Peer response 1
In this country, the terms “Left” and “Right” are generally associated with the Democratic and Republican parties respectively. What do these terms mean in Europe? Are the main U.S. parties comparable with parties in Europe in terms of their ideologies and policies?
In the United States, it is a widely known fact that the “left” side of politics corresponds to liberalist, democratic ideologies while the “right” side corresponds to that of conservative, republic ideologies. Those who have much more progressive vision for the country associate or identify themselves with the left side while those who have more traditional views identify with the left side. These distinctions between the two have been a major source of division between the groups. These titles affect the direction of government in effect, policies instilled, solutions presented, and much more in the world of politics. While this may be the case in the United States (and some parts of Europe), other countries enforce these terms in a different way.
In countries like Denmark and the UK, a moderate class alternative is emphasized by the left and more conservatism is seen in the right, like that of the United States. In the Netherlands and Germany though, liberalism is rooted in conservatism and the liberal parties are on the right. Unlike the US, in these same countries (Netherlands & Germany), religion is the factor that results in dimension of parties; not purely politics. In the UK and Denmark, class confrontations define the dimensions in politics. These differ majorly from what we see in the United States because, while in the United States all these factors contribute to the division, the general “left” and “right” is what is most popularized as the determinant of division.
Differences between these also go as far as formation of government. In countries like France, Spain, Germany, and the UK, “the left can hope to govern alone” (Gallagher, Laver, and Mair, 2011, p. 228). The Netherlands and Italy on the other hand have a left that is too weak/divided to hope this. The left then has no choice but to form coalitions with the centre and the right. In Europe, “left” and “right” do not hold the weight it does in the United States. In the US, these two titles mean one thing or the other and you are faced with negative or positive feedback depending on which group you associate with from those who either support or oppose said group. In Europe though, these groups are just a simple factor.
Since Europe is a predominantly “right” continent, being left usually stems from the right so it does not impact the way some members of society view you. The left simply amplifies their views on taking modern and progressive approaches but it does greatly impact governance. The left can hope to govern alone because they main ruler is the right. The left in Europe also form alliances with the centre and the right because, again, the right holds the greatest power. The parties are not comparable to that of the ones in the United States because they don’t hold the amount of tension, division, and differences that they do in the US.
Gallagher, Michael, Michael Laver, and Peter Mair. 2011. Representative Government in Modern Europe (5th Edition). New York: McGraw Hill.
Peer response 2
In America, an individual’s political positions are often characterized as being on the “right” or on the “left”. Typically, Democrats are referred to as being on the left. These citizens lean more toward a liberal set of values which offer support for social reforms, increased government involvement in programs, and equality economically. Citizens that are referred to as being on the “right” are typically far more conservative. They are generally Republicans, and support traditional values with limited change.
Within European society, being referred to as “left” carries many of the similar traits as it does in the United States. The European left and the American left have many similarities. Social programs, the environment, and government expansion are all important factors to the European “left. Many more liberal individuals in Europe align with a Socialist worldview, meaning that Europe tends to be more liberal overall than the United States. Right wing voters in Europe are sometimes referred to as the radical right. Just like in the US, right wing voters support more traditional values. There are a growing number of citizens that would describe themselves as being on the right in Europe. This trend has been growing since the 1970’s.
There are many commonalities that can be observed when considering the United States and European ideologies and policies as it relates to political parties. The two largest political parties in the US are Democrats and Republicans. Basically, these two parties are the only two parties in the US. Americans are classified as either Democrat (liberal and left) or Republican (conservative and right). In contrast, Europe has a multi-party system. There are several different parties, including Communists, Greens, Social Democrats, and Nationalists within Europe. Overall, European politics are far more diverse and liberal than America’s politics.