shouldn't be evaluating ideologies or parties to see where you fit in. You might not fit in. Maybe you're one of the lucky ones who just happens to believe everything liberal or conservative politicians say -- but how likely is it that you actually came with those beliefs as opposed to them being urged by social forces who want your consent?

Parties and ideologies have positions on issues. You should look at the issues decide which side has the best reasons and evidence for its position (or, as is often the case when no one has the best reasons, craft a new side) and hold that position. And I'm a bit of a stereotype in this way, but I think you should even abstract away from how you feel about the issues to think about them in terms of reasons and evidence.

Sometimes your position will coincide with an ideology's position or a party's position. In that case, you should make a tentative alliance with people who think along party lines. But to "fall into" an ideology or political party and follow it wherever it goes is to follow a course that has often led to nowhere (or suffering) throughout history. All this said, I'm not saying to be a champion "middle of the road" type.

Unfortunately in the US we do not decide on issues. We decide on people who are packages of (often) poorly thought out positions. So eventually you have to vote for someone and choose a party for primary voting. But don't let that distract you from the duty of a good citizen: to look at the evidence and make a decision on those lines.
posted by ontic at 9:46 AM on February 27, 2007

Republicans are evil.

Democrats are in the middle and generally believe in the conservative things republicans pretend to believe in.

Liberals can be found in the Senate (Pelosi, Kennedy, Waxman etc), but not many other places at the national level.

Libertarians are republicans with rock posters on their walls.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:55 AM on February 27, 2007

To put it simply, all rational human beings fall into the "Libertarian" party. Everyone else gets to fall into the other two.

From an old mefi thread:

Libertarianism is a juvenile fantasy phase that many young Americans go through. The typical profile is a smart, white, somewhat socially backward type (usually male) who resents that his allegedly superior brain has not reaped his due rewards. Libertarianism is a way of structuring a society that will give him those rewards: by getting rid of welfare, taxation, restrictive laws and all the other barriers to accomplishment, the nerd will take his rightful place as the next Hank Rearden or Howard Roark, albeit with taped horn-rims and bad complexion.
posted by chrisamiller at 10:09 AM on February 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Republicans: voted twice for George W Bush
Democrats: can tell shit from Shinola
posted by spasm at 10:29 AM on February 27, 2007

Can't somebody make a blue post out of this? I'd like to react but it's not pertinent to the question.
posted by jouke at 10:47 AM on February 27, 2007

Oh what the hell.

1. what should I vote is a sensible question that everybody should ask themselves. What am I is a stupid question; any answer would presuppose the foolish notion that you can separate the concern what will be our well-being f.i. from what will be our affluence. As a matter of fact they, and a lot of opposite concerns, are totally connected by trade-offs.

2. I used to think, short sightedly, that conservatism is about keeping things as they are. Meaning: you are a bit affluent. And progressivism is about wanting things to change. That would be obviously stupid: you should change what isn't good and keep the good things. Citizen premier learned me that it is all about fear. And I agree: politics is about emotion, mostly fear, on both sides, and the arguments are sought and invented to prop the chosen position. (so it's no use to discuss politics by using arguments. Sorry mefi)

I've done the Political Compass test. As a dutchie I'm a bit right of the middle. I always thought that was because the Netherlands used to be very dominated by the left wing. My stance is a bit of a reaction because I experienced the downsides of pretty radical socialism in my formative years.
I expected to be left of the middle in a US test: the compass test. Not quite so.
But I did find it interesting that during filling out the compass test there were a lot of questions where I really did not want to choose in favour or not. F.i. "The businessperson and the manufacturer are more important than the writer and the artist." I've known a few worthless freeloading artists in the Netherlands and a few greedy heartless entrepreneurs. And equally for admirable traits.

So for the harder trade-off questions my answer is "it depends".
Not a political program with which you sway voters. Esp. in the US.
(in the Netherlands we have a bit of a dork as premier for his 4th term. Very unexciting, but apparently people want trustworthiness.)

It is my belief that a true statesman addresses the concerns of all parts of society in a weighted measure and is able to project this reasoned wise middle ground to the people, assuaging their fears in spite of themselves.

I find it hard to think of an example of a true statesman. Sometimes I get that impression with ex presidents and ex premiers. But that's just because they are out of the fire and can address only the long-term issues.

Sorry for the long post. I'm a bit drunk and apparently a bit disinhibited.
posted by jouke at 11:19 AM on February 27, 2007

Here's a link to an english wikipedia article on the dutch dork premier. On his 4th term!
posted by jouke at 11:23 AM on February 27, 2007

One definition: A Republican is a Democrat who has been mugged; a Democrat is a Republican who has been subpoenaed.
posted by Wet Spot at 4:54 PM on February 27, 2007

You keep reading Metafilter long enough and you'll find out all about it.

And that there's a lot of hate on both sides of the aisle.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:10 PM on February 27, 2007

A true Mefite would never allow themselves to be labeled.
posted by any major dude at 6:16 PM on February 27, 2007

Here are a few basic questions to ask yourself, to determine what your basic political views are. Try not to think in terms of the current political debates in the US, but to answer the questions more generally. (And, once you have an opinion on one of these questions, try to think of counterexamples -- are there cases where your opinion would lead to a bad result? If so, modify your opinion to take those cases into account. For example, maybe some restrictions on free speech are ok, but others aren't.)

Civil liberties: What kinds of government interference in the everyday life of citizens are okay?
- should the government be able to take money from you (taxes)?
- laws constraining private sexual behavior of consenting adults?
- laws constraining what ideas or pictures an adult may consume/look at?
- laws constraining what ideas an adult may express?
- laws constraining religious behavior?
- laws that remove children from the custody of their parents, in certain circumstances? (which circumstances are ok?)
- laws constraining what medically-safe procedures doctors may perform?
- laws constraining what a person may do with his/her own body? (eg there are laws against suicide, in some places laws against tattoos, taking drugs, etc; abortion; there are laws against punching someone in the face with your fist)
- demanding identification for routine travel?
- searching personal possessions when outside one's house? (with any restrictions?)
- searching one's house? (with any restrictions?)
- government surveillance cameras and microphones in public places?
- government surveillance of phone and internet communications of private citizens? (with any restrictions, like needing to get authorization from a court?)

Civil rights and liberties: What limits should there be on the government's power?
- should the government be required to treat all citizens equally?
- should everyone get to vote? (felons? children? immigrants?)
- should the government be able to hold someone prisoner without bringing them to trial, for as long as they want?
- should the government be able to treat prisoners however it likes?
- should the government be able to keep people from criticising it?

Economic liberties: What kinds of government interference in the economy are okay?
- laws requiring safe labor conditions?
- laws requiring a minimum wage?
- laws requiring safety of products (eg FDA monitoring of pharmaceuticals, FDA inspection of meats, etc, court judgments against makers of unsafe products)?
- laws prohibiting environmental pollution?
- laws requiring truth in advertising?
- subsidies to various industries, both in law and in more hidden pork-barrel projects?
- laws prohibiting monopolies?

Government Spending: What kinds of things are okay for the government to spend tax money on?
- free medical care (for old people? for poor people? for everyone under 18? for everyone, period? should all procedures be covered or only some?)
- free public schooling (should pre-school daycare be included? should college/university be free?)
- free psychological counselling and drug-addiction rehab programs?
- roads and infrastructure?
- police, fire dept, emergency responders?
- military? (And how should the military be used? Should the military be used aggressively in other countries, to bring down governments that don't cooperate with the US? to protect American companies' financial interests? Should the military be used to create American jobs, by paying $$$ to defense contractors to build expensive equipment? By keeping open military bases that may not be strictly necessary from a strategic perspective?)
- church-run programs?
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:36 PM on February 27, 2007

And, about definitions. Let's start with the ideological spectrum (using terms roughly as they're used in the US), and only then move on to the political parties.

Here's a crude picture of the spectrum of ideologies on two major questions:

How much does the state control the economy?
Completely (planned state-run economy, socialism) ------------ Not at all, totally free market ("laissez faire capitalism")

How much does the state control people's everyday lives?
Totalitarianism, maximum government control ------------- Libertarianism, maximum individual rights and freedoms

Traditional "big L" Liberalism is just all the stuff in the Declaration of Independence/Bill of Rights. The core "American Values" you probably learned in elementary school: freedom of religion, freedom of spech, freedom of the press, etc; strong individual rights, including especially property rights (so, low taxes); equal opportunity, a free market (little government interference) where the best will rise to the top. [Notice that these last economic bits are close to conservatives and libertarians in the US, so be aware that there are quite different meanings of the term "liberal"!] John Locke is someone you may know who was very influential in this school of thought.

Today, "little l" liberalism differs from big-L Liberalism in advocating government funding of social programs (education, medical, affordable housing etc), and government interference in the market for the protection of individuals (eg food safety, minumum-wage and anti-discrimination, environmental protection). These are the two main ideas that most Americans think of being associated with "liberalism": using the government to protect "the little guy" from corporations (eg with worker safety laws) and discrimination by other individuals (eg with civil rights laws), and to help vulnerable people (eg the poor, the elderly, etc).

To the "left" of liberalism is "progressivism". Progressives usually want government to do even more to curb corporations and help the little guy, so they favor more interference in the market, although they usually still believe we should have a capitalist system, maybe with some socialized elements. (closer to the social democracies of Scandinavia, maybe)

To the left of progressives are socialists and others who would favor abandoning capitalism.

The interesting thing is that the more interference in the market is necessary, the more control the government must have over society. (Think of a cartoon version of communist Russia. It might have started off intending to protect the little guy, but along the way the government got too much power -- it became totalitarian -- and this ended up being bad for the little guy.) So one must be careful how far along this spectrum to the left one goes.

Let's look to the right.

To the right of little-l liberalism is conservatism. In the US there are usually two components: social conservatism and economic conservatism.

Economic conservatism is the most obviously different from liberalism. Liberalism wants to use the government to protect the little guy, and allows the government to take a (relatively) lot of tax money and to interfere in the market to stop corporations from doing certain things. Economic conservatism doesn't allow so much taxation, generally doesn't regard social programs as important (they can be provided by private entities, eg churches can feed the homeless, and people can go to private schools), and doesn't want interference in the market (eg fewer health, safety, labor, and environmental regulations). Economic conservatives tend to believe in the ability of poor/disadvantaged people to raise themselves by their own bootstraps, and in the power of the free market to drive bad companies out of business.

Social conservatism, you are probably familiar with. It favors government interference with individual liberties to uphold "traditional values" and enforce certain codes of behavior (most obviously, it favors banning certain sex practices, and withholding from gay couples the benefits that come with legal marriage); it favors banning abortion; historically it has favored banning contraception. It is possible to be an economic conservative but a social liberal (this is like big-L Liberalism, and is a more moderate version of libertarianism, see below).

Lately, there has been a third element attached to American conservatism: authoritarianism. In the name of "security", many traditional individual liberties have been set aside, and the government has taken more powers for itself (eg the ability to imprison people indefinitely without charges). This is a clear move to the right, along the spectrum of government power vs individual rights -- toward totalitarianism, which is the extreme far right.

There's one final view I'd like to note: libertarianism. This is the opposite pole on the spectrum of government power vs. individual rights. Libertarians believe that individuals shouldn't give up any (or hardly any) rights to the government, including their right to all the money they can earn. So, for example, they think taxation is wrong -- or, only very minimal taxes should be allowed, only enough to cover police and fire protection for example. Taxation is like theft, forcing you to give up your money to help someone else is wrong. A libertarian might believe that there should be no public schools, no public roads, no restraint of corporate pollution, no minimum wage, no food safety laws, etc. But in addition, individuals have the right to do nearly whatever they want, so long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. You should be able to have sex with anyone you want, use any drugs you want, and so on. (If you're drawn to this, remember that you can mix and match positions. You can be in favor of some individual rights, and want to curtail some others -- for example, you can think that an individual should be able to do whatever they want with their body, but still think that taxes to support public schools are okay.)

On to political parties (there's more of my own opinion in here, you'll just have to read unbiased news sources to see what you think):
Republicans, these days, are socially conservative, and very strongly influenced by two groups: conservative evangelical Christians, and big business. They are economically conservative in that they don't approve of funding social programs for "the little guy", but they are economically not-conservative in that they favor expansion of government programs in many areas including the military and giving tax money to corporations (that is, giving tax money to "the big guy"). There is a strong authoritarian tendency in the party, a tendency to make appointments to reward party loyalty and to discredit genuine expertise -- this goes along with a general anti-science tendency.

Democrats, these days, are a mixed bag. They are generally more liberal than Republicans, but few are openly what I called "progressive". Some are socially fairly conservative, most are heavily influenced by big business. They favor funding social programs more so than Republicans. They don't have the alarming anti-science tendency that the Republicans do. On a few key issues (eg whether abortion should remain legal) they are fairly united.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:20 PM on February 27, 2007

Here's something to confuse you:

In Australia, the "Liberal" party is conservative, almost like the Republicans in the US. The actual "liberal" party is the Labour party.
posted by divabat at 1:27 PM on February 28, 2007

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