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What Is a Liberal Politician?

By Geisha A. Legazpi
Updated May 23, 2024
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A liberal politician is one who holds the conviction that the main purpose of politics should be to protect and enforce the freedom of the individual. Liberals recognize the role of the government in enhancing this freedom, as well as the restrictions that it can impose on it; toward this end, the government can be useful or harmful. At the center of a liberal’s beliefs are concepts like human rights, capitalism, and constitutionalism. A liberal politician perceives the legislature, the police force, the justices, and other law-making or law-enforcing officers as the people responsible for ensuring the safety and freedom of the individual. This politician, however, also acknowledges that the power held by this same group of people can be used to the individual’s detriment.

The classic liberal politician is known to raise different, and even radical, ideas in the interest of furthering his or her beliefs. The liberal must be differentiated from the one now termed as the progressive. While a liberal political leader seeks to promote liberality and open-mindedness to new and non-traditional concepts, the progressive seemingly modifies the concept of liberalism by entertaining ideas outside the boundaries of traditional liberalism. These ideas include the support for big spending and love for big government.

To better understand the grounds on which a liberal politician stands, it is important to distinguish him or her from a conservative political leader. First, one must understand the concept of a political party. A political party mainly refers to a group of people that hold the same ideas on how to run the government, and organized for realizing these ideas. Political parties pursue the approval of the electorate by laying down the issues they believe should be addressed by the government primarily.

Liberals are characterized by independence, broad-mindedness, and flexibility in the administration of the government. Those identifying themselves as conservatives typically are known to hold back, identify limits, and enforce these limits upon the citizenry. In a nutshell, a liberal usually welcomes change in almost every aspect of governance, while a conservative prefers to preserve existing conditions, particularly those perceived to be working well.

Although foremost on a liberal politician’s mind is to uphold freedom, this does not mean that he or she absolutely opposes restrictions to freedom. He or she typically rests on the presumption toward liberty, but this presumption may be rebutted. It must, however, be overcome by sufficient justification. The liberal politician, therefore, works toward upholding an individual’s choice over options available to him or her, and believes that one citizen should not be coerced by another unless there are compelling reasons to do so.

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Discussion Comments

By Markerrag — On Feb 12, 2014

Here's another difference between classic liberals and progressives -- progressives are about as broadminded as the reactionaries that pollute the other end of the political spectrum. Classic liberals tend to be pragmatists by nature and willing to consider opposing points of view with the goal in mind of working for the common good. Progressives, on the other hand, are the types who are convinced they are right and opposing viewpoints are worthless.

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