Americans don't seem to understand the difference between "liberalism" and "the left"


Debating politics with Americans is frustrating, because they keep conflating “liberalism” with “the left”. They also do other strange things, like insisting that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are “socialists” and confusing “social democracy” (like what they have in Sweden) with “communism” (like China under Mao).

Yes, social democracy has its intellectual origins in Marxism, and the Democratic Party have slight social democratic leanings, but there’s a world of difference between all of these terms, but a huge amount of Americans don’t seem to have any understanding of any of them. Equating social democracy with communism is almost as insane as believing that National Socialism is the same thing as socialism, but it seems that there’s a rise in people who actually insist on that too. How are you supposed to engage in discussion with people who are so misinformed yet adamant that they’re right?


That’s ‘Murica for you. The worst of them will rant that someone is a “communist” and a “nazi” in the same breath, and absent of any intentional irony.


To be fair, those who believe that seem to be a largely poorly-educated, entirely right-wing, minority. However, based on my interactions with Americans, I get the distinct impression that a complete ignorance of the differences between the broad spectrum of socialist thought seems to be far more pervasive and cuts across both sides of the left-right dichotomy. The conflation of the terms “liberal” and “left-wing” seems to be so widespread in America that I’ve basically just given up and accepted that “liberal” has an entirely different meaning there to what it has in the rest of the world…


I’m sure by now you know that Americans generally don’t pay attention to anything going on abroad, so they wouldn’t know about foreign political spectrums. Comes with being a superpower.

We’re even clueless about our own geography, because unlike Taiwan, USA is not very self-conscious about how it is perceived.


I know, but it’s so annoying because they’re so adamant that they’re right even though they’re just making complete fools of themselves!


Have you considered the possibility that in America, which has undergone a separate and very different path of cultural and political development over the past say 300 years, these terms have taken on different shades of meaning than they have in the UK? The definition of liberalism has evolved in the U.S. over the years, and while “liberal” has at various times (and among different groups) been synonymous with “progressive” and “left-wing,” the meanings are beginning to diverge again. I think it’s unreasonable to expect that in two countries with such different cultures and political systems, political terms will have identical or even largely similar definitions. Maybe taking some time to understand how these terms are used in the U.S. will help ease your sense of frustration.

The liberal use of the Nazi epithet against those one disagrees with is actually much more common among the better-educated (if this term can be used to describe people with college educations these days) on the left.


Interestingly, ask any Australian what “liberal” means and the answer is “well, it means conservative of course”. It’s all very confusing.


Exactly. And in France “liberal” has yet another definition.


Your thread about generalizations reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago. I’m waiting for my class to start at Shida, and a guy asks me if I’m American then proceeds with 20 questions without giving me a chance to answer. Like…Do all American like guns? Do all Americans support President Bush? Do all Americans yadda yadda yadda. I told him I’m one person and I can’t possibly represent “all Americans”. He wouldn’t shut up, so I asked him: "Are all people from your country rude? It worked.


That would be with a big ‘L’.


Yea, those French… its like they have their own word for everything!



They even put this weird mark over the “e” in liberal. I assume it totally changes the definition.


In a certain French speaking country, if the accent looks like a maple leaf, the meaning is very specific.


Maybe the problem the OP is having is “debating” politics in the first place.

Dialogue might be a better bet. :idunno:


A very Canadian approach. I might not totally disagree with the OP but the only people as a nation that frustrate me as much as the USA are Canadians. We are like opposites in equal amounts of OCD uncontrolled bias haha.


File this under denial:

(And if you think this is off topic here, well… let’s just say it’s very much in the true spirit of the thread.)

Say, there’s something familiar about those lines. I couldn’t place it at first, but…




Hey Joss Whedon! Age of Ulton was poorly edited! And your Justice League could not have been much of an improvement over whatever Snyder had filmed.

I’ve come across the “horseshoe theory” (though not by name) in the publications of both the John Birch Society, and the Church of the SubGenius.


I thought this was a valid response.