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Chris_Bosh

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What does left, right, center mean in Politics?

  • February 24th, 2010 @ 04:01 PM
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I know this might be a stupid question and this message might not belong in this forums(didn't know where else I could of posted it), but can anyone explain me what being left, right or center when you guys talk about politics...I've always been confused by it and would like to understand it alot more.

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Reply Posted: February 24th, 2010 @ 04:10 PM
There is a political spectrum. Those on the left are referred to as Liberals, and those on the right are referred to as conservatives. A moderate is a mixed bag of both sides or someone who does not strongly favor one issue one way or another.

How the "left" and "right" terms came about, I don't know. All I know is for someone to be considered left or right depends on the issue. For example, most conservatives (those on the right) are pro-life, while the liberal stance (those on the left) are more pro-choice.

You can go down the list and really determine what side of the issue someone is on.


Reply Posted: February 24th, 2010 @ 04:20 PM
Hello Chris_Bosh,

if you are confused because of the broad-brush categories of "left" versus "right", don't worry, they are not well-defined anyway, and most people have a different understanding of them.

They can mean entirely different things in different countries. The US "center" is completely different than the Canadian or German "center", for example -- based on the stances of the respective parties in these countries.

And a one-dimensional spectrum (with "left" and "right" as extremes) is not suffient to explain the spectrum of political ideas anyway. There is a more complex model that tried to explain the political location on two axis, one for "economic left/right" and "social left/right".

The basic stances on that model are that economic left types prefer government intervention in the market, while the economic right favors free markets. The social left opposes authority and emphasizes individual freedom, the social right favors conformism, traditional social values and authority.

On this spectrum, it's possible that you are both economic and socially "right" (i.e. social conservatives opposed to gay marriage, abortion, etc and also in favor of free markets), or economic "right" but socially "left" (libertarians in favor of gay marriage and pro-choice, yet very pro-free market), or "left" on both economics and social questions (pro-choice, pro-gay marriage proponents of government intervention), or "left" on econimic issues, yet "right" on social issues (communists, in favor of strong state controls on economy and yet very authoritarian on social issues, against freedom of speach and individual freedom).

So "left" and "right" are really very relative labels.


Reply Posted: February 24th, 2010 @ 04:23 PM
Great explaination guys I'm starting to understand it alot more. Another add on question I'd like to ask is; Did Obama win because the United States are more right then any other sides or am I way off on this??


Reply Posted: February 24th, 2010 @ 04:25 PM
Originally Posted by Chris_Bosh View Post
Great explaination guys I'm starting to understand it alot more. Another add on question I'd like to ask is; Did Obama win because the United States are more right then any other sides or am I way off on this??
I think he won because he was a good speaker. America is generally a center-right nation. Obama came off as such... people were tired of Bush and he played on that. I think that is why he got elected. If he really spoke about his true issues (taking over GM) he would have lost.


Reply Posted: February 24th, 2010 @ 04:26 PM
Originally Posted by Chris_Bosh View Post
Great explaination guys I'm starting to understand it alot more. Another add on question I'd like to ask is; Did Obama win because the United States are more right then any other sides or am I way off on this??
No, Obama won because most people hated George Bush and they blamed the Republican party for a majority of the economic problems we were facing. Obama would be considered left on the political spectrum.


Reply Posted: February 24th, 2010 @ 05:45 PM
Originally Posted by pro2A View Post
There is a political spectrum. Those on the left are referred to as Liberals, and those on the right are referred to as conservatives. A moderate is a mixed bag of both sides or someone who does not strongly favor one issue one way or another.

How the "left" and "right" terms came about, I don't know. All I know is for someone to be considered left or right depends on the issue. For example, most conservatives (those on the right) are pro-life, while the liberal stance (those on the left) are more pro-choice.

You can go down the list and really determine what side of the issue someone is on.
That's a too US-centric view of the issue, I'd say. For example, in Germany, these terms mean different things.

Our "right" party, the Christian Dems, don't question the compromise that has been made on abortion in the 70s anymore, that abortion is legal within the first 3 months, but illegal thereafter. And they are not against gay civil unions anymore either. Their difference to the "left" is that they believe nuclear energy should be continued, while the left wants to stop it.

And the economically most "right" party in Germany (fiscally conservatives in favor of spending cuts on welfare and tax cuts, and extremely opposed to state intervention in the market) are the libertarian Free Democrats, who are, on the other hand, extremely pro-queer and pro-choice, as well as pro-drug legalization. And, oh the irony, they are called "liberals" over here.
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Originally Posted by CaptainObvious View Post
No, Obama won because most people hated George Bush and they blamed the Republican party for a majority of the economic problems we were facing. Obama would be considered left on the political spectrum.
On the German political spectrum, Obama would be considered center-right, at very least right to the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), which is the major right-wing party.

Compared to the US, our competition between "left" and "right" would be more like the left and right wing of the Democrats in the US. Our conservatives are much like the right wing of the US Dems, while our left-leaning people are much like the left wing of the US Dems.

In addition to that, we have an extreme-left party that's way more left-leaning than anything you get in America (the Left Party, which has won 11.9% in the last election), and a neo-Nazi party that's economically rather pro-state, but socially about as right-wing as extreme Reps (with only 1.5% of the votes in the last election).

Last edited by Sim; February 24th, 2010 at 05:47 PM.. Reason: Automerged Doublepost




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