In today’s political America we seem to be divided between the right and the left. As one who has a couple of degrees in Political Science I should understand the difference in the various positions but I must admit I stay thoroughly confused.
On the issue of abortion for instance it should be relatively simple to explain the conservative position vs. the liberal/progressive position, but if you think about it from an historical perspective it gets a bit muddled.
For example, former Senator and Republican candidate for President Barry Goldwater, the epicenter of conservative thought in the 60s, had a very simple position on abortion –it was up to a woman to choose. This was under the conservative theory that government should stay out of a person’s private life. Today that position would be considered a liberal/ progressive position.
On a multitude of issues the right and left have flipped their various positions. Here is a quote from Goldwater from 1994 ”The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that the people have the right to live life as they please as long as they don’t hurt anyone in the process”. Frankly, I’m not sure what group currently promotes that point of view; it seems to be more libertarian then anything else.
It used to be that it was the liberals/progressives that wanted more rules on what one should and should not do and how one should live. That philosophy seems to have flipped. I doubt the NSA collection of personal data from American citizens would have been supported by the conservatives of 100 years ago.
As regards US foreign policy it seems to me the same flips have occurred. For years it was the conservatives who were reluctant to get involved international affairs or go to war. Now reluctance to intervene is a liberal /progressive point of view.
At the turn of the last century, the lead Republican in the Senate, Senator William Borah of Idaho was a staunch isolationist and had to be drug into World War 1. Fast-forward 100 years and it was a conservative administration under Bush 2 who went to war in Iraq. Intervention and expansionist foreign policy positions are now much more of a conservative belief then liberal/progressive.
On the issue of conservation, it was a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt that gave us our national park system. The foundation of conservatism was to “conserve”.
The biggest basher of big oil, big railroads and big banks at the turn of the last century was the Republican Teddy Roosevelt.
In today’s world the Koch brothers are not bashed but lauded for creating the kinds of companies that Roosevelt worked to break up.
I’m not taking sides on these issues as both have their points. I just want to note the fact the traditional way we have defined conservative vs. liberal/progressive has shifted dramatically over the past 100 plus years. I wonder what the R and the Ds will have as their policy positions a 100 years from now.