What Mormons Need to Know About Political Ideology

Ideology Refers to Your Ideas and Beliefs About Government

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Prior: Primer for Mormons on Understanding Political Parties

If you ask someone what their political ideology is, they often remark that they vote for the person, not the party. This is a misunderstanding. It is not a question about how you vote. It is a question about what you believe government should do and how it should do it. Everyone has a political ideology.

Political Ideology has Two Major Components

The two major components that make up political ideology are:

  1. How involved you think government should be in the economy and in the lives of people.
  2. How you view freedom, especially individual liberty.

Everyone Has Some Ideology

People believe government should do certain things and not do certain things. Bundled together these beliefs make up your political ideology.

Everyone's political ideology can be classified somewhere on the liberal and conservative continuum.

How to Determine Your Political Ideology

Your political ideology is probably a moving target. It will change as you grow and mature. It will also change as you gain experience and insight in political things.

In order to determine your political ideology, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you think government should do to control the economy?
  • What do you think government should do about poverty?
  • What problems do you think local governments should try to address, instead of the state or federal government? Pose the same question for state and federal governments.
  • How important is religion to you?
  • What actions should government take to either support or curb religious activity?
  • What issues do you think belong primarily to the conscience of individuals and not government?

Most of the questions you need to ask yourself about ideology have to do with normative issues.

This means you are asking about what should happen, not necessarily what does happen.

The Words Liberal and Conservative Can Mean Many Different Things!

Liberal and conservative concepts change over time. What they meant in history can be different than what they mean now. Also, what they currently mean in politics may be different than what they mean in other fields, like chemistry or computer science.

You must be careful in interpreting the context where the terms liberal and conservative get used. For example, some references to liberalism refer to classical liberalism, not current political liberalism.

Classical liberalism usually means people embrace the notion of freedom. Essentially, all Americans embrace classical liberalism whether they currently embrace a modern liberal or conservative political ideology.

You Will Be Somewhere on the Liberal to Conservative Continuum

In general, liberals believe government should be more active and involved in life than conservatives do. Extreme liberalism may be classified as socialism. Communism can be understood as a type of socialism.

Extreme conservatives may be classified as libertarians because they want government less involved than mainstream conservatives.

There are socialist political parties in the United States and there is a strong Libertarian political party. However, for our purposes here, they will not be examined in any detail.

Liberals Tend to be Democrats and Conservatives Tend to be Republicans

In general, most liberals identify as Democrats and most conservatives identify as Republicans. There are many exceptions, but this basic assumption holds true.

Conservative Democrats exist as do liberal Republicans. When you review a more lengthy description of the specific ideologies, you will come to understand this better.

People Can Agree on the Problems, but Differ on the Solutions

Much of the rancor and conflict in politics comes from embracing different solutions. Even if people can agree on what the problems are, they often differ on how the problems should be solved.

Different solutions can sometimes result from how people define or identify the problem.

For example, if a child is doing poorly in school, what solution you choose suggests how you define the problem:

  • If it is an intellectual problem, the child may have learning disabilities and need tutoring.
  • If it is a social problem, the child may be unable to learn because he or she is being bullied.
  • If it is a behavioral problem, the child may need therapy or counseling.
  • If it is an economic problem, the child's family may need financial assistance to attain a home, keep a home, or end transient homelessness. Economic stress can hinder learning.
  • If it is a physical problem, the child may not be receiving sufficient or nutritious food. Working with the parents on nutrition or signing the child up for school meals may improve learning.

Each political ideology tends to suggest ways of defining and solving problems.

In the End, You Can Vote However You Choose

Religious beliefs can affect your political ideology. Some LDS beliefs, as well as lessons from scripture, suggest certain ideological positions should be embraced. This will become more clear to you in other articles in this series.

You should not hesitate to examine your political ideology. Remember, in the end, you can vote however you like.