Editorial: Our political definitions have gotten careless


This election cycle has been a rough one.

Voters have been subjected to such a barrage of hateful rhetoric and misinformation that it’s a wonder that we can still remember what party each candidate is running for.

Even then, people toss around political terms as if they had no concrete meanings at all. Beyond the simple Republican, Democrat and Libertarian, words like socialist, communist and fascist have entered our political language in a completely incorrect way.

The Baylor community is better than this and to ensure that we stay informed and don’t mischaracterize our political figures the Lariat has put together a handy list of basic definitions of some political terms that are commonly used and misused.

The following definitions are in no way intended to be a comprehensive list of all American political parties, or comprehensive definitions those listed. Instead, let us consider it a cursory glance at how each party defines itself.

First, some easy definitions. Those of the Democratic Party and Barack Obama’s campaign, and Mitt Romney’s Republican Party.

The Republican Party was founded in 1854 from the ruins of the Whig party and a growing wave of anti-slavery sentiments. It was defined initially by the policies of Abraham Lincoln, and has been redefined most recently by the Reagan/Bush administrations and influenced by the Tea Party movement.

The current party platform includes a strong national defense, removing government regulations on the economy, overturning the Affordable Healthcare Act and overturning environmental “cap-and-trade” regulations on businesses.

Parts of the Republican Party are also heavily influenced by conservative Christian groups popularly known as “the Religious Right.”

The Democratic Party was founded after the War of 1812 from several groups of anti-federalists — including the former Democratic-Republicans founded in part by Thomas Jefferson — and was shaped early on by the issues of state’s rights and the policies of Andrew Jackson. In the early 20th century, the party was redefined under the Wilson and Roosevelt administrations into a progressive, liberal party. During the Kennedy/Johnson administrations, the Democratic administration took up the cause of civil rights and alienated the more conservative “Southern Democrats.”

Their platform includes expanding green energy initiatives, maintaining social programs, protecting and expanding civil rights and liberalizing the immigration system.

The Libertarian party is the United States’ largest third party. It is also the only third party to be on the ballot for at least 270 electoral votes. It was founded in 1971.

The Libertarian party website outlines in detail their platform and stances on many issues. The overarching theme of their platform is to protect individual rights, and that the private sector is better at handling things than the public sector. The party believes that the government is established to do specific things like defend borders and maintain law and order and shouldn’t overstep its boundaries.

The Libertarian party candidate for president is Gary Johnson, he is on the ballot in all states.

Of special note as far as libertarians are concerned is Ron Paul, the Republican congressman from Texas. He has often been called a libertarian by the media and the public. Ron Paul is not, however, a libertarian. He holds many libertarian views and some not strictly libertarian views. However, Paul is a registered Republican and has been for some time.

The Socialist Party USA is running Stewart A. Alexander for their presidential candidate. The Socialist Party USA’s website outlines beliefs like full employment for anyone who wants to work, public control of the means of production and social services made available for all.

The Socialist Party USA has come out repeatedly against several actions taken by President Obama, namely the bailout of the automotive industry. Under the socialist view, the failing companies and banks would have come under government control.

The Communist Party USA espouses many of the same beliefs, but desires to overturn the capitalist system. None of the candidates in this election identify as or are endorsed by the Communist Party.

The American Fascist movement advocates extreme nationalism, the inadequacy of democracy and corporate loyalty to the state. Once again none of the candidates are endorsed by or identify as fascists.

So, voters, the next time you hear someone calling Romney a fascist or Obama a communist feel free to politely correct that person.

The candidates both have views that people dislike, and nobody has to agree with either. But there are real socialists, communists and fascists participating in this grand system called democracy. All these groups have a right to exist and campaign, and that’s how it should be.

So don’t misuse political labels to try and smear a candidate.

There are more important things to discuss, anyway.