Documentary Review Essay Example

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Documentary Review

Liberal and conservative traditions of American politics


Conservatism has been present in American politics for a long time and advocates respect for American traditions, supporting republicanism, respecting the rule of law, Christian values, anticommunism, and exceptionalism of the American society and defending the western civilization from what people view as threats posed by moral relativism and multiculturalism. American traditions of conservatism maintain that liberty is an important aspect, emphasizing on strengthening the worlds free market, opposing the imposition of high taxes by the government or labor unions taking advantage of entrepreneurs. Since the American Revolution took place, the conservatism tradition has played a major role in American politics, shaping how things are done in political circles. Experts point out that conservatism only began playing an important role in American politics only after 1950’s and that it was irrelevant back then. Conservatism in the American politics can be seen through the Republic party, which opposes all liberal views by the Democrats. Before 1965, many southern Democrats were said to be conservatives and opposed liberal views on many issues except on economic issues[ CITATION Kir12 l 1033 ].

Conservatism is mainly seen as a challenging idea, which challenges ideas put forward by liberals for the common good of the country. Whereas liberalism champions the rights of citizens, conservatism was seen as championing the spirit of nationalism. The philosophy of liberalism has sought to liberate the human being from oppressive institutions including political institutions, religious and other political institutions, oppressive social cultural customs, or vast economic industries, the philosophy of conservatism came up as a reaction to what people perceived as challenging actions that were being practiced by the liberal movements[ CITATION Mic09 l 1033 ].


Liberalism is said to be a large political philosophy that is normally centered on rights of human beings and advocates defending those rights from being infringed by the government, religious institutions or other groups and individuals. The liberal though in the United States advocates rights and freedoms of individuals such as freedoms of speech, free press, freedom of religion, separating church and the state, all individuals being equal before the law and many more. Modern liberalism in the United States is being advocated by the Democratic Party and has enacted laws to pass liberal laws such as same-sex marriages, all adults being granted rights to vote, environmental justice.

The main liberal view advocates the responsibility of the government promoting the general welfare of all its citizens. The philosophy of liberalism was promoted by President Franklin Roosevelt under the idea of «New Deal» and later on by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. John Locke (1632-1704) is considered to be the originator of liberalism in American taking into considerations his two treaties of government; stating that a government exists to serve the people and the society that it governs. The power that a government has is limited by concepts of natural rights of the citizens and moral law. Under the philosophy of liberalism, the government of a country has a basic duty of making sure that it protects the rights of its citizens. In turn, the government is granted some powers that enable it to serve the people and not itself. The government is said to rule on the behalf of the people, meaning that it is in that position for the common good of the citizens. The relationship between the government and citizens is said to be like a pact whereby people relinquish some of the own rights to gain security and stability. In summary, liberalism promotes the idea that of a compact relationship between the people of a country and the government of the country. The violation of this compact relation between the people and the government can result in revolution looking to set things right. Liberalism also states that natural rights belong to the people; with the people have a right to revolutionize if the rights are violated. Liberalism also advocates for limited powers of the government, checked by an elected parliament and an independent judiciary[ CITATION Zde00 l 1033 ].

How liberalism and conservatism are reflected in the republican and democrat parties

Every person in the United States either classifies themselves as liberal, conservative and moderate. Liberalism aims at the preservation of human, social and civil rights. The philosophy advocates for the government to provide positive rights to its citizens. The American liberalism is practiced by the Democratic Party and incorporates to some extend the European social liberalism. Liberalism advocates for greater civil liberties to the electorate, social progressivism, pluralism and a government that ensures that positive rights of the electorate are guaranteed. Liberalism also advocates for a mixed economy whereby the government has minimal controls on the economy. Most liberals are Democrats hence hold liberal views on social issues but hold conservative views on economic issues. Democrats do see anything wrong with abortion or same sex marriages, hence the reason why those laws were passed recently. On economic issues, democrats hold conservative views in that they reject excessive government spending and advocate for the reduction of the national debt[ CITATION Gay02 l 1033 ].

Conservatism, on the other hand, aims at advocating the concept of small government as well as upholding traditional values on social issues that affect the electorate. Conservatism is closely associated with the Republican Party and emerged in the 20th century. The ideology came to force by responding to such events as the great depression, the cold war, civil rights movement, deregulation of the economy, overthrowing of the new deal coalition and terrorist threats of the 21st century. Conservatism comes from the word conserve meaning people who like to conserve money, status quo, and morality. Conservatives oppose liberal views such as same-sex marriages, abortion, gun control laws and favoring increased military spending. Conservatives do not see eye to eye with liberals on most issues such as social, moral or political. However, conservatives and liberals support each on calling for the reduction of the national debt as well as the government cutting its spending[ CITATION Mil07 l 1033 ].

Christian right and tea party influence on conservative politics

The Christian right is a coalition of fiscal and social conservatives who are mainly from white evangelical and Catholic traditions and plays a great role in politics of United States and abroad. The party emerged in the 1970s as a result of what it termed a decline in morals and strident secularism. The party is mainly linked with the Republican Party and opposes nearly all liberal views. The party influences conservative politics through its opposition on some issues such as the same-sex marriage and abortion. The party opposed the laws passed by the Democratic administration that sought to allow gay marriages and abortion, terming it morally wrong. The Christian party supports the Republican Party and in numerous elections has produced candidates such as Sarah Palin. Most experts however, argue that the Christian and tea parties are moods and not movements, who do not hold any other views except conservatism.

The tea party is primarily a political movement that holds conservative views and has an active role in the Republican Party. The movement has advocated for reduction of the United States debt and cutting federal spending. The Christian party and tea parties have predominantly become the Republic party’s base, as Republic candidates are required to engage with the movements to gain their support. The two parties contribute to the influence of conservative politics through advocating for upgrading social and moral values in the society.

Extremism of the Republican Party’s views

The Republican party prides itself on being conservative and holding conservative views as opposed to the Democrats liberalism. Experts are pointing out that however, the Republican party is becoming too extreme and hence maybe it is time to change there political stand. Political analysts are pointing out that the extremism of the Republican party can be attributed to its connection with the Christian party, a party that is so conservative in its views that it directs the Republicans. The party has been so conservative that it is alienating most Americans especially African-American and minorities such as Latinos and Muslims. Resent utterances by Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump have led many people to brand the party as racist because it advocates for the government to go harder on immigrants.

Hyper-partisanship challenges

Hyper-partisanship is very rife in the American politics whereby the old American sins such as slavery and now people are more concerned with whether they are republicans or democrats. Today’s American politics are ushering in a new bigotry where an individual’s partisan identification is a source of prejudice showing the divisions of the American society. Partisanship makes conservative people believe that liberals are less patriotic and socialist while liberals believe that conservatives have taken it too far resulting in them being extreme. The distrust between the different party supporters makes individuals feel unfairly judged, fueling division. Before the divisions by republicans and democrats, partisan difference didn’t always appear like a bridge that cannot be unabridged. Basic values between republicans and democrats have skyrocketed, with the supporters differing on all major issues such as social issues, political, environmental and economic. Republicans have a large white majority with Democrats being ethnically diverse than any other party in the United States.

How the American media fosters hyper-partisanship

The American media fosters hyper partisanship by showing how it strengthens conservatism and undermines liberalism. The American media is to blame for turning liberals to be like conservatives, adopting a mentality of winning at all costs. This mentality is mostly seen in debates and elections. For both liberals and conservatives to win in debates, they have looked at the media to promote their campaigns. This means that the media is at the centre stage of promoting hyper-partisanship, in turn promoting divisions and polarization in the American political situation. Both the republicans and the democrats hold different political and ideological views and most of the times differ on how to arrive at solutions on those issues. Most people view the Republicans as championing the rights of the whites while the Democrats are seen as diverse because they have the African Americans, Latinos, Hispanic, and Muslims[ CITATION Mil07 l 1033 ].


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Ducharme, M., & Constant, J.-F. (2009). Liberalism and hegemony : debating the Canadian liberal revolution. New York: University of Toronto Press.

Suda, Z., & Musil, J. (2000). The meaning of liberalism : East and West. New York: CEU Press.

Tate, G. T., & Randolph, L. A. (2002). Dimensions of Black conservatism in the United States : made in America. New York: Palgrave.

Zafirovski, M. (2007). Liberal modernity and its adversaries : freedom, liberalism and anti-liberalism in the 21st century. Boston : Brill.