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What are the ideological differences between liberals, radicals, and conservatives?

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Mike Walter eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The first post to this question noted that liberals and conservatives have differing ideas on the role of government. This post specifically addresses their differences on social issues.

Liberals and conservatives have always disagreed on what government should do and how it should do it. In the past, a lot of this disagreement has been based on government spending and military policy. However, in recent years, we have seen an even greater schism between liberals and conservatives on social issues.

Socially, liberals generally advocate for a more inclusive, tolerant society. Issues such as gay marriage, abortion, universal healthcare, and immigration have been keystones of Democratic party platforms and proposals.

Conservatives, on the other hand, usually prefer to maintain the status quo. We see this with their attempts to define marriage as a union of a man and a woman, or their opposition to Obamacare legislation. Sometimes they go beyond maintaining the status quo and propose reverting back to a previous condition, as when they consider repealing Obamacare. We have also recently seen a fracturing of conservative ideology along religious lines, with parties such as the Tea Party and the Constitution Party seeking to frame their political views within a religious context. You might consider these parties to the be the more "radical" conservative wing. 

The social aspects of political ideology have become more divisive than ever before. How these divisions are addressed by the existing political parties will have a lot to do with how political power is won and exercised in the future.  

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sledge00 | Student

Political ideologies are fluid and can change over time and between nations.

In modern ideology, generally speaking, liberals are to the left of the political spectrum. This means they believe in more government intervention to help society achieve justice and equality.

Conservatives believe in less government intervention and more individual freedoms and rights. Conservatives want to preserve traditions and avoid unnecessary change.

In most countries both liberals and conservatives believe in upholding their country's customs and laws such as democracy and civil rights. They do tend to interpret laws differently and act to change them to better fit their beliefs.

Radicals can be found among both liberals and conservatives. As their name implies, radicals believe in more extreme versions of their political philosophies. They push for change beyond the existing laws of their country. Radicals sometimes use moderate tactics such as civil disobedience, or more violent forms of protest to try to influence society.