Just so we’re all clear on our political discourse, here are a few definitions that seem to frequently be conflated, misinterpreted or misapplied.
Fascism– often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
Hitler and Mussolini were Fascists.
Socialism– any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.
Labor leader Eugen Debbs was an actual Socialist. But socialism (in degrees) has been commonly adopted by a variety of Presidents as well as at the state and local levels; Our Armed Forces, NASA, the interstate highway system, AmTrack, public schools and state universities, winter snow removal, even the internet itself are all examples of socialism or at least adapted, partial socialism. Hoover, Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan and both Bushes were all Republican presidents who administered a wide variety of “socialist” programs.
a : a doctrine based on revolutionary Marxian socialism and Marxism-Leninism that was the official ideology of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
b : a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production
c : a final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably
Soviets Lenin and Stalin, China’s Mao and Cuba’s Castro were full-blown Communists.
Autocracy– a form of government in which a country is ruled by a person or group with total power (AKA Totalitarianism, Absolutism, Despotism).
(See also) Totalitarianism– the political concept that the citizen should be totally subject to an absolute state authority.
Both Hitler and Stalin were Totalitarian Autocrats, although strictly speaking, fascism and communism are opposites on the political continuum.
a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority
b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
At one point, most Republicans actually believed in Democracy.
Democratic-Socialism– a political ideology advocating a democratic political system alongside a socialist economic system, involving a combination of political democracy with social ownership of the means of production.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is a self-described Democratic-Socialist although he has never advocated full-blown socialism per se in any any sector other than health care.
Conservative– believing in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society : relating to or supporting political conservatism.
a : very different from the usual or traditional : extreme
b : favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions
c : associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change
d : advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs
By these definitions, Hillary Clinton might actually be considered the most conservative candidate in this election. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are both radicals.
Liberalism– a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class)
All through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Liberalism was commonly accepted as a positive and widely accepted world view shared by middle-class Americans and Europeans until George H. W. Bush’s campaign manager, Harvey LeRoy “Lee” Atwater succeeded in turning it into a “dirty” word during the 1988 Presidential elections.
a : of, relating to, or characterized by progress
b : making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities
Both Democratic party Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are now claiming to be progressives, but it is important to note that Republican Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower were also progressives.
Ironically President Barrack Obama has frequently been accused of being both a socialist and a fascist, but these terms are generally thought to be diametrical. He is usually accused of being a fascist by people who would advocate either fascist ideologies. While he may advocate more of a mixed-economic policy than a laissez faire one, the actions of his first term may in fact have preserved capitalism rather than replacing it with a socialism.