Clearing Up the Terms “Conservative” and “Liberal”

Everyday people discuss politics, and because we want to live in a country that allows us to have freedom and become prosperous we fight over which way is the best to achieve this. A large part of this disagreement may be due to people not understanding what the other side really stands for. Terms used today are not necessarily being used as they were originally intended and people have developed their own definition for these words. If you were to ask a conservative what it means to be conservative, you will most likely receive many different answers. This should concern both conservatives and liberals and is an example of why there is so much confusion in politics. Hopefully the following will clear up a few terms that have been misunderstood in the past, so that the public can make better and more informed decisions in the future.

One term that can confuse people is “the right” and “the left” which refers to republicans/conservatives and democrats/liberals. Many do not know the origin of these terms, and unfortunately many assume “the right” means correct and “the left” means sinister or wrong. The terms “left and right” date back to 1789, when the French National Assembly was created to control issues such as taxation and inside the chamber nobles sat on the right side and revolutionaries sat on the left. Conservative comes from the Latin word conservare, which means “to preserve”; Nobles were conservatives because they already had much of the power and wealth and of course they wanted to preserve the current laws. Liberal comes from the Latin word liberalis, meaning “of freedom”; revolutionaries were liberals/progressives because they wanted society to progress so they could have freedom and equal rights. It would be silly to think that where a group of people sat in a room would determine whether they were correct or not, but this is what people are doing when they associate “the right” as correct.

In 1976, during the Carter administration, the evangelical Christians decided to support conservative republicans. Although Jimmy Carter was an evangelical Christian himself, he did not win re-election against republican Ronald Reagan who became President due to the support of evangelical Christians. Ever since the election of President Reagan, religion has played a large part in the Republican Party. The reason for this is hard to detect but one could speculate it is due to democrats being more incline to uphold the first amendment and Republicans ignoring that part of the constitution. Since Republicans are not afraid to mix politics with religion it may make it easier for Christians to vote for a president that is outspoken about following the same religion as them. The problem with this is it has allowed people to focus more on labels rather than what the candidate actually stands for. There is no doubt Reagan was a great president but it had nothing to do with the labels which were put on him and everything to do with his policies.

It is bizarre that evangelical Christians would support conservatives when there are many verses that suggest Jesus would be a liberal. Verses such as:

[Matthew 7:12] So in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.

[Matthew 19:21] If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.

[Luke 12.15.] Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

[Matthew 22:21] Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.

These are just a few of the many verses that would suggest Jesus would have been a liberal. So why have evangelical Christians supported conservative republicans? There are two reasons why this could be. Reason one – religion was created in order to have power over others and this is another way the powerful and rich are controlling people. Reason two – people are confused on what the term conservative means and support it due to a misinterpretation. Of course it could be both, but it is up to everyone to decide that for themself. However, the point is that if one is a Christian and follows the teachings of Christ, it would make more sense for them to be liberal.

We can see people being manipulated today by these terms when looking at the Tea Party movement. It is marketed to attract and reach out to conservatives and anyone who wants lower taxes. Many believe the Tea Party was a grassroots movement started by the public who wanted a change in government, but it was really started by the billionaire Koch brothers and they have convinced the middle class to fight for policies that favor the super-rich and hurt everyone else including those in the Tea Party. The Koch brothers may not have created an elaborate plan to deceive voters but it is the lack of knowledge on the term conservative that has allowed them to take advantage of people in order to get them to support laws that only favor the rich. The reason it is hard to receive a consistent response to the question, “what does conservative mean,” is because it does not benefit true conservatives to discuss it and is better to let people come up with what it means for them. The definitions people use who claim to be conservative are usually extracted from being Christian or religious because of the alignment the evangelical Christians and conservatives made in 1976, which obviously has nothing to do with the origin and definition of being conservative.

It is funny to think that the world could be so much different if nobles would have sat on the left side and liberals sat on the right. It is hard to believe that something like sitting on a certain side of the room can make a difference in people’s political views. However, those who vote and are indifferent or uneducated on issues when voting, if a political party is known as “the right” it can play a large part psychologically on how that person will vote. They may feel it is a sign that they should vote for the candidate who is “right”, and not vote for the candidate who is “left” because in ancient times being left handed was a sign of the devil. This is why it is important to know the issues and not rely on labels or “gut feelings” when voting.

To sum it up, for those who want the super-rich and those in power to preserve laws that benefit themselves, you are a conservative. For those who want to progress the country toward equal rights and freedom, you are a liberal.

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