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Liberalism (US)

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Liberalism in the United States follows broadly a similar philosophy to advocates of liberalism elsewhere, with the beliefs centred around the unalienable rights of the individual. The Democratic Party is often referred to as the home of US liberals.

As with any political philosophy there are different strands of liberalism present, however the term liberal generally applies to those people who subscribe to the ideals of modern liberalism as opposed to those who subscribe to the ideas of neo-liberal economics or libertarians.

Modern Liberalism in the US

At the core of modern liberal belief is the protection of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, association and religion. They also believe in the separation of church and state, equality under the law and the right to due process. Much of this is enshrined in the US Constitution. However, the liberal cause in America will also champion the legalisation of same-sex marriage, unrestricted voting rights for adults, and civil rights, and are normally pro-choice in the abortion debate.

As a result of this liberals in America have been supportive of the New Deal programmes set up by Franklin D Roosevelt, and Johnson’s Great Society. Liberals are also supportive of Obama’s Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

The term Liberal is also used to describe justices on the Supreme Court. Justices are described as being liberal if they use judicial rulings to correct the social evils that exist in society.

Who are the American Liberals?

The New York Times and CBS have estimated that between 18-27% of Americans are identified as liberal when given a choice of liberal, conservative or moderate. Liberalism is also popular with young people, especially those who have just graduated. In presidential races, most liberals will vote for the Democratic Party.

Liberalism as an Insult

In US Politics, it is not uncommon to hear Republican candidates, politicians and right-wing news outlets to refer to opponents of conservatism as liberals. This is done so in a derogatory manner, and is intended to paint anyone who is a 'liberal' as someone who hates America.

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