Explaining the political compass

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Ian Otteson

The U.S political compass is skewed slightly right in comparison to other countries.

In the latest presidential election, it’s important to know what the candidates stand for and whose views you align with on the American political compass.

The system our country has is an interesting version of the standard two party system that many democracies share. Our two party system is extraordinarily dominant in comparison to any other system with minor third parties. The compass we go by is skewed slightly to the right meaning that our liberals and conservatives are slightly more conservative in comparison to other democracies. 

Political Compass with Historical figures
“Political Compass with Historical figures” by miss_rogue is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Starting off, it seems right that the two sides, conservative and liberal are explained. Conservatives generally prefer to follow tradition and resist what they see as unnecessary change. Many conservatives tend to be religious and view social issues with morality as the primary motivator for their choice. The Republican party tends to be the side that many conservatives are on, but some conservatives are members of the Democratic party although comparatively few.

There is also another axis that determines the preferred amount of governmental control going from authoritarian to libertarian, being for more and less governmental control respectively. The Republican party tends to be for less governmental control in the economy and more for social issues whereas the Democratic party is the mirror of that being for more control in the economy and less in social issues. A great tool for seeing where individuals fall on this scale is the politicalcompass.org site.

Liberals on the other hand of the spectrum are open to change and are willing to abandon traditional values. Religion is not a large factor in liberal decision making, but being religious and being liberal are not mutually exclusive. Historically the Republican party used to be progressive and liberal whereas conservative values used to be with the Democrats, but the parties mostly realigned in the period between World War 1 and World War 2, swapping their core ideologies and voter bases.

The two current presidential candidates, the incumbent President Trump and former Vice President Biden, have oddly unique views relative to their respective parties. President Trump has reformed the majority of the Republican party to fall under his voter base, having his driving values be concern for the economy rather than social issues. While President Trump is still against pro-choice stances on abortion and similar issues, it seems more-so for his voter base than personal belief on the matter. Former Vice President Biden similarly seems to be concerned for the well-being of the economy, but in handling it with less priority focusing on the pandemic first and recovery second. Former VP Biden also is concerned for economic issues and wants to enact legislation pushing through many green deals in housing and energy, although this would cost hundreds of billions and likely drive the government further into debt, although it may be dire in order to save our world’s climate.

In modern American politics, our liberal and conservative views tend to lean abnormally right in comparison to other democratic countries, especially those in Europe. After the second World War the progressive politicians of the UK, France, and U.S. sought to radically change the newly reinstated European governments, thus giving them a strongly progressive base to move forwards with. Modern European countries for the most part hardly regard abortion as an issue, considering it an inalienable right of women, and they devote far more money to social well-fare programs to aid the poor. Concepts such as Universal Healthcare are also abundant, leaving private health insurance agencies as a thing of the past.

While these European countries may have very progressive policies, it might not necessarily be better or worse than what we have in the U.S. As proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence, it is the peoples’ right to alter their government should it not suit their needs: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

It was the belief of the founding fathers that if a government was ineffective, cruel, or unjust then it was the right of the people governed by it to alter or change it. What other countries deem fit for them is not necessarily fit for us, and we will change depending on our ideals and morals.