The overriding factor, like the 800-pound gorilla lurking in the background, is always the matter of race.
The face and content of “liberal” and “conservative” politics have changed many times over the years in regards to their political meanings; but one thing that has maintained a constant in the mix has been race.
Opinion: Race a constant in liberal vs. conservative
In America, ever since the freeing of the slaves, the issues surrounding the roles that Blacks are to play in the society have been a defining demarcation between liberal and conservative views. The needs and ambitions of people of color in general, and African Americans in particular, are always characterized as being politically liberal.
Other measures have vacillated between being categorized as liberal or conservative, and from one political party to the other; but the race issue has been a constant mainstay, undisturbed as a permanent part of the political concept associated with liberalism.
The Republican Party (GOP) bore the label of liberalism in its early days — primarily because its leader, Abraham Lincoln, had the audacity to free the slaves. This, of course prompted the slave-holding South to leave the Republican Party, becoming the original “Solid South Democrats.”
But later, as a series of Northern Democrat presidents (Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, etc.) began to lead the Democratic Party, the situation changed. And finally, when one of their own, Lyndon B. Johnson, had the temerity to promote and sign John Kennedy’s Civil Rights Bill, that did it! In “lock-step” movement, Southerners deserted the Democratic Party and again became Republicans — and still are.
However, there are other things that define liberals and conservatives other than race. At the present time, the War in Iraq is the most prominent.
Liberals in general insist that the unprovoked invasion of another country is unforgivable, while conservatives, with few exceptions, insist that the war is completely justified and necessary. There are few defectors on both sides, but by and large the conservatives on the subject are Republicans and the liberals Democrats — just as they are on the subject of race.
It is no mystery, therefore, to find that in the last presidential election African Americans voted almost 90 percent for Democrats, and in the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus there is not a single Republican member.
Among the other political items that separate liberals from conservatives are immigration, abortion, gun control and school choice, to name a few. But the overriding factor, like the 800-pound gorilla lurking in the background, is always the matter of race.
Matthew Little welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.