It seems that terms and ideologies have been completely scrambled, not just in this election cycle, but in the course of American history. For instance, the argument of "conservative" versus "liberal" today would utterly confuse the founding fathers, who actually felt that the roots of words imbued significance through cultural history not just the social connotation surrounding them.
A "conservative" for example would, by classical definition, want to work towards the freedom and liberty of mankind by using existing institutions in order to conserve societal balance. A "liberal" would also want to work towards the freedom and liberty of mankind, but rather instead by eliminating any and all institutions that oppress or give power to those that oppress.
These terms should not imply a difference of goals, but rather a difference of strategy.
In the days of the founding, John Adams was one of the nation's early conservatives. Like many post Renaissance thinkers, he believed that mankind had certain rights that were given to him by God. His pursuit of those rights however showcase conservative tactics in that he wanted to maintain cultural institutions so that society didn't break down in the process of separating from Britain. Many labeled him "cautious" and denigrated him for that, but the brakes are just as necessary as the gas in getting where you need to go safely.
His cousin, Samuel Adams, on the other hand, was definitely a "liberal" in the classical sense. In his belief that natural rights were being denied by the monarch of Britain, he wanted to immediately separate, repercussions be damned. He also held contempt for many who were on the fence and hated any organizations tied to the nobility.
The delicate balance of these "conservatives" and "liberals" is what made the Constitution and the American experiment possible. While they were agreed in the necessity of freedom and liberty for mankind, they had different tactics that found the perfect middle ground necessary for creating a free society, even if it was only briefly in history.
The "conservative" and "liberal" debate of today, on the other hand has been perverted to a great extent. Rather than agreeing on the freedom of mankind, both clumps have taken tenets that actively denigrate the state of liberty in the United States.
It was in the latter half of the 1800s when many politicians began to realize that "conservative" and "liberal" did not fit their ideologies and the term "progressive" began to be bantered around. While these men believed in some renaissance ideas, they were strongly influenced by the scientific revolution that had begun with Charles Darwin and the widespread acceptance of evolutionary theory. Man, they believed, had come into existence by chance, and therefore the idea of "God-given" rights were simply a social construct. They believed that man was adaptable to many different situations and didn't have any inherent nature other than that of the animal, which puts survival first and foremost.
Progressives, especially in that time when the majority of the voting public believed in God, saw the public with contempt. These backward peasants that elected them could be molded into a new society regardless of their belief system so long as the smart and intellectual leaders took the right steps for foisting their "ideal" society upon them.
This elitist and contemptuous concept is pervading our political class today, yet for some reason we choose to look at individual cases rather than the totaled sum. Philadelphia passes a soda tax and the San Francisco council passes rent controls, but in the end it comes down to them, our elected leaders, thinking they know better than their constituents. All to shape a society not based on free thought, association, and trade, but the shifting and vague ideals of the day.
"Progressive" may be a perfect, uniting term for modern liberals and conservatives.
While many "liberals" urge social tolerance, they serve it to the American people at gunpoint, expecting society to instantly change and seek to eliminate economic freedom by expanding the bureaucracy to the point of America becoming a permit society.
"Conservatives" may seek economic freedom but cling to losing social arguments trying to regulate what people put in their own bodies while many embrace a surveillance state and even military conscription.
Like good little progressives, both sides wish to dictate how society should be organized.
The dynamic of agreeing on general principles that has kept our nation thriving throughout the last two and a half centuries has been lost in favor of simple hubris. It's time that Americans think through the policies that they blindly advocate for. If we are going reclaim the destiny meant for us as a city on a hill, then we must find the common ground that is freedom and liberty for mankind rather than vague utopianism.
The time for a new major party with a consistent ideology is long past due. Classical conservatives like myself will be impatiently waiting...
Devon Minnema is a 20-year-old college student and syndicated columnist.