Major American Political Ideology - Essay Example

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Although America does not have a historical past that would give rise to its own distinct political ideologies, it did have in its colonial experience, a period that brought about two major ideologies that would characterize its modern politics: liberalism and conservatism. Back…
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Major American Political Ideologies Although America does not have a historical past that would give rise to its own distinct political ideologies, it did have in its colonial experience, a period that brought about two major ideologies that would characterize its modern politics: liberalism and conservatism. Back in the colonial period, there existed an elite landed gentry – a class akin to hereditary aristocracy in Old Europe which shared the values of the feudal past or the Old European regime. This was the origin of American conservatism. On the other hand, there is American revolt against the English colonial rule and a movement that shared the commitments to the deals of the Enlightenment – liberalism. This paper would explore these two ideologies.
Fundamentally, conservatism and liberalism differ in issues of freedom and responsibility. American conservatism is derived from the idea that all human beings share an equal nature, an ability to make decisions based upon a common-sense morality while liberalism, at its core, denies that such a common-sense morality exists and, even is such a morality were to exist, doubts the average person’s ability to understand it. (Janiskee and Masugi p. 30) This difference in ideology is demonstrated in the following analogy: Conservatives in America maintains the position that conserves the tradition of the American founding and the purposes and objectives of the Founding Fathers for the establishment of the country. American liberal takes the opposite direction by asserting that such traditions are restrictive and, therefore, the nation need to be liberated from them.
Presently, the two parties that fight each other every four years in the American presidential elections are the Republicans and Democrats. The former is seen to be identified with conservatism while the form with liberalism. The two parties derive their ideologies to two fundamentally different views of human nature that is why each ideology calls for different kinds of government response to different issues. For instance, conservatives are more inclined to be against gun control but favor the death penalty while liberals want the reverse: gun control and no death penalty.
An interesting aspect in the dynamics of American conservatism and liberalism is that they could assume an entirely different attitude towards certain issue compared to conservatives and liberals in Europe. A demonstration of this is how the conservatives and liberals in America want to address the question on how far should the free market be left alone: how far should the state regulate or manage and that how far should the government both at the national and local level provide social security and welfare services. The conservatives believe in extreme individualism and the laissez-faire principle that encourages competition, with the government leaving individuals and the market alone. (Adams 2001, p. 33) Meanwhile, the liberals want a proactive government intervention especially in economy and welfare. Here, it appears that the American liberals are socialist in some issues. This kind of liberalism was called reform liberalism espoused by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.
It is important to understand that despite the glaring differences of the conservative and liberal ideologies, there are numerous areas where they overlap. This is because both are committed to the classical liberalism – a form of democratized Whig constitutionalism plus the free market. (Adams, p. 32) For instance, conservatives do not ignore claims of the individual and liberals use their ideology to defend the rights of the people.
Works Cited
Adams, Ian. Political ideology today. Manchester University Press, 2001.
Janiskee, Brian and Masugi, Ken. Democracy in California: politics and government in the Golden State. Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. Read More
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