To Be, Or Not To Be… Liberal or Conservative
By Abby Rollinger
High school is a time of self-discovery in every adolescent’s life; a time to figure out who you are as a person and what you believe in. Among the many decisions that must be made during this process is that of political views. In today’s society, knowing whether you’re a left or right wing is crucial. It enables an individual to encompass the majority of their beliefs in one word while simultaneously allowing them to take a firm stance on the issues they value most. Before you choose to be an elephant or donkey, though, it helps to know the parties backgrounds outside of what you may have learned from school, family, or the media. The best place to start this is by determining whether or not you can be characterized as one of the two terms that define the basic principles of either Republicans or Democrats. So, ask yourself, are you conservative or liberal?
Seton senior, Ally Cox, is self-declared conservative, and a well-informed one at that. When asked to give her own definition of the word ‘conservative,’ she replied saying, “I would define conservative as someone who is reluctant or cautious about changes. It is difficult to define conservative without discussing some of the issues but if it helps, the Latin root ‘conservat’ means to preserve or to keep. In reference to government, conservative defined as small scale and efficient government.” Impressive, huh? Cox goes on to explain why she sorts herself in this group. “As simply as I can put it, I am conservative because I think our government has grown to an uncontrollable size throughout the past couple of decades and that causes the government to seem unorganized and has caused a $17 trillion debt,” explains Cox, “I think that the government officials need to step back and slim down the government. Not make dramatic cuts but, over time, bring it back to a manageable level. At this point in my life, I am a fiscally dependent young woman who lives under her parents roof and rules, I don’t have to pay many taxes and I am often unaffected by the decisions of the government. Therefore, I am not extremely passionate about any certain issue, the best I can do now is educate myself, read, think and form an opinion.”
Cox then identifies a few basic beliefs that conservatives put an emphasis on, which include smaller government, preserving Constitutional rights, and capitalism. She includes conservative opinions on popular issues as well. “Gun control,” Cox says, “is very important to many radical conservatives who are passionate about their Second Amendment rights. The belief is that Americans should retain the right to buy and have guns or weapons to defend themselves.” Healthcare, on the other hand, is a completely different story. According to Cox, “There are a lot of factors that go into this hot-topic of an issue. In short, conservatives are not in favor of healthcare and for many reasons. Mainly, the conservatives issue with healthcare is that the government is making citizens buy something and that translates into a loss of liberty and rights.” In a nutshell, conservatives lean more to the left when it comes to societal issues, choosing to favor tradition over change and to stick to their guns (literally).
To those who oppose conservatives or have generalized knowledge of them, a very particular stereotype comes to mind. “If I could I would describe the stereotype with a picture of an old, white, religious (most likely wealthy) man,” says Cox, “and in this way it is often portrayed as negative.” However, as we all know, most stereotypes give false illusions based solely on radical traits. Cox goes on to say that, “Although most of the self-proclaimed conservatives are 55 and older, the younger generations also identify with the ideology. As far as race demographics, an overwhelming amount of conservatives are white, however this is also true of liberals who are white. The more I look at the demographics of each political ideology, I realize that one is not more representative of any faction of the population and their percentages only differ up to 5% of each other. I guess what I am getting to is that conservatives are men women of any and all races, religions, and paychecks.” And BAM- stereotype disproved. Job well done, Ally.
Open-minded, accepting of change, and being open to change are the main characteristics that for senior, Molly Beck, define the conservatives’ counterpart- liberals. But what makes her fit that description? “Because I am open to new ideas and change,” explains Beck, “Things don’t remain static. I believe that laws and regulations should be kept in place and remain unchanged only when they are still relevant and effective. The country changes and with it so do I.” She cleverly wraps up her spiel by stating, “I believe that if you don’t keep up with the times that you should prepare to be left behind.”
“Today, most liberals support gay marriage, marijuana legalization, affordable healthcare for all, immigration reform, and believe in stricter gun control,” says Beck as she lists the issues liberals currently invest the most in. “Typically, you can expect a liberal to vote the democratic ticket in a political election. A liberal may also believe, for instance, in…social security, maintaining government agencies that work for the people, helping the poor with the overall goal to better their lives and also to break the cycle of poverty.” In general, liberals tend to strive for change rather than tradition. They prioritize people above all, dividing most of their attention towards social issues. “Liberals believe in social equity,” Beck explains. “They have always been on the side of the underdog in society. We’re often ‘the others.’ Liberals believe that everybody has a place in our society, and that everybody deserves respect. Minorities, including, but not exclusive to the following: women, LGBT, Hispanics, Latinos and blacks are supported by and make up the liberal population.” If life were a movie, liberals would be that person who stands up for the little-guy and becomes a hero, resulting in them finally getting the love of their life. Still, even the best movies have their critics. “People criticized civil rights, equal rights for women, the G.I. Bill, social security, Medicare/Medicaid, The Affordable Care Act, unions, and the list goes on and on,” points out Beck, “but now, these rights and federal programs are thought of as integral parts of our productive society.” All in all, liberals stand for societal reform, looking at the big picture as they pushing for innovation and social justice for all.
With their strong emphasis on equality rather than convention, it’s not hard to see how the liberal stereotype of what can essentially be depicted as ‘radical hippies’ came to be. Beck says, “I believe that people negatively associate the word liberal with ‘handouts.’ A major stereotype that liberals face is that they have no moral principles.” Once again, though, generalizations are more than often untrue. Beck continues, saying, “I don’t think that these stereotypes are descriptive of real liberals. In my opinion, a real liberal believes, in the simplest of terms, in helping people. I feel that there is a sense of community and that I am my brother’s/sister’s keeper. When conservatives see someone in poverty, they tend to imply the ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ mentality. A liberal, however, would see that the person doesn’t have any boots, and would subsequently help that person to improve themselves.” All in all, neither party has a stronger sense of morality than the other; what one views as the right and wrong ways to handle different situations is entirely up to the interpretation of the individual. Thanks for clearing that up, Molly.
Both Beck and Cox give compelling and educated responses for how they formed their political beliefs, proving that it is possible for young adults to form their own opinions on such matters. “I think it is very important for high school students to learn about the issues and form opinions,” includes Cox. “In America, we have the freedom to learn and chose and that’s something incredible! The amount of people who are uneducated by the policies and issues is outstanding and I believe that everyone’s vote counts to give a voice to the people.” Neither choice is wrong or unethical while deciding between being liberal or conservative; they are simply two opposing opinions that are equally necessary to make our society function properly. Cox continues, saying that, “Personally, I think that the terms conservative and liberal carry too much weight and hate toward each other and in the end, makes everything a lot more difficult. Political ideals are important when discussing the pros and cons of certain issues, but they become a problem when it divides the country to a point that it is a disadvantage to the country as a whole. (Yup, I am referring to the recent government shutdown. I think liberals and conservatives alike can agree that is no way to run a government).” And she’s right! It is essential to take a stance on our society’s issues, because every vote counts. Even if you feel that your opinion on a matter doesn’t mean anything, it does! However, it is not a competition. Like yin and yang, liberals and conservatives balance one another out to keep our society’s equilibrium intact. Look at it this way: liberals are America’s left leg and conservatives are its right. To keep our nation upright and walking, we need both ideals.
So, ask yourself, are you conservative or liberal?