The Political Spectrum
The spectrum of political attitudes is a diagram that divides political thoughts and ideologies into two parts or halves: the left and the right. From the center, moving to the left, the attitudes and ideologies grow more liberal, from liberal to radical and from liberalism to communism. From the center, moving to the right, the attitudes and ideologies grow more conservative, from conservative to reactionary and from conservatism to monarchism or fascism. The division evident in this diagram is very useful in helping to explain and categorize individuals that are both republican and democratic in the United States.
When discussing liberalism and conservatism in the United States today, there seems to be a great division between the two sides or parties. The left side of the spectrum includes the more liberal, forward-looking thinkers: the democrats. The right side of the spectrum is where the more conservative thinkers, that are holding onto the past can be found
Democrats tend to look towards the future and make decisions now based on the future value or use of their decision. Examples of this would be the concern of the education system in the United States and the democrats willingness to give more federal funding to programs that will benefit many inner-city schools, where a larger percentage of students at higher levels are unable to read and write. It is also clear to see the attempts to improve the systems and assist students in the increase in federal aid available for students attending college that would otherwise not be able to afford it.
Although also concerned about education, republicans are less likely to agree to increase federal funding for inner-city schools or federal aid for college students. Also, republicans tend to be far less concerned will the social ills of this country. They admit that problems exist in certain areas, but seem reluctant to do much to help advance the people living in these areas or the people that are trying to support a family of four, living below the poverty line. In general, republicans are far less concerned with equality than are the democrats.
Another area of difference between the liberals and conservatives, or democrats and republicans is in their ideas of democracy. It seems that liberals have far more faith in the people of the United States than do conservatives and liberals seem to want more people to be actively involved in politics than do the conservatives.
On the extreme ends of the political spectrum can be found radicals and reactionaries. The radicals, the liberal extreme group, want the destruction of the current political system and the implementation of a new one, regardless of how violent it may be. It seems that if these groups do exist, they are not very powerful in the United States and do not pose much of a threat to the current system. On the right side of the spectrum, you find the conservative extreme group of the reactionaries. The reactionaries want to return to a time in the past, where they felt things to be better. An example of a reactionary would be a militia group. Militia groups seem to have gained power over the past few years and make themselves known, so they serve as an example of a reactionary group.
It seems almost ironic that the conservatives today are looking towards a past that the liberals of that day looked forward to. This follows the cycle of history, but also allows for the less rational characteristic of the conservatives to hold true.
Today, it seems that the liberals and conservatives, or democrats and republicans, are working together far better than in the past, but it also seems that there is a greater schism between the two sides or parties. Often it seems that democrats and republicans have common goals, but different means of obtaining them. It was clear in the presidential debates of the 2000 presidential race that both sides agreed that healthcare reform was much needed, but the way in which this reform would take place was far from agreeable to both parties. Another area of agreement was the tax reform. Both sides agreed that the current tax system needed to be rethought, but the democrats want everyone to be taxed a rate that was proportional to the amount of money they made, while the republicans want everyone to be taxed about the same, regardless of their income.
The spectrum of political attitudes is a simple structure, but a very useful one. By placing someone on either the right or left side of the spectrum, it is easy to predict how they will vote and think, based on the inclinations and attitudes defined by this simple, yet useful diagram.