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With the campaign season in full swing, terms get regularly thrown around regarding this candidate or that issue. But I've experienced that too many people don't know what these terms actually mean. So I thought I'd provide “nutshell” definitions, based on my ongoing education and my experience in politics, for a few of the most common terms in the interest of promoting clarity. 

“Conservatives” believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense — emphasizing empowerment of the individual to solve problems.

“Libertarians” believe in severely limited government and maximum individual liberty ('as long as you don't hurt anyone else and don't take their stuff'), an unrestricted free market economic system, and a non-interventionist (don't get involved) foreign policy. 

“Liberals” believe government exists to alleviate all social ills, to protect civil liberties and human rights. Liberal policies typically emphasize use of government to solve problems. 

“Progressives” focus on protecting social welfare, promoting diversity and open borders, creating economic reform and fostering 'efficiency'. Progressives believe liberals don't go far enough in using government to leverage the changes they want to see.

“Leftists” are generally aligned with socialists and communists, advocating for collective social rights and government control of every aspect of people's lives so as to bring 'equality'. 

“Republicans” generally hold conservative and/or libertarians beliefs (depending on the subject) and are usually members of the Republican (GOP) political party.

“Democrats” generally hold liberal and/or progressive and/or leftist beliefs (depending on the subject) and are usually members of the Democrat political party.


Idaho's 2018 Governor candidate Republican Brad Little refers to himself as a conservative, and Democrat Paulette Jordan refers to herself as a progressive. 

Thank you. I hope this was helpful.

— Larry Dunn, White Bird


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