Much is made of left and right, conservative and liberal, but do many stop and think of what they truly believe? No. Many folks are dopes, and even then, many who think of themselves as one or the other are pretty mixed up. I actually think the economic hard times will cause parties to re-evaluate issues, and toss aside what they absolutely want vs. frivolous reaches of the past 20 years. I've blogged before about being a libertarian and even considering myself a bit along the lines of anarcho-capitalists, but believing in the primacy of individual freedom and the right for adults to be free and act as they wish as long as their actions do not infringe on other's right to freedom. Classical Liberalism is a good label, which does not mean what many contemporary people think it means. Many people just don't line up their thoughts with what they say they believe in.
Political diamond graphs, squares or whatever can give you a good post for where you 'fit' in relation to modern America. They also have questions geared to slide you into convenient labels. I often laugh when my friends find that they fall far too deep in the statist/fascist/socialist sections. Unfortunately, modern American politics and western civ economic success have made many people who once were considered 'liberal' in the Democrat sense into statists and 'conservative' in the GOP sense has gone from limited government and interference into pro-business and value socialism.
Liberals don't like being considered statists (I've seen the recoil when they see that's their label), but their policies might be culturally liberal, but 'rights' are derived from the state and the courts and much control of one's life is ceded to the state. An existence provided and based on a state's whims will always be subject to the whims of who is in charge of the state apparatus. Laws giving people power can have the best of intentions, but good intentions paved the 6 lane superhighway to hell. Doe eyed modern statists do not understand that once you bring the government into an issue, you suddenly make it subject to whomever is in charge. It also means that money can influence the decisions. If not allowed to make a decision or have sway over an industry, then money from industry will not find its way into government. Liberal statists forget that when you want the government to provide services, 1. it must provide the same crap for everyone and 2. you need to generate a lot of tax revenue to pay for it all making you subject to the big tax payers. It's like network TV having comedies like 2 1/2 Men while HBO shows Curb Your Enthusiasm. Sadly, liberals consider themselves the good guys who promote freedom, justice and equality (watch MTV vote or die ads), when they do not realize they are lovers of a state power determining life for a vast populace.
I have GOP friends who do not understand that they are value socialists. They do not understand that by fusing laws with their values (yes I know some of basic law is from Judeo-Christian norms) they are imposing a value viewpoint in law which curbs others' right to live their lives as they wish without harming others. They also fail to see how the idea of writing the law infused with 'values' could end up being used against them when the other party is in power. What the GOP used to stand for, small govt and little interference in the economics of the country, was replaced with limited govt interference in economics but plenty of do gooder type laws and actions. The GOP used be to strongly aligned with classical liberalism, but replaced it with heavy doses of God. Somewhere things moved from being supporters of the freedom of religion to writing laws and working in a way to promote religion non-stop. I even think some of that promotion has made atheists and their lame lawsuits far worse than they would be otherwise. The conservatives failed to see that they should be avoiding new laws, promoting individual freedom, and not giving the government more power which could be used against them if in the minority.
I do think the GOP went too far in the 2002-2006 era of values, and this was partly to differentiate themselves from the Dems that became so buddy buddy with big business. The Dems really cozied up to big business. It is as if the Dems figured they could let the rich and corporations make as much money as possible, but as long as taxes were paid, it would pay for the nice social programs. I believe a nation with only big businesses would be much easier and more beneficial to the Dems as they could have fewer targets to shake down. A nation of small businesses would be harder to control and much tougher to regulate, watch, threaten, etc. This is why I laugh with my lib friends hatred of big business per their taling points emails from the DNC, but their absolute love affair with Apple and Google. Those companies have a combined market cap of over 400 billion (that's a lot), yet they have done a tremendous PR job to manipulate the magnetism of coolness. Google and Apple dominate their markets in monopolistic fashion (scary here), which they worked hard to earn and deserve kudos. Liberals would curse any company that reached that dominance in another field, but Apple and Google have both cultivated an image to manipulate their support. I'm rambling now, but it is once again, the liberal friends of mine that speak often of being the good guys that stand for freedom yet, like sheep, support the big bad monopoly power.
Part of my hope for now is that because of the expansion of government power in the last 15 years, which is just a continuation of its massive expansion since FDR, there is a pushback from the population. Increasingly, we have a political class out of touch with the 300 million it exerts power over. Michelle Obama once said she hoped to challenge people to get up and be involved. It just might not be the involvement she hoped to unleash. An active and engaged populace would be a good thing (my Maine town hall influence). It would be far superior to blindly voting on local measures or saying it doesn't matter. It would be marvelous for more people to read up on political thought and carefully think about what it is they believe in and why.