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A Voter's Guide To This Year's Political Labels

03/11/2016 11:33 EST | Updated 03/12/2017 05:12 EDT
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Donald Trump, president and chief executive of Trump Organization Inc. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, speaks during a news conference at the Mar-A-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., on Friday, March 11, 2016. Ben Carson, who recently ended his quest for Republican presidential nomination, endorsed his onetime rival Donald Trump Friday striking a blow to presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz, who had courted Carson because they appeal to many of the same religious-minded voters. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Every U. S. presidential election has its own defining traits. From Ronald Reagan's successful marketing of "It's Morning Again in America" in 1980 to the success of the "Comeback Kid" Bill Clinton in 1992, every four years we are treated to a different fascinating political story.

Many would say that 2016 is the year of the outsider, particularly Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left. But there's another theme at play, namely the battle to establish who is the true conservative candidate for the Republicans and who is the true progressive for the Democrats.

This year's candidates strut their stuff attempting to establish their conservative or progressive street cred. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz both say Donald Trump is too liberal on some social issues and Bernie Sanders tries to undermine Hillary Clinton's progressive bona fides.

For the average voter, it's hard to analyze this fight over political labels. Republicans and Democrats alike have their arcane political litmus tests. But it's really not that difficult if you use this handy guideline to help ideologically classify the candidates:

Progressive

It's usually pretty easy to spot this political animal just by the way he looks. A progressive typically wears oversized casual clothes and sports a slightly unkempt look to show that he cares more about the poor and downtrodden than his own appearance. Often overly-earnest, he starts every sentence with the phrase "We have to...." Depending on his age, participated in at least two civil rights, Vietnam War or anti-globalization demonstrations. Likes his coffee like he likes his commerce: Fair Trade."

Conservative

Suits, ties and expensive haircuts are the usual hallmarks of the conservative. Strongly dislikes government, taxes and illegal immigrants, not necessarily in that order. Cares very deeply about his fellow citizens, at least in the abstract. His only black and Hispanic friends have a seven-figure net worth. Likes his coffee like he likes his neighbors: rich, white and saccharine.

Ultraconservative

Usually wears jeans to effect a cowboy personality or, in extreme cases, camo outfits à la Rambo. He carries one or more guns everywhere including at home. Government is the enemy and he subscribes to at least three conspiracy theories. Keeps a year's supply of food, water and ammo in his basement bunker. Likes his coffee like he likes his weapons: hot, automatic and American-made.

Liberal

Prefers an expensive casual look comprising slacks, blazer and button-down shirt but definitely no tie. The liberal professes to care about the underprivileged but prefers to live apart from them. Likes foreign films and Downton Abbey. Loves blacks and Hispanics but is puzzled by their absence from his neighborhood. Likes his coffee like he likes his presidents: black or quasi-black like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Neoliberal

(See Conservative above -- a.k.a. Conservative-Lite)

Moderate

Once common in both parties, the moderate is now an almost extinct species of political animal. Chameleon-like, the moderate dresses not only for the occasion but also for the region. Will wear everything from oxfords to work boots depending on where he's campaigning. Believes in rational discourse, positivity and compromise. Also believes in Santa Claus, Tinker Bell and the Easter Bunny. Likes his coffee anyway you, the voter, like it.

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