“Liberal” and “Conservative”: The effects of labels and language on Government.

Have you ever asked yourself way politics have so many different ways of grouping political groups?  Why do Democrats and Republicans often get called by some label other than Democrats and Republicans?  Why does it matter what words are used to describe any given group?  All of this shows the power that language can have on how individuals view each other.

Here is an example of how just the simple words used to describe a situation can change every assumption that is made about the situation.

If a group of individuals are describe as wearing similar baggy clothing and hanging out downtown in a large metropolitan area conclusions will be drawing as to this being some form of a gang and thus being in a “gang” they must be criminals.  Now if that same group of individuals are described as wearing keikogi (traditional Japanese martial arts uniform) and waiting outside of a large sporting complex on the weekend of a martial arts tournament a completely different conclusion will be drawn.  These individuals will no longer be viewed as a “gang” and therefore the concern of them being criminals will be removed.

As can be seen the words used to describe the clothing as well as the location of the individuals changed the picture that was painted.  Giving different details on both the clothing and the location allows one to understand more of the picture.

Now looking at American politics and you have 3 major groups’ Democrats, Republicans, and Independent.  Given the United States was formed after a war for independents from English rule and with the government structured as a democratically elected republic.  That puts all three groups’ labels at the very core of the nation’s identity.

Just like the first two major political groups of the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist names were picked with the soul proposes of shaping populist views.  The Federalist group was formed to gain support for the replacement of the Articles of Confederation with a new stronger government with more powers of a central government as the current government lack the power needed to insure the peace and tranquility that the general society wanted.  The group that formed to express fear over the increasing power of the government under the proposed government was named by the Federalist as the Anti-Federalist.  The naming of the opposing group as Anti-Federalist which was done by the Federalist group allowed the Federalist to argue that this group was against the constitution and therefore a better government, as opposed to the idea that this group was for a better government than that Articles of Confederation just not the government that was purposed under the Federalist idea.  Therefore from the start of the American government language has always played a very important role.  So how does the labels of liberal and conservative affect today’s views of government.  For this the two terms need to be defined.  So what does the term liberal mean, as defined by dictionary.com liberal means;

“Favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties”

So by using the label as liberal a group will appear to be for increasing the degree of freedoms individuals have and therefore will have good populist support.  If “liberal” is for individual freedoms than what does conservative mean.  For this we shall return to dictionary.com to define conservative;

“Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions etc, or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.”         

So if a conservative is for limited change and the US was founded as a free nation then both a liberal and a conservative still want freedom.  Therefore neither label by itself has a negative effect on the groups’ populist view.

However the liberal wanting to have the government insure freedoms and the conservative not wanting change can cause issues.  The end effect of the two opposing view have driven more topics in to the view of the government.  Topics like gay marriage at the Federal level is a product of the Liberal side wanting to insure the right of gay marriage in all states by way of the Federal Government   This in turn resulting in a “Conservative” movement to make gay marriages illegal by law to preserve what is viewed as traditional values. 

The question is no longer ask if an issues is a Federal issue or a State issue it is view as the Federal Government is the absolute power of the land.  This changing view has allowed the common view of the Bill of Rights to be a document that gives freedoms to the people from the government as opposed to the document insuring that the people never gave the power to the government to address the topics protected by the Bill of Rights. 

The usage of labels can be seen throughout the political environment today to allow the depersonalization of a topic.  This can be as simple as Harry Reid using the term anarchist to describe the Tea Party as populist view of anarchy is a negative view.  The usage of extreme to describe the Tea Party as well as terms like anarchist has allowed the simple association of Tea Party to have a negative effect.  Even with the idea behind the name of Tea Party was to draw upon the ideas behind the Boston Tea Party.  The term Tea in Tea Party was an acronym for Taxed Enough Already.

The Occupy Wall Street movement also used the label 1% to describe individuals with large income and wealth.  The usage of this label allowed that subgroup to be viewed as not the same as the other 99%.   This allowed populist support for the Occupy Wall Street movement as it is the voice of the 99%. Therefore if you did not support them the result was that you had to be part of the 1% that caused all the problems. 

The usage of labels in government and politics at all levels allow the alienation of any person that does not agree with the matter at hand.  The health care reform law which is named the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” allows any argument against it to sound like an argument against protecting patients and making insurance health care cost affordable.  Using the label Obamacare it now changes the argument to one between the President’s ideal and the ideals’ of others. 

The 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act sounds like a law to protect gun owners but the law ban the sale machine gun made after May of 1986 to individuals.  The law also changed the rules around the inspection of gun stores.  Any argument against this act would appear to be an argument not to protect firearm owners.   Then there is the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act which requires background checks on all firearm not just handguns purchases thru a licensed dealer.  This was a restriction of the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution but once again any argument against the act would appear to be one that supported handgun violence. 

 An additional example of how labeling is used is the “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” which is the current name for the food stamp program.  This program gives money to individual to purchase prepackaged edible foods but does not require the food to have any given nutrition valve.  Therefore this program can be used to purchase thing like soft drinks and junk food.  To top it off this program is funded by the “Food, Conservation, and Energy Act” which is then called the “farm bill”.  If an individual tried to add requirement that any food purchased under the aforementioned program have some degree of nutritional value than then the opposing side could claim that this individual do not support the farm bill this  would sound like the individual did not support American Farmers.

In the end one has to assume that any word spoken or written by a person involved with politics was choosing to paint the picture that person wanted painted.  A reporter may try not to “spin” the news that is covered but the simple act of choosing which part of news to cover can have an effect on what the picture of the world looks like.