Throughout the campaign, and by watching people and hearing their opinions, I have settled on a few key definitions of liberal and conservative political thought in America. The problem with these philosophies is they have different beliefs in regards to man and society, and because of this, there is little to no middle ground, making compromise nearly impossible.
Conservatives believe in the evil intentions of Man, especially of those outside of their borders. They believe conflict between nation-states lead by Man is inevitable, no matter how much diplomacy is conducted. By nature, they do not trust treaties and alliances and hence preach the need for a strong common defense.
Conservatives also believe in the right of private gun ownership. This supports the idea that Man is again by nature an untrustworthy, evil creature who will eventually attempt to take his neighbor's resources. Positive relationships among neighbors are a condition of social environment, not natural evolution.
(Continuing with gun ownership, however, I would argue that the idea of a strong military and private gun ownership are contradictory. Private gun ownership supports a belief in the ability of the people to provide their local (household) defense as well as cumulatively provide a national defense through militias and national guards. A strong military takes away one aspect of the need for private gun ownership, while at the same time reducing the ability of the people to overthrow the government with their private arms if at any time they deem the government has become corrupt.)
Conservatives believe in the goodness of neighbors to take care of each other. This is contradictory to the idea that neighbors are not to be trusted. But within the conservative ideal there is a sense of community, where small, strong family units are encouraged. Here conservatives believe Man will take care of his fellow Man, ensuring for his well-being.
Conservatives believe the role of government should be minimal at best, except for in the realm of the common defense, where bigger is better. Conservatives do not trust the large government mechanism, instead relying on the smaller unit to police and care for itself.
Liberals, on the other hand, believe in the overall goodness of Man. Underlying liberal philosophy believes it is Man that is good and it is society and Man's environment that makes him do bad things. Liberals believe that by tinkering with or altering the environment of Man, they can produce positive societal results in the action of Man.
Liberals believe that Man should be evolved from the conflict of animals. To revert to violence and conflict is to revert to the ways of ancient Man and to learn nothing from the history of civilization. Strength in the belief in Man fosters the liberal belief in treaties, organizations, coalitions, conferences, and allegiances.
Liberal belief in the goodness of Man also explains the liberal tendency to support a smaller military organization. Liberals believe the threat of aggression begets more aggression and that a less aggressive pose negates the need for a large military.
Liberals believe a government made of Men is the most efficient way to help Man. Through the mechanism of government, more people can be helped and aided than without the ability of government. Liberals believe we have not yet reached a point where Man will help his fellow Man without the facilitating reach of government. Liberals believe that if government were to withdraw itself from providing a social safety net, Social Darwinism would occur and the poorest and less fortunate among us would be left behind.
In closing, I am sure there are plenty of other fundamental differences. These and other basic philosophies drive most people's choice for the two major political candidates. Although in some years the differences are slim, this year they are quite drastic. Personally, although I see some merit to conservative thought (especially in regards to a strong family unit that could eventually govern itself), I believe the liberal platform, the liberal philosophy, and the belief that Man is by nature good is what is best for America at this point.
That is why I
P.S. Check out this article by a heavy metal guitarist on his views on the election, the political process, and how he defines the differences between liberals and conservatives. Very well written.
"The fact is that I am no more qualified than anyone else to be given the soapbox to ventilate my views. What I, and other working artists like me, do have is a slightly altered paradigm than the average Joe. Artists get to spend their time creating with the sole purpose of sharing their work with others. My band and I spend months creating a piece of music, and than (sic) spend months or years traveling the world, symbiotically connecting with other people with purely positive energy, or taking negative energy and channeling it in a positive way. This exchange is highly emotional and, some may say, spiritual. I’ve had conversations with friends where I’ve compared the concert going experience to the church or religious experience. The emotional expenditure and purged release leave one feeling powerful and cleansed afterward.
This frame of mind can free one from the worker bee, consumerist, capitalist ideals that are beaten into our heads in school and reinforced when we grow up and enter the workplace. When you (are) able to go to all the corners of the planet, you see that there is much more that binds us together than divides us. When your life revolves around creation and positive exchange, you tend to open up and see the potential of humanity. I think this is why most artists tend to be liberal, which is why supporting Barack Obama or being anti-Bush might be seen as a cliché at this point."