Defining "Liberal" versus "Conservative"
Given the reality that many notable political figures like to use the terms "liberal" and "conservative" as swear words in an attempt to discredit, as well as insult, rivals and legislation they oppose, politicians have clearly lost touch with what these terms actually reference.
Quite frankly, the use of terms like liberal and conservative has simply become a means to manipulate voters instead of serving as informative descriptions. Quite frankly, no one can truly be a conservative or liberal on every issue. After all, what is liberal today will be conservative tomorrow while conservative views of yesteryears tend to die away, unless they are resurrected as liberal reforms.
Conservative is a word that often shows up on one end of any given ideological spectrum. As a relative term, it helps describe the orientation of a particular person or idea, but it has different uses and meanings that are often poorly verbalized or understood by the majority of people.
Even within the conservative versus liberal context of politics, both terms often mean contradictory things, depending upon the subject at hand. Social conservatives, for example, may hold views that are incompatible with the views of economic, legal, judicial, and political conservatives. The same is true of liberals. Consequently, no one can be strictly conservative or liberal.
It is important to remember terms like liberal and conservative are simply reference points, so people need common definitions that allow them to use these terms to adequately and constructively understand where a person stands on given issues. With that in mind, here are two meaningful definitions, which can help people more consistently and accurately use the generic terms "conservative" and "liberal."
A conservative idea, or person, is something, or someone, that defers to the current longstanding practices and views of the era when addressing issues. A liberal idea, or person, is something, or someone, that seeks to use novel or unconventional practices and views of the era when addressing issues.
It goes without saying, more often than not conservative and liberal views will contradict each other. It is, however, possible for self-proclaimed conservative and liberal ideologues to find middle ground on particular issues, because their views are not solidly conservative or liberal on every front of a given issue. More importantly, people should recognize that broadly defining these terms helps them pursue conservative and liberal solutions based on their merit instead of following the nonsensical default views of supposed conservative and liberal figures. In other words, people should think and embrace their own beliefs instead of following the ideologies of others.
Beyond definitions for these generic terms, people must seek to understand what "conservatives" and "liberals" in their communities actually stand for; otherwise, politicians can use these words to manipulate their constituents at the voting booth. The result is, of course, elected officials who work against their views instead of for them.
Because speech is powerful, the powerful like to subtly transform language to fit their views of the world and change the meanings of words so they can persuade individuals that their agendas, which might include harmful practices, must be embraced along with sensible policies. "Conservative" and "liberal" are just two terms that the political elite have narrowly defined in order to polarize the electorate while forcing voters to choose sides.