How many kind of "conservatives" are there in America?

Is that really a type of conservativism, or more just the pragmatism that’s pretty common in America? I’d think most people, regardless of political philosophy, want to focus on what works.


Regarding “Crunchy-Cons”, as I said, they’re not necessarily a legitimate grouping of conservatives in the sense that the classification tells you anything important about their ideology. Basically, they’re conservatives of some sort, but they consider the enivironment to be very valuable. The primary proponent of crunchy-cons, as far as I can tell, seems to be a guy named Rod Dreher over at National Review. One problem with the grouping is that it implies that other conservatives don’t give a crap about the environment, which isn’t really true. They just tend to have ways of going about environmental regulation that differs dramatically from “typical” environmentalists. Another problem is that the “crunchy” aspect refers more to lifestyle choice than actual ideology. Just as “Log Cabin Republicans” are just Pubs who also happen to be gay, “Crunchy-Cons” are conservatives who just happen to like nature a whole lot. I don’t know much about official groups of crunchy-cons, so I can’t help you there.

As far as Libertarian vs Fiscal Conservative, Libs are fiscally conservative. They are also socially liberal. Basically, they are of the opinion that whatever involves the least government interference is best. As I said, the classifications I listed can share traits, and you can mix and match to build your very own, completely unique conservative. Collect them all! Trade them with your friends! :slight_smile:
Captain Amazing:

What december wrote is pretty indicative of conservatism in general. Liberalism, on the other hand, is much more rooted in ideology. Conservatives tend to think in terms of the way the world is, while liberals tend to think in terms of the way the world should be. This is a generalization, of course, and it’s coming from someone who considers himself pretty darned conservative, but I think it’s a pretty objective assessment. Of course, sometimes it’s better to shoot for the moon even if you miss, and sometimes it’s better to hedge your bets, so both liberalism and conservatism have their places, in that respect.

Posted by Debaser:

Now you’re just being intellectually dishonest, Debaser. I cannot believe any American who has the brains to use a computer and thinks enough about political issues to express opinions on this board can be oblivious to the objective existence of at least some of the groupings I have identified. Let’s go down the list:

  1. Religious-social conservatives: Not only does this grouping exist but it is very politically active and well-organized. The Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, etc., etc., all are out to speak for “people of faith” in the public square. They exercise a lot of political clout within the Republican Party, and to a limited degree outside it. Their advantage is that they have standing permanent organizing centers known as “churches.” One of the most important social facts about the United States today is that it is no longer a “Christian” nation as it was within living memory. A majority of the people are still self-identified Christians who go to church and believe in God; but only a minority of those “Christians” still believe that Christianity is the one and only true faith and the one and only path to salvation. That minority, however, is a very large and politically interested minority; and its consciousness that it is now a minority only adds to its determination to fight a rising tide of secularism.

  2. White-supremacist conservatives: As I said, a much less important grouping than it used to be but it is still definitely there. Check out the Klanwatch page of the Southern Poverty Law Center,, which provides a complete listing of Klan, militia, skinhead, and Christian Identity groups. Check out the Southern Party ( and the Southern Independence Party (

  3. Nativist-populist conservatives: A clearly identifiable grouping, not only at present but going back a long way in our history, arguably even to the Jackson period (though whether the American Party or “Know-Nothings” of the early 19th century were really part of this tradition is debatable – their views were similar but their demographic was much more middle-class). And don’t underestimate Pat Buchanan! I have a feeling we’re going to be hearing a lot more from his organization in the coming years than we ever heard from Ross Perot’s. Buchanan definitely falls on the “conservative” side of the divide but he is positioned to be the first conservative in a long time to lead significant numbers out of the Republican Party.

  1. Foreign-policy neoconservatives: Unlike the above groupings, this one exists almost entirely at the intellectual-elite level with no popular electoral or support base. Nevertheless, these elites have a very definite, if not long, intellectual history – they came into existence in the 1970s, mainly from disaffected leftists who migrated from one extreme to the other, and now they have a lot of their own publications and think-tanks. And those have a lot of influence, particularly within the current administration.

  2. Pro-business conservatism: Again, an elite affair, but, again, not for that reason insignificant. The Republican Party has been the party of corporate interests since at least the 1920s. Corporations, and corporate organizations such as the National Association of Manufacturers, do not have much of an electoral base, but they do have money, and they spend it on think-tanks, lobbyists, and election campaigns (funding both sides if that’s what it takes to buy a friendly winner). I’m not making any of this up – it was well-documented by Michael Lind in his book Up from Conservatism (Free Press, 1996). He also told the story of the neo-cons, the religious traditionalists, and the highly important and effective alliance of the three.

  3. Libertarians: How can anyone deny the existence of this one? The Libertarian Party is the most prominent and best-organized third party in America! And the grouping includes a lot of small-l libertarians who would rather work within the Repubs. And of course there are think-tanks such as the Cato Institute, and publications like Reason and Liberty. The hardcore Libertarians are, furthermore, a clearly ideological grouping, at least as ideological as Marxists.

  4. Respectable elitist conservatives: I’m not entirely certain this one does exist, but I did say so in my OP. No one has yet commented on it, pro or con.

Let me say it once again: I am not trying to define the range of groupings of conservative political views among the whole American people. I am trying to identify the groupings within the conservative side of the “political nation,” that minority of the general populace who, beyond merely voting on election day, take some kind of active interest in public affairs. The political nation includes public officials, and institutional leaders of political parties and other organizations, plus everybody who donates significant amounts of money to political organizations, plus everybody who does campaign work, plus everybody who participates actively in nonpartisan political organizations, plus (debatably) everybody who participates in public political discussions such as this one. Put them all together, you’ve still got a minority, but a very important one – even in a democracy (or whatever you call this), the mass of the people, outside the political nation, do not initiate any policies, they merely respond to the range of alternatives that the political nation develops and presents to them.

Now, if you want to look at the range of political views among the people – (I’d better break this down into two posts because I’m going to be copying a lengthy text block) –

The following typology was developed by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. You can check it out at The Pew researchers divide the American body politic into the following ten groups:

[Text deleted. See link. – MEB]

Now, of these, Staunch Conservatives, Moderate Republicans and Populist Republicans can be clearly placed on the “conservative” side – the practical importance of which is that they are the potential voting support base of the “conservatives” within the political nation. Note that there is no Pew typology grouping that directly corresponds to the Libertarians. This does not mean that Libertarianism does not exist as an important grouping; it means that there is a limited number of popular groupings that the Libertarians might, under the right circumstances, look to for votes: They might pick up a lot of New Prosperity Independents, and a much smaller number of Staunch Conservatives and Populist Conservatives. The religious-traditionalist conservatives, if they were ever to break out of the Republicans and form their own party, would find rich hunting grounds among the Populist Conservatives and the Staunch Conservatives. And so on.

Notes on the American Conservative, with special attention to notable sub-species.

The Libertarian Loon - A largely urban creature, though its lot is an unhappy one, being a political territorial bird with no hope whatever of actually obtaining any. Prone to colorful bow ties as a way of expressing a mild and harmless eccentricity. Says “Libertarian” like he expects you to be shocked and/or impressed.

The Crypto-Fascist Badger - has watched one John Wayne movie too many. Actually loves all things military. Not merely a cruel necessity in a wicked world, he flat out loves flags, guns, and video clips of stern jet fighters lifting off from the deck of an aircraft carrier. Suffers severe bouts of cognitive dissonance when comparing John Kerry’s war record to GeeDubya’s. Such as it is.

The Fiscal Scroogist - Rectum slams shut with an audible snap when the words “income redistribution” are said in its presence. Regards the list of human rights as “property rights” and some other miscellaneous trivia. Suspects darkly that at least a third of the money going to Head Start is being spent on crack and/or porno.

The Fundamentalist Goony Bird - the oddest of the bestiary, usually devoid of any distinct political thought or theory (compare to LL, above, which are positively paralyzed by abundance). Longs for a legendary Golden Age when men were men, women were girls, and everybody else hid from sight. Acts as though convinced that Jesus Christ was the least forgiving person who ever lived.

The Six-Packered Joe Bird - Votes for Bush because he looks good in that bomber jacket, and seems like an OK guy. God help us.

Why am I mentioned in these kinds of threads? I a m not sure what manner of progressive I represent, but never mind, this one item attracts attention:

Rubbish. Complete rubbish. While certainly the American conservative… movement to use the term so loosely as to almost lose meaning … likes to think of itself as “realist” versus fuzzy headed liberals and the like, the reality strikes me as rather different. Rather, the benchmark for social policy and the like comes off an equally idealized set of goals (a mythically small government off of a mythical past of independent Americans…). It certainly is cast in terms of “natural law” and similar thinking but to this analyst it rather looks the same.

Up pragmatism in any case.

Moderator’s Note: I snipped out the cut-and-pasted text from the “Pew Research Center for the People and the Press”; if anyone wants to read up on what they have to say on the subject of the political typology of the American people, just click on the link.

This is surely over the top. Any political or ideological group–that is, any group of people who are actively seeking to implement a particular public policy agenda–is subject to criticism, in a way that a racial or ethnic group is not. (Religious groups are a gray area, depending on what extent they have public policy agendas.) You may disagree with or seek to refute some particular criticism someone makes, but you can hardly attack someone merely for being critical of a political group or point of view.

And it seems to me that “the Right” is no more monolithic than “the Left”; both “the Right” and “the Left” have their (at times antagonistic) sub-groups. Granted, you’ll never have complete agreement on the number, definition, or inter-relationship of those sub-groups on either (or any) “side” of the political “spectrum”, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to discuss the issue. (Also, I for one am quite likely to be pretty derisive in describing such well-documented groups as the Religious Right or the nativists.)

Not this libertarian. I believe that government is a benign necessity, and that it is evil only when it initiates force or fraud.


I’m not seeing a valid distinction. Do not racial groups in this country sometimes represent voting blocks with interests that may have a particular public policy agenda they wish to further?

Again. What is the difference between criticism and attack here. As far as I’m concerned I am criticizing the OP for attacking a group of which I am a member with his broad and derisive generalizations.

Well sure. I’d be more than happy to discuss the antagonistic aspects of various parties of conservative thought. The OP however, has not even gone so far as to define his most basic term.

How would the OP define a conservative?

In reading his OP, I see no attempt to define the term or use it other than as a perjorative adjecive.

Didn’t Max Weber define “government” as the entity that holds the monopoly on legitimate violence in a society? :slight_smile:

El Jeffe, just as a possiblility, maybe conservative ideas seem like “common sense” to you because you are a conservative. To liberals, liberal ideas seem like common sense.

Posted by Scylla:

Of course I haven’t defined it. If I were contrasting the characteristics of the “Western United States” with the “Eastern United States,” there would be no need to define the terms; the only challenge would be deciding where to draw a boundary line between them. The instant project isn’t nearly as simple as that, but it illustrates the point.

In this thread, and the concurrent leftist-liberal thread, I did not start with an arbitrary definition of a “liberal” or “conservative” and look around for groupings that meet the definition. Rather, I started with taking the American “political nation” as a whole, with all its visible groupings, and then drew a line roughly down the middle. In this thread I have mentioned every identifiable political grouping that is not leftist or liberal, and in the leftist-liberal thread I have mentioned every such grouping that is not conservative, and so far I’ve not encountered any grouping that might arguably have gone on either side (with the arguable exception of the neoliberals). The Libertarians might object to being classified as “conservatives” – in its radical forms, Libertarianism is positively revolutionary – but, still, they have more in common with mainstream conservatives than mainstream liberals, and probably spend a lot more time talking to them, and I would guess the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute are on very friendly terms and might even get some of their funding from the same sources. So I put the Libertarians on the “conservative” side of the divide – as a first step – even though a graphic value-axis classification scheme such as the Libertarians’ own political chart might place them in a different quadrant from every other kind of “conservative.”

Posted by MEBuckner:

You’re no fun anymore!


According to you, a Conservative is simply somebody who is not liberal.

Is that accurate?

And of course the other half is that a liberal is simply not conservative.

Is this how you’re drawing your lines?

Sometimes they statistically lean in a certain direction, but there is nothing about being of a certain race, gender, ethnic group, or sexual orientation that guarantees that a person will hold certain views, or even views leaning in a certain direction*.

Terms denoting ideology, on the other hand, should guarantee that a person with an ideology described by a certain word should hold a certain view, or at least one of a limited set of views. Otherwise, such terms are meaningless.

*Except when they deal with basic human rights for that group, of course. I’m sure about 100% of black people, for example, think that the Thirteenth Amendment was a good thing, whereas there might be a tiny proportion of very backwards whites who disagree.

Heh, you can never be sure %100 of anybody agrees on anything.

In fact, since the 13th amendment is race nuetral, there’s nothing in there that would make it especially appealing to blacks (thinking in a vacuum nuetralized history, that is). There might be a tiny proportion of very backwards blacks who wouldn’t mind having the right to force others into slavery.

[sub]Is there some reason you want to force me to get my reading glasses?[/sub]