In the first column of this series, conservatives were defined as believing in self-reliance, a small government, and correspondingly low taxes. The Republican Party tends to reflect these views.
Republicans favor minimal government regulation of business in the belief that a thriving economy will benefit all Americans by providing lots of jobs. The minimum wage should be kept low to benefit small business.
The Republicans generally are against abortion and restrictions on gun ownership. Immigration should be tightly controlled. Government services should be cut back and taxes reduced for everyone. Social services should be reserved for the truly needy while families and the local community should offer help to the very poor, the sick, and the elderly. Republicans speak out for local control of education, private school support and school vouchers.
Traditionally, the Democratic Party has had liberal views. Liberals support a more active government providing more services and a higher level of taxes to pay for this approach.
Since family and the community often can't provide enough help for people in need, Democrats believe that government should help the very young, the old, the sick, and the poor on a larger scale.
Democrats believe that business interests are powerful and need to be regulated for fairness. They support worker rights, including a higher minimum wage, and labor unions. Civil rights, minority rights, and flexible immigration policies are also Democratic causes. In general, Democrats are for abortion rights, more restrictions on gun ownership, more protection of the environment, and against capital punishment.
While these basic beliefs are generally true for two major political parties, in reality many issues that face Congress are complex and aren't distinctly conservative or liberal. Hence the debates and votes in Congress reflect this complexity.
Arkfeld has taught secondary American History and American Government. He resides in Los Banos.