Created a new thread in this forum to avoid mixing politics into a news item... Conservatism in the US has more than one axis. It can most simply be separated into social conservatives and fiscal conservatives. This is clearly an imperfect division as well as each of those divisions contains a vast array of issues one might hold different views on, but such is the nature of branding in American politics-- you tend to get forced into taking the package deal. Social conservatives, by contemporary rhetoric, tend to want to retain a social structure in the country similar to what we had in the 50's. They tend to hold stronger religious values, oppose gay rights, oppose affirmative action (which is special consideration given to one's race in an attempt to decouple race from class, and typically takes the form of racial quotas in admission/hiring practices), oppose legalized abortion, oppose pornography and indecent behavior (for any given definition of indecent), and support relaxation or repeal of gun control laws, support capital punishment, and tend to focus more strongly on harsh punishment for crimes in general. It's harder to define what social liberals support or oppose, but they tend to place a stronger emphasis on proactive civil rights (meaning conservatives don't necessarily oppose civil rights per se, just don't think the government should be going out of its way to support individuals or specific demographics) particularly for minorities, women and gays, prefer treatment to punishment for crime (particularly drug related crimes), tend to be less nationalistic in their views of foreign affairs, tend to be more environmentally concerned (or paranoid, depending on your alignment), support unions and labor rights, and tend to support women's rights to choose when it comes to reproductive rights. The 60's, and how one behaved in 60's tends to be used to define a politicians alignment in contemporary politics. This is one of the reasons traditional conservative/liberal divisions are falling apart-- we're running out of politicians who were of age in the 60's. The environment, though typically viewed as a liberal cause, actually doesn't fall too neatly into either category. McCain, for example, who I view as a throw back to true conservatism (contrasted with the neo-cons, which is a whole other topic of conversation) tends to lean towards stronger environmental protections. Regardless, there is a difference in approach for the two sides because it is coming to be seen largely as an economic issue which leads me to: Fiscal conservatives tend to believe in low taxes, small government, unregulated markets, "supply side" economics (encouraging investment by making more money available for the wealthy), supporting large multinational businesses, and free trade across borders. Tax policy is seen as a way of "starving the beast"-- cut taxes so there is less money to spend which forces a reduction in the size of government. Fiscal liberals tend to believe in government spending, wealth redistribution through a progressive tax structure (higher tax rates, as a percentage of income, for the wealthy), the institution of government programs to address social needs rather than relying solely on the private sector, and tying trade and economic power to environmental and labor reforms with trading partners. Many of the distinctions can be tied to the different philosophies of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton-- Hamilton wanted a national bank, the ability of the government to take on debt, and a strong national government. Jefferson wanted a weak national government with more power given to the States and localities, and a small, balanced, national budget. Starting a pattern that is repeated throughout American history, it was Jefferson himself who managed to achieve many of Hamilton's goals when he plunged the country into heavy debt in making the Louisiana purchase from France because the territory was too good to pass up. Tying this to political parties is tricky business, because the parties have flopped back and forth across the conservative/liberal divide. There's also a Libertarian party which sees itself as the true conservatives, in the sense that they adhere to the text of the constitution while the Democrats and Republicans both tend to try to interpret the meaning and intent of that document (which leads to debates not unlike the debates about the Bible). Another way to divide them up is that conservatives tend to believe in the power of the private sector, and liberals tend to believe in the importance of government. This line was drawn most clearly by Reagan through his assertion that "Government isn't the solution, it's the problem". Liberals and conservatives both are rife with the kinds of internal contradictions you might expect when you try to take the whole breadth of human opinion and divide into two camps: Liberals view themselves as more tolerant, but tend to be less tolerant of strong religious views and those of the conservative Christians in particular. Conservatives view themselves as supporters of small government and keeping the government out of the lives of individuals, but tend to support legislation to enforce their moral code and sexual morality in particular. Limbaugh isn't a conservative, he's a demagogue.