All right, make me less ignorant. teach me all there is to know about politics, etc.

So a few weeks ago I made this thread and got some slack over it.

As I said in that thread, I’ll say again, self admitted, I know squat about politics. It’s like a willful ignorance since they seem to bore me. But also, I don’t quite understand them or know much about them.

I read things on this board all the time that I just don’t get. What’s this about skewing left? Is there a right too? Do you have to be a right or left? What’s a conservatist (oh yes, apoligies in advance for any misspellings)? It’s the opposite of a Liberal, right? Well, what’s a Liberal?

I’m serious. I have NO idea what any of these things are other than their names. Democrat? Republican? I know the names but know zilch about what they stand for.
Communism, socialism, buearocracy (Oh man, I just know I butchered THAT spelling) and all other -cracies and -isms; what are they? I know what democracy is…but that’s it for me. But I don’t get that word either. Wouldn’t a democracy be filled with nothing but democrats? So where do Republicans fit into the bill?
Radicals? To me radical was a word you said in the 80s to signify “cool”. What are all the levels on the whole political party or stance/opinion scale? And what’s someone who’s “sitting on the fence” or in the “middle of the road” doing?
And NO…please do NOT link me to any site saying “click here, it will explain it for you”. That is precisely what I don’t want. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to look all that up online and it’s just confused me more. I don’t need the tehnical terms. I need someone to put it in English. To put the cookies on the lowest shelf. I need a “Politics for Dummies” guide…so please, link and cite me to things for examples or to back up what you say, but I ask you use your own words to explain things to me. I’d think I’d understand it better coming from a personal person out to teach me about it knowing I’m truly in the dark about all of it.
Tell me everything you can think of about politics and the parties, stances, opinions, etc. Maybe if I learned about it, I’d find it less boring and actually get involved more. :slight_smile: I really do hope so too.
Then maybe I can actually understand when some people on here say that the board “skews left” (something that doesn’t seem to be true anyway from what I’ve also read).
I put this in GD because it’s about politics and, well, because I figure more than one side will reply and explain their area (and other areas in their opinion, which might make things a little interesting…thus why it’s in GD).

Wicked men rule the world, because they’re the only ones that want to.

I don’t think you were given much slack at all. Flack perhaps?

You got flak. Slack is what you wanted but didn’t get.

So why are you asking?

You do realize this is a bit like staring a thread and saying “I don’t know anything at all about religion. Can someone explain to me the whole range and history of human belief in the supernatural? And make it real simple, 'cause I don’t want to have to think.”

Explain war in twenty-five words or less!

And not big words, either!

Politics comes from the greek words “poly” which means “many” and “ticks” which “bloodsucking insects.”

Ahh, opposites but words that sound alike… :smack: Yes, I meant that. : p

I’m looking to improve myself and my knowledge about things.

Greattttt. Now if I just had the money. :dubious: :stuck_out_tongue: I kinda figured there’d be one for that. There’s one in the store I saw today for Holiday decorations, for christssakes. Heh.

Wow, that general, eh?

Really, I don’t want the complete run down then…just an explanation for the terms and phrases I more or less mentioned would be fine.

And I don’t mind thinking. :slight_smile: I have just never read an online page that made it make sense to me. I figured straight from the horses’ mouths would maybe suffice.


In America, the voter is the boss. You decide things, by choosing the people to write the laws based on how you think they’ll write them. You choose, by voting, the people who agree with you, so that when laws get written your ideas of how those laws should be written are represented in the process.

This is called a representative democracy.

Because of this, because you’re the boss, it’s up to you to be a responsible boss. You need to know what you’re talking about before you exercise that responsibility, the vote.

So what you need is not a history lesson in a thread (which is kinda idiotic; might wanna put that flak jacket back on). What you need is understand that, being in charge, it’s in YOUR OWN BEST INTEREST to kinda try to follow things as they happen; to keep up.

Abdicating your responsibility as boss for most of your life and then going, “What did I miss?” really isn’t the best long term strategy.

So now’s your opportunity to BEGIN the process of becoming politically aware. You won’t complete that process in one thread, which seems to be your goal. But hopefully this is a sign that you’re willing to start it.

The Democratic party is led by a bunch of hippies who fried their brains on LSD during the sixties. Their heroes are Karl Marx, Osama Bin Laden, and Larry Flynt. If elected they will ban the Bible and force everyone to get gay married.

The Republican party is secretly led a Cabal of 23 Octogenarian white oil executives who prolong their unnatural lives by harvesting organs from living African-American babies. If elected children will learn nothing but the Pledge of Allegiance, a simplifed Christian Catchesim, and how to stock shelves at Wal-Mart.

Dude, you can get it used for $1.75. If you can’t swing that, you have bigger problems.

Lissener is exactly right: You have abdicated your responsibility for most of your life and are now asking “What did I miss?” It’s not cute and it’s not funny; it’s sad and wrong, and no less so for being common.
If you want to do some basic research and then come here (or better, GQ) with specific questions, that’s fine. But asking other people to tell you what you slept through in 8th-grade social studies is ridiculous.

Seriously, this is an impossible task. There are hundreds of books written every year on politics. You want to start from the very beginning, yet at the same time want us to tell you everything we know about politics. I personally could write a thousand pages on everything I know about politics, and I know squat about politics. I have no doubt that many posters here could write a hundred books off the tops of their heads if they are starting form scratch and investigating every facet of politics.
Having said that I’ll try to get the ball rolling. I suspect the best way of approaching politics is to approach it as a form of economics.

Broadly there are two extremes of political economic viewpoints. The Left is represented at its most extreme by true communism/socialism. Under that ideal nobody owns anything. All property is held in common by the state and individuals are given permission to use it in order to help society. So you wouldn’t own your house or your car. Instead if it was decided that more people could be helped if you had a car then the state would purchase it for you out of a common pool and allow you to use it. Of course any money you make then gets put back into that common pool and distributed to those who need it to stay alive or help others.

True Communism of that sort of course never existed because it’s impractical to implement, but that as more or less the goal. The biggest complaint against such a system is that it relies on the goodwill of all people, and experiences teaches us that goodwill is evaporative. If everything you earn is returned to a common pool then why should you work any harder then the person next door, since you don’t; get any rewards.

Leftist politics in Western Democracies of course isn’t anywhere near as extreme as true Communism, but it aspires to the same general principles, namely that everyone should have a reasonable standard of living, healthcare etc. and that the taxation system should work to redistribute wealth to those who need it. Any sort of state welfare is, in principle, Leftist. In addition Unionism is inevitably leftist, and indeed most Leftist organisations started as workers Unions. Once again the general Leftist principles of giving a share of influence and wealth to the poorest members of society comes through strongly.

In addition many types of environmental policies are considered leftist because once again they seek to distribute environmental services like clean air to everyone equally, rather than allowing the wealthy to utilise an inordinate share of those services while denying them to the poor. Social equality is also often associated with the left, though this relationship is even more shaky than environmental policy. The justification for calling such policy leftist is that the oppressed tend to be the less wealthy in society. Hence feminism and Black rights tended to be more in keeping with Leftist policy simply because they brought more wealth to those who had the least. The reason why it doesn’t really hold up is that social equality for homosexuals for example may actually give more power to a group that is already economically above average, so the relationship kind of breaks down. Moreover right wing groups can also be vehement in support of social equality as I’ll outline below. Nonetheless there is an assumption that environmental and equality causes are correlated with the Left.

Leftist politics as practiced in democracies is criticised on a number of grounds. Possibly the most common is that it stifles initiative and growth. Obviously true Communism stifles initiative for the reasons given above, but even democratic Leftist economics is accused of stifling growth because by definition it ‘penalises’ the wealthiest most. By controlling actions more and more as people get richer and richer there it is said that you make it less desirable to become wealthier. Because of the way economics works in a free market if the topis less wealthy and has less incentive generate wealth then the bottom suffers as well. So the criticism is that Leftist policy is self-defeating. In the same general way if workers Unions become too powerful they can prevent incompetent and unproductive workers form being fired or prevent the scrapping of inefficient work practices. This once again stifles economic growth and initiative.

The big advantage of such Leftist policy is that it guarantees a voice for the underdogs. Nobody is going to be allowed to starve, nobody will be thrown out of a hospital, nobody will be illiterate. The state will guarantee that everybody gets their share even if that share isn’t perfectly equal. The weak and the poor have a real bargaining position because they won’t die if they don’t accept the boss’s work conditions.

Right wing politics lacks any obvious ideal solution equivalent to Socialism, although in many ways the US is close to being a Right ideal. In essence the right is the diametric opposite of the left. No property is held in common, everything is privately owned and nobody has to pay for anything they don’t want. Ironically the biggest complaint against such a system is that it relies on the goodwill of the people to achieve its ends. In this case the goodwill of the wealthy is needed to in the form of charity to see that basic living standards are maintained. If the wealthy don’t contribute to welfare then people will starve, children will be uneducated and so forth. If Soviet Russia is the poster child for Leftism gone mad then 19th century Britain is probably the poster child for Right wing politics gone mad. With no collective labour bargaining and no social security people had to manage as they could. Those too old or sick to work staved in the street and children were forced to work in order to stay alive.

Thankfully right wing politics in Western Democracies isn’t any closer to Dickensian London than Leftist politics is to Moscow. But once again it aspires to the same general principles, namely that everyone should be free to benefit from their own work effort, and conversely that those who won’t work are not allowed to leech off those who do. Any sort of commerical deregulation policy is in principle Right wing politics since it espouses a right of everyone to profit from their work. So the idea that anyone should be able to sell liquor at any time would be a right wing policy. Similarly any policy that places more of social security in the hands of charities is right wing.

The biggest criticism levelled at Right wing politics in Democracies is that it is, in essence, heartless. It effectively espouses a principle of survival of the fittest. If everyone is free to make money however they like then inevitably those who have will get more money because they have resources to bargain with. Those who have no money will lose what little they have because they can’t bargain from a position where they are staving. The other criticism is that an ideology constructed primarily around economic freedom as opposed to the social ideals of Socialism produces very few taboos. There is nothing that specifically makes slavery wrong for example, and no specific Right wing reason to object to racism or sexism, nor is there any reason to support welfare if it produces no profits. That is not to say that Right wing individuals don’t; oppose those things on individual moral grounds, but the opposition isn’t ‘inbuilt’ as it is in Leftist philosophy.

The big advantage of such right wing policy is economic growth. By maximising incentives and reward to personal effort it encourages effort, and o creates additional wealth. Such wealth, at least in principle, trickles down through all economic tiers and benefits even the poorest. Hence the stronger the economy the better the living standards of the poor as well as the environment and so forth. The second advantage of unbridled capitalism is choice. By having more money in the economy and every individual being free to spend that money as they choose people and hence society are freer to respond to things however they want. People aren’t tied to one station in life, nor are people compelled to purchase form just one polluting car manufacturer for example.

Hopefully that gets the thread rolling. The next big thing I guess is to realise that even within those two broad economic ideologies there are numerous subcategories like international communism or national socialism or ultimate laissez faire liberalism.

Republicans bad.

Most Democrats good.

All you need to know.

I don’t really see myself having done that, however I can see how I could look to someone else like I have. It’s not what I missed, but rather just what I never bothered to learn about in the first place.

I just figure better late than never (even just a bit) at all.
Which leads me to what you say here:

Oh, of course. :slight_smile: I know it’s foolish to expect all the answers to come to be and become clear just of one thread. I only wanted a run down or some basics. I know this is just the beginning and it’d probably be impossible to tell everything, in-depth, about politics in just one blow.

Not unless I come across it in a store or something. Online it’s all for naught with me as I have no means to buy or order things online. I suppose I could ask around the local bookstores though. Can’t be too hard (well, I hope not).

Well, that’s good cause I’m not trying to be either cute or funny. Again, I’m not asking so much as “what did I mss” rather than…“okay, okay, you’ve all swayed me a bit, mind giving me a bit more of the bone?”

Just conceeding to the fact that politics is important in this day and age and to be, at the very least, knowing about them in a way.

If nobody wishes to point me in the right directions (on preview I see that Blake has for which I am grateful. :slight_smile: I’ll be reading it all, I can assure you), then I’d still be and live just find without the knowledge of all that stuff. But I was just hoping someone would at least help me with my ignorance a bit. I can’t really put a specific question more suitible for GQ because, well, I don’t know anything about it at all. I can’t very well get more specific if I need to know “the basics”.

Find = Fine smacks forehead

It’s a given that in any post I make there will be a typo, misspelling or misuse of a word of some sort.

Yes, I do preview. :o Murphey’s Law just hates me.

Just for the record, (as the largest online bookseller) doesn’t only accept credit cards. They also accept payment direct from your bank account, checks and cashier’s checks, and money orders.

Aren’t there, y’know, libraries and things in your neighborhood?

(small hijack)

Given the beginning of the quote, does anyone else find the bolded portion scary?

It most certainly does.

First, it is a good thing that you do want to educate yourself on politics. It is important.

Second, do you remember anything at all from civics or or history or government or social studies class other than the word “democracy”? (because you seem confused on the definition).

Third, I think the thread would go better if your questions were more specific. Start reading one of those threads that you don’t get, and then come back to this thread and ask “what does <insert phrase> mean?” If the answer to that doesn’t make sense, ask specifically about the part that does not make sense. And so on until you get something.

To speak to one of the questions in the OP - for many issues, we have a choice between two different options*. People who say “Choice A sounds pretty good, but then Choice B does not sound that bad either, I could go either way.” would be considered moderates with regard to that issue.
If someone said “Choice A sounds a lot better than Choice B” they would be liberal or conservative with regard to that issue - correspondingly, the person who said “Choice B seems to be better than Choice A” would be conservative or liberal (those two are opposites).
The people who take it one step farther, “Choice A is the only choice! Ever! Choice B people are evil” or “Of course I’m for Choice B. Choice A people should die horrible painful deaths!” are the radicals and reactionaries. Radicals are the extreme liberals and reactionaries the are extreme conservatives.

Generally speaking:

Democrats believe in increased social services, are pro-union, want enviromental regulations, are pro-choice, support public education systems, and support minority rights.

Republicans believe in increased defense spending, are pro-business, want fewer government regulations, are pro-life, support school choices, and support community values.

Nice. Someone is sincerely asking for knowledge and the majority of the Dopers take a dump on him. This is an important lesson to the OP - those that consume themselves with politics end up very bitter.

To the OP - When starting out, don’t concern yourself with party labels, you’ll learn them eventually. Just look at the major issues and decide on your own where you stand. Here are some important “hot button” issues:

The war on terror / the war in Iraq
Gay marriage (should it be legal?)
Abortion (should it be illegal?)
Seperation of church and state (how much, if any, is too much?)
Rights of minorities (again, how much is too much?)