The Three Tiers Of Ideology On The Political Left, & Right

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In my many years involved in politics, and as a talk show host, I’ve discovered that each side of the political aisle has developed three distinct classes.  These tiers of ideology harbor somewhat different beliefs from one another, but still ally themselves with the other two.

Labeling in the world of politics has become commonplace, and confusing.  People often don’t know what to really call themselves.  This confusion has led to altercations with others who have claimed a particular label when they feel someone has misused it.  For example, a Republican may call himself a conservative while not adhering to conservative values. This causes some annoyance among conservatives.  Where things get interesting is where conservatives really aren’t conservatives at all.  More on that later.

This conflict of labeling is not solely an issue of the political right.  The political left has struggled for decades to unify under one label.  Among the left I have seen much confusion as to why some labels aren’t used anymore.  I’ve also seen left-leaning people struggle with embracing one label because others who embrace that label don’t necessarily have the same values.

Personally, on my show and in my writings I have had to constantly explain why I use certain labels the way I do.  Some have taken offense to my usage of a particular label because they identify with that label.  However, their values appear to be inconsistent with that label’s stated values.

If you’re a little confused by this, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  The constant rebranding of the two political sides has left a trail of confusion, and the Average Joe just needs to know what to call themselves.

Over the past several years, each side has settled on three dominant tiers of ideology. While similar in this respect, each side’s tiers are structured quite differently (what else is new).  In this article, I will attempt to identify and explain each tier of ideology.  I will also provide an example or two of people who represent that tier.  Hopefully this will help you identify which label best represents you.  I also encourage you to take a political typology quiz.  I have yet to have anyone’s test assign them the label they assumed they were, including me.

I am only addressing the dominant tiers on each political side.  I am not addressing other labels that are underrepresented in politics, or are not affiliated with either side.  Let’s get started.

The Right

RINO (Republican In Name Only):

RINOs are the ‘do as I say, not as I do‘ crowd on the political right.  The great compromisers.  They talk the talk, but rarely walk the walk.  The sad truth is that RINOs are now the majority in the GOP.  The Republican Party is no longer conservative.

While campaigning, they advocate small government and low taxes. While in office they will frequently break with that position.  RINOs rarely have a unified set of core values, but tend to focus on international issues more than domestic.  You could call them moderates.

Examples of RINOs: John McCain, Mitt Romney


A term often used by the left without any knowledge of its meaning.  This caused some confusion as to its definition.  Neocons are the modern day conservatives.  If someone says they are a conservative, most likely they mean a neocon.

Neocons are in line with traditional right-leaning foreign policy, and fiscal issues.  Though they are less skeptical of government than you might think.  They believe in limited government, personal responsibility, secure borders, and school choice. They, however, are not true conservatives when it comes to social issues.

They often cite religion as a guide for social policy.  Though they are not the fringe ‘religious right’, they use religion to dictate policy on abortion, the death penalty, stem cells, gay rights, and euthanasia.

They hold the Constitution in high regard, but will seek ways around it if it is a barrier to their agenda.

Examples of neocons: Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee

Authentic Conservative:

A term I coined to better describe my political views.  I previously described myself as conservatarian (hybrid of libertarian and conservative).

In exploring my own ideology I discovered several people who shared by beliefs.  These people tended to be prominent founding fathers, and icons in the conservative movement. I discovered that libertarians and modern conservatives did not adhere to the traditional conservative values.

An authentic conservative holds the US Constitution in the highest regard, and will not bypass it to promote their agenda.  If the Constitution doesn’t permit it, it must not be done. The government should be an afterthought in making life choices.  Religion and personal morals are irrelevant to policy making.  No knee jerk reaction to tragedies.  No exchange of freedom for safety.  Equal opportunity, not equal result.  Liberty and freedom are at the center of the authentic conservative’s values.

Examples of authentic conservatives: Ayn Rand, Penn Jillette (it’s a coincidence they are both atheists)

The Left

Traditional Democrat:

A dying breed in the political left.  A traditional Democrat holds the Constitution in high regard, but emphasizes domestic policy over foreign policy.

Traditional Democrats are supporters of social safety nets.  Feeling citizens won’t take care of themselves unless government forces them to.  Strong supporters of a small but high quality military, opposed to gay marriage (or equivalent), uses religious beliefs to support or oppose legislation, big business can be overbearing and needs to be controlled.

Examples of traditional Democrats: JFK, Zell Miller


Progressives believe the government is better suited to handle daily life than citizens, and seeks the government to be proactive in this approach. They support higher taxation to fund these efforts.

The military is an afterthought, big business preys on citizens, the Constitution is only relevant if it can be used for political advantage, pro-abortion across the board, anti-death penalty, the courts can legislate, limitations of freedom and liberty are perfectly acceptable to keep the piece.

Examples of progressives: Joe Lieberman, Barney Frank


Liberals are the anti-constitution crowd in US politics.  They do not respect, admire, nor adhere to the US Constitution.  They actually seek to remove it from consideration.

Liberals are socialists of various forms.  They believe the government should have control over all aspects of a citizen’s existence.  You owe your existence to government, not the other way around.  If you are dependent upon government, they can control you.

Religious expression should be forbidden in public, government has right to force purchases, no guns, abortion is encouraged, supports long term welfare programs, all property belongs to the government, government can take control of businesses, open borders, government should guarantee equal results, some citizens deserve extra opportunity, the more you succeed the more you will be punished financially, police powers have no limits.

Examples of liberals: Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barrack Obama


Posted on June 15, 2011, in Casey's Philosophy, Politics, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on The Three Tiers Of Ideology On The Political Left, & Right.

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