In a Nutshell: Understanding Liberals and Conservatives

Really. The need for labeling in regard to left and right went away with the emergence of globalization and the end of the Cold War. Today, policies are either neoliberal-friendly or not. If you haven’t noticed, the overwhelming economic paradigm of our lifetime is not socialism. Look around.  Washington and State politicians are into neoliberalism. But what about everyday folks? What’s on their minds? If one still needs to know a bit about the labeling of the populous- not the makers of neo-liberal policy–then here is the stuff. Liberal and Conservative observers of policy making are all around and can still be found battling out opinions about left and right as if we were still living in the 20th-century when the divisions were somewhat clear.  Though in the US, today, everyday folks may not be thinking neoliberalism. Maybe they should be.

On the Hill, however, like already said here, what we find more than ever the lines get blurry when talking the actual Left and Right. Might be looked at as Inverted totalitarianism- a term coined by political philosopher Sheldon Wolin to describe the emerging form of government of the United States. Joe Sacco, journalist, says inverted totalitarianism is described as a system where corporations have corrupted and subverted democracy and where economics trumps politics. Here, liberals in high places can be found backing neoliberal policy hand in hand with Conservatives– happily skipping together.  They tend to morph into each other– mostly grappling over just who will benefit more from this or that neoliberal deal. Let’s call that Contributor Reciprocation and Fundraising. Where there is a dollar– that tends to be generally where top official liberals and conservatives can always come together to unite. Just who will get the dollar is the biggest question and source of division. They do come from different philosophical starting gates, mind you, in pursuit of the money–that’s true.  What are those starting gates? To understand those, here are those in a nutshell. Hope this helps.

In a Nutshell: Understanding Liberals and Conservatives


Liberals in the US see the world as a good peaceful place–a garden of Eden. But sometimes things happen to disturb that. When MLK went to the mountain top, he reminded us of a place of how things should be. The dream is to get back to that place. Hopeful return to a peaceful place is achievable if we all just get together.

It’s a place many, if not all, have never seen before, but it is there. We got to get there.

Liberals see conservatives as standing in the path blocking the way to the promised land–obstructions to hope and change.

Liberals wonder why conservatives can’t see it. Just get out of the way so things can be better.  Things can be better than they are.


Conservatives in the US see the world as having always been bad, horrifying, and repugnant–as a hell. Only their efforts have saved the world from the hell that it is and they are the defenders of the bits of the world they have saved. They have created small pockets of goodness, you might say. Conservatives feel that they have built a fort, put a moat around it, put guards on the lookout, and have secured the place from outside evil scary stuff–John Winthrop’s “a shining city on a hill,”  

Theologically, scholars say, this idea was expressed by the early Puritan settlers. In a still-iconic sermon preached by John Winthrop to a group of shivering immigrants traveling to a new world, he proclaimed the new settlement would be “a shining city upon a hill” — Harry Bruinius

Conservatives see liberals as breaking what they fixed. Liberals should just leave stuff alone and not touch anything. We want our America back. We want our “shining city” back.

When Speaking to Liberals or Conservatives

Both see goodness, but the goodness is seen a bit differently. Remember the differing views of goodness when speaking to each group– both are expecting to be addressed nicely and spoken to in their own language. Let’s stop picking on each other. 

Let’s all, however, give politicians hell over neoliberalism.

Terry Gresham


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