This will be simple, simplistic even. It is not meant to be a poli sci term paper, an article, a debate speech, or an educational tool. I am just tired of some of the stuff I am reading and hearing, and I am ready to put my two cents in. This is how I view it.
1. I think very few people on either side are out to change America in any radical sense. This is not a culture war, a revolution, or an insurrection.
2. Liberals love America, democracy, and freedom.
3. Conservatives love America, democracy, and freedom.
4. Liberals have problems with some aspects of classic capitalism, particularly as it has resulted in marked disadvantages for poorer classes. That does not necessarily make them socialists, although some liberal ideas have some socialist overtones.
5. Conservatives have problems with some aspects of promotion of individual liberties, particularly as it has resulted in marked sociological changes in American culture that have changed what they view as the basic values being espoused in media and in Washington. That does not necessarily make them fascists, although some conservative ideas sound to some as if they have Nazi overtones.
6. I believe that there are three basic differences:
a. Equality of opportunity vs. equality of result. Conservatives believe in the former, liberals in the latter. Conservatives do not believe that all Americans have a right to health care, but they do believe that all Americans have a right to have the opportunity to earn their health care. Liberals want the government to provide health care.
b. Court process vs. court result. Liberals want a Supreme Court that reverses a conviction of a defendant if 5 members of the Court are convinced the defendant is innocent. Conservatives want a court system that allows a defendant to be tried by a jury, with appeals to make sure the trial system was fair, and with a reversal of any conviction that was reached by an unfair court, was disadvantaged by incompetent counsel, or did not have the benefit of newly-discovered relevant evidence that would have changed the outcome. But conservatives don't want a Supreme Court that strives to make law or find its own results irrespective of how the law has been set up by elected officials. Liberals like a court that makes law in certain areas - specifically areas where the court expands the concept of rights. Liberals believe that the power of the court to expand the view of rights is necessary to protect the minority from the oppression of the majority; conservatives believe that the values inherent in the American system appropriately value minority rights.
c. Government intrusion. The economically conservative position is for less government action that impedes individual liberties. Thus, a law outlawing abortion or flag burning is by definition a liberal law, and a law legalizing marijuana or unfettered talk radio is by definition a conservative law. Clearly, there are many so-called "conservatives" who would support certain economically liberal laws, and vice-versa.
7. I believe that many of the so-called political issues of the day have become such buzzwords that many of those speaking out on them don't know what they are talking about. While health care is one such issue, let me pick on a different one. "Tort reform" means many, many different things to different people. I am willing to bet that many people who speak out on tort reform don't know what a tort is. Tort reform in Texas is vastly different from tort reform in Missouri. To say that you can tell if someone is liberal or conservative based on how that person feels about "tort reform" is shallow and wrong.
I know that some of you are outraged that my definition of "conservative" or "liberal" does not accurately reflect your personal nuanced political philosophy, while others reading this are chuckling at my simple list. Again, I can go toe to toe with most of you on the implications of a lot of this, but that is not the point here. I really am just tired of hearing all of the vitriol that is being spewed by both sides, when in fact we have some specific differences that are worth debating without accusing the other side of a parade of horribles. Let's first understand what the fight really is, then let's figure out what our differences are and debate them.
As I have defined the terms here, by the way, I am "conservative" on some issues and "liberal" on others, and in between on a lot.
OK. Pollyanna sermonette over for tonight.