Background on Principles & Values
This section cites the candidates’ underlying philosophies, principles for decision-making, and the values that underlie their stances on the issues and their voting records. In practical terms, this section is where the candidates explain their campaign slogans.
Elsewhere in OnTheIssues, we have a policy of quoting strictly issues-based material, omitting the political components of each candidates’ speeches. In this category, we relax the rules substantially so that candidates can explain their political philosophy.
Political philosophy in the US can be better defined based on one's stances in two dimensions, social and economic, rather than the typical one-dimensional right-left axis.
This is most commonly enunciated by candidates in terms like "Socially liberal and fiscally conservative." The combinations of the two-dimensional philosophy are:
- Libertarian view: typically focusing on non-governmental solutions and private decision-making in both the social and economic dimensions. "Libertarian" is the philosophy that summarizes "socially liberal and fiscally conservative," although Libertarian Party members dislike that phrase.
- Progressive view: Progressives, like libertarians, often describe themselves as "socially liberal and fiscally conservative;" progressives do so from the liberal side while libertarians do so from the conservative side.
- Liberal or leftist view: typically focusing on helping needy members of society, and using government to achieve societal good; government intervention only in economic matters.
- Conservative or rightist view: typically focusing on fiscal frugality, strength abroad, and moral integrity; government intervention acceptable in social and personal matters.
- Populist view: typically focusing on local solutions instead of federal action, on decentralizing power, and on religion as the basis for societal good;
- Centrist or mixed view: typically focusing on reforming or amending existing institutions rather than replacing them.
The party structure in those philosophical terms is as follows:
- Republican Party: Generally conservative, but the "Religious Right" is much more populist. Republicans from the Northeast and the West Coast tend towards libertarianism, while those from the South and Midwest tend towards poplulism. The Republican Party currently controls the House of Representatives.
2012 nominee: Mitt Romney
- Democratic Party: Generally liberal, but President Clinton redefined the party as "New Democrats," which is much more centrist, especially on economic issues. Democrats from the South and West are known as "Blue Dog Democrats," which implies fiscal conservatism and moral populism. The Democrats currently control the Senate, by a one-vote margin.
2012 nominee: Barack Obama
- Green Party: Generally liberal or leftist, especially on economic matters, where most Greens are populists. The Green Party holds no national offices in the US, but the international Green movement has been successful at electing offiicals in Europe.
2012 nominee: Jill Stein
- Reform Party: Generally populist and centrist, but the Reform Party split into three factions during the 2000 elections. Pat Buchanan led one faction to a more conservative platform, and Ross Perot maintained control of a second faction. The only nationally elected Reform Party candidate, Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, split from both of those factions as well.
- Libertarian Party: Libertarian, as its name suggests. One member of Congress, Ron Paul of Texas, formerly was the party's nominee for President, but he was elected as a Republican. This is the largest of the "minor parties," with some elected officials at the local level.
2012 nominee: Gary Johnson
- Constitution Party: Religious Right.
2012 nominee: Virgil Goode
- Socialist Party: Leftist and populist. One member of Congress, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, calls himself a Socialist, but is not associated with this party.
“Socialism” is represented by the Socialist Party in the United States, and in numerous countries abroad. The Socialist Party of America runs candidates for president (Brian Moore in 2008, for example), and has numerous elected mayors around the country.
When Pres. Obama is accused of “moving the country toward socialism,” his accusers do not imply that he is secretly a member of the Socialist Party, but do imply that he ascribes to that party’s beliefs.
Those beliefs focus on high progressive taxation; redistribution of wealth; and providing a wide array of social services free of charge.
Most importantly, Socialists propose achieving those goals by revolutionary transformation as opposed to gradual changes, and reject policies like ObamaCare as too gradual.
Obama’s policies are closer to the Socialist Party’s positions than are most Republicans’—but Obama has never advocated revolutionary transformation!
- Natural Law Party: Populist and centrist.
- Tea Party: Not a party, but a movement to nominate candidates within the Republican Party. Click for outline of Tea Party issue stances.
- AmericansElect.org: Not a party, but a process to nominate a bipartisan ticket for the presidency.
2012 Election Principles & Values Issues
"Socialism" is represented by a legal political party in the United States, and in numerous countries abroad. The Socialist Party of America runs candidates for president (Brian Moore in 2008, for example), and has numerous elected mayors around the country. One member of the Senate, Bernie Sanders from Vermont, calls himself a socialist, but is not a member of the Socialist Party. When Pres. Obama is accused of "moving the country toward socialism", his accusers do not imply that he is secretly a member of the Socialist Party, but do imply that he ascribes to that party's beliefs. Those beliefs focus on high progressive taxation; redistribution of wealth; and providing a wide array of social services free of charge.