Intro Many are not sure where to begin when it comes to learning about politics. They often wonder, "what is politics?" When it comes to the right wing, left wing, democratic party, republican party, conservative, liberal and who to vote for, they have no idea. This article will help build a foundation of knowledge that allows someone to understand politics. While it is impossible to completely explain politics and give someone an understanding of who they are politically and who they should vote for, this article will put one on the right path to become knowledgeable in politics. What is Politics? Let's start by heading over to Merriam-Webster and getting the definition. politics : activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government or getting and keeping power in a government : the work or job of people (such as elected officials) who are part of a government : the opinions that someone has about what should be done by governments : a person's political thoughts and opinions Hopefully that clears things up for you. Politics can range from who someone thinks should be the mayor of the town they live to who should be the president of the United States. There are politics everywhere. Why did Cindy get the promotions at work? Politics or so they said. This should give you a good foundation for understanding the definition of politics. Political Parties There are two main parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Other parties have came along as well. Two of the more popular alternatives to the main two parties are the Green Party and the Libertarian Party. This article will focus on the two main parties, Democratic and Republican. Democratic Party The Democratic Party is one of the two major parties in the United States. The other is the Republican Party. One major aspect of the party has been change. There has been a huge amount of change during the two centuries of its existence. Back in the 19th century the Democratic Party not only supported or tolerated slavery, but it also was against civil rights reform during the American Civil War. This stance was taken in order to please Southern voters. Franklin D Roosevelt put the New Deal in place in the 1930s. Ever since it was put in place, the Democratic Party has favored the government to play a more active role in the economy. The donkey has always been the unofficial logo of the Democratic Party. Even thought it has been widely used by the party, it has never been made official. The current president of the United States, Barack Obama, is a member of the Democratic Party. Some of the popular stances of the Democratic Party include being pro-choice, supporting welfare, supporting gun control, supporting immigration, among others. The party is know for being more progressive and allowing adaptation of laws that involve issues such as gay marriage, transgender bathroom use, etc. Republican Party The Republican Party is the other major party in the United States besides the Democratic Party. They also identify as the GOP (Grand Old Party). During the 19th century, the Republican Party opposed slavery. They even worked toward the complete abolition of it. Moving into the 20th and 21st centuries, the party focused on laissez-fare capitalism, low tax rates and more conservative social policies. The party became the GOP (Grand Old Party) in the 1870s. The party's official logo is the elephant. This is due to a cartoon created by Thomas Nast that was also created in the 1870s. What do people mean by liberal or conservative? Maybe you have heard someone say "those damn liberals" or "she's such a good conservative girl." This section will help you gain an understanding about what was meant by those statements. What is a liberal? Liberals believe that government action is need to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity for success. In a liberal's mind, it is the government's role to step in and make sure social liberties as well as human and civil rights are protected. Additional to that, liberals believe that is up to government to make sure that no one is in need. What are some policies that liberals believe in? First off one of the most obvious ones to look at is welfare. Instead of forcing the hand of those who do not have a job to get one, liberals believe that in order to protect the family from starvation, they are provided welfare to survive on. Another one that goes hand in hand with welfare is food stamps. If people make under a certain amount of money it could be difficult for them to purchase food. Instead, they are granted food stamps or by now it is an EBT card that gives them a set amount of money that is to be used to purchase food and food only. Liberals also have a pro-choice stance. On top of that, they think that if a woman wants an abortion there should be programs in place that will assist them with funding of it. When it comes to marriage, a liberal believes any two people can participate in marriage. For healthcare, liberals believe it should be free or low cost and provided by the government. The Affordable Care Act by Obama is a great example of a liberal supporting government-controlled healthcare. How do the liberals expect to come up with all of the money needed to pay for these programs? Well, they believe in a higher tax rate. Specifically, the liberals want to tax the rich at a higher level since they have more income to pull from. A liberal is normally a member of the Democratic Party. This is not a complete necessity, but it usually lines them up with a party that has similar beliefs with them. There can be instances where people that have many beliefs that oppose a liberal stance, but still join the Republican Party due to one overriding factor. Some of these factors could be coming from a Republican upbringing or being in a higher tax bracket and strongly opposing the high tax rate that the Democratic Party imposes on the highest earners in the country. Though it can be generally said that liberals will lean to the Democratic Party, while conservatives learn to the Republican Party. There are other parties that people with either trait can learn to, but that's an entirely different subject. General a Democrat or liberal is referred to someone on the "left wing." What is a conservative? Conservatives believe in many different things including limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, strong American values and a strong American national defense. Instead of the government stepping in to provide assistance where needed (as the liberals believe), the conservatives believe that as long as the government protects the freedom that allows people to pursue their own goals, then everything is alright. Instead of emphasizing the need for government to solve problems, conservatives emphasize the ability to give the citizen the empowerment to solve their problems individually. What are some policies and stances that are typical of a conservative? Conservatives strongly oppose long-term welfare. They instead believe that the government should provide opportunities to become able to become self-reliant. When it comes to marriage, conservatives believe it is between one man and one woman. They strongly oppose same-sex marriage. When it comes to healthcare, conservatives support a free market healthcare system. Ideally this is a very competitive market where there are plenty of options for the consumer. Conservatives are very opposed to food stamps and EBT cards other than as a short term solution and instead wants to focus on making sure the citizens have a great opportunity to earn for themselves without government assistance needed. A conservative is normally a member of the Republican Party. Is this a necessity? Absolutely not. Sometimes people that are conservative may have one or two very strong stance on an issue that outweighs all of their conservative stances. For instance, if someone is a gay person from a conservative family, it is very likely they lean more toward the Democratic party despite most of their beliefs being that of a Republican. Having the ability to get married is a very important thing for a gay person, which leads most gay people to the Democratic Party. Generally, conservatives or considered someone to be a part of the "right wing" in politics. How do people decide their political beliefs/stances? This is a very complex question to answer. For many, a very simple approach is taken. For instance, a lot of people just take on the stance of their parents when it comes to joining a party. A lot of times this makes sense, because the person is born into a situation that is similar to their parents so they are in the correct party. While there are other times where the family's choice of party is just blindly being passed down from generation to generation. For instance, the Lewis family has been Republican for over 100 years. Their great grandfather was the mayor of their town and ran as a Republican. It is all they know and they continue to move in that direction. The family is collecting welfare for long periods of time, supports abortions and relies on government funded healthcare. None of the stances and beliefs of this family is in line with being a "conservative" or a member of the Republican party. However, because great grandpa was a Republican mayor, they continue to carry on this tradition of being a Republican, conservative family. Ideally, someone would learn their political stances and affiliations by learning on their own. Instead of going in with their mind made up, they will learn where they stand politically as they grow as a person. This is not typically how it happens. Many times people let one factor become the driving force for which party they affiliate with it. For instance, they hang around Republicans so they decided that their only option is to also become a Republican. Or they live in an area of the country where it is primarily Democrats. So even though it does not make much sense for them to be a Democrat, based on their stances, they still move along with being a Democrat. Use all of your resources and learn as much as you can in order to see where you stand politically. Do what makes sense for you. How do people decided who to vote for? There are many characteristics that people look for when deciding who to vote for. For many people, it is a matter of going to their voting booth and voting "straight ticket." This means they are voting for every single person that is a member of their party. This can not be done on the primary election as this is when the members of the same party counter one another. Another characteristic that people look at when choosing who to vote for is leadership. If someone is running for mayor and Bob knows him personally. Bob knows this mayoral candidate as someone who is a very strong leader and someone who you can count on. Personal interaction like this can override what party someone is affiliated with. Another instance could be if Bob met one of the candidates for city council while he was downtown campaigning. Bob was struck by the way this man took control of the crowd and commanded everyone's attention. Based on this, Bob made a mental note that this is someone he definitely wants to vote for and will do so when given the chance. The best way to decide who to vote for is to do research on the candidates and find someone who most aligns with your beliefs and stances on many issues. This will be difficult to do on every person that a citizen casts a vote for. So realistically there will be times when the voter has to just go with the member of their ticket. The great thing about being an American and having the right to vote is that everyone gets to figure out their way of finding out who they vote for. It's a different process for everyone. No matter what, if this person has the right to vote, it is up to them to find the right way for them to find out the best candidate. Whether they read political news, read the newspaper, or do neither, their vote still counts the same as everyone else's votes. What is politics is a question that will take a lifetime for someone to answer, but it's a heck of a ride doing so. For some it is their passion. For some it is what they live for.