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5 Political Terms That Don't Mean What People Think They Do

10/27/2014 01:02 EDT | Updated 12/26/2014 05:59 EST
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This past summer I was lucky enough to go on a 10-week book tour all over North America. From parts of Western Canada all the way south to Georgia and over to Texas and California, with a few stops in The Midwest. I got to meet several listeners of my talk-radio show, which often covers politics and social issues. What surprised me was to find out how much people stood behind their politics without realizing that they were often calling themselves the wrong thing. Here's a few examples:

1. Conservative. This is a word that has become almost meaningless. I meet people who proudly claim they are "Conservatives" without realizing that it doesn't apply to them. People incorrectly think this word means "good with money." The irony is that, if you look at "Conservative" parties (such as The GOP), you'll find they aren't very good with money at all. They just spend it on different things than the Liberal parties. There are almost zero "Conservatives" when it comes to fiscal issues. They just want the government to spend money on them and not other people. Whining about billions spent on social programs while shrugging off trillions spent on jet fighters no one uses isn't "conservative."

Want to find a real Conservative these days? It's the guy screaming about how things were better before child labour laws, Jesus is a Republican, and that gay people won't get off his lawn. Most North Americans aren't actually Conservative.

2. Progressive. This word just means "Liberal." In the '90s, right-wing radio managed to turn the word "Liberal" into a slur. As FoxNews emerged, the word was sneered from so many mouths, you'd think it was synonymous with Swine Flu. It became the catch-all, complaint of "Conservatives" during the Clinton years, to the point where actual Liberals stopped calling themselves that. Now the word "Progressive" is a way for Liberals to call themselves something without their right-wing associates picturing a lazy welfare queen with her hand out while refusing to say "Merry Christmas."

3. Moderate. This word describes a Liberal who thinks he's fiscally conservative. It's a person who wants everyone to know that he's cool with gay people and thinks climate change is real, but he doesn't like spending cash on frivolous things. Yet, much like the confused Faux Conservative mentioned above, The Moderate often votes against the very social issues he's in favour of simply because the guy he's voting for insists he'll "lower taxes." Also, The Moderate calls himself this because he doesn't really like to talk about politics.

4. Liberal. This is what people in The Unites States accuse The Democrats of being, when the Democrats are actually Moderates (see above). Actual Liberals are now called "Progressives" (see above). FoxNews incorrectly calls both "Socialists." Canada's Liberals tend to be Progressive and America's Liberals tend to be Moderate.

5. Libertarian. This is usually what a person in the USA calls himself when he votes Republican but wants you to believe he's not one. Many Americans (suburban white guys who didn't outgrow Ayn Rand) call themselves Libertarian, yet the voting numbers don't back it up. See, there's an actual Libertarian Party that appears on every ballot and receives less than 1 per cent of votes. If every American who claimed to be "Libertarian" voted that way, it'd be a viable third party. Find a proud "Libertarian" these days, and you'll find a guy who votes Republican while denouncing Republican social issues. He's a lot like The Moderate, only he loves to talk about politics. Oh, and he might say "Happy Holidays."

There's a world of contradictions when it comes to talking politics: The guy who claims to be for "small government" is often the guy in favour of stricter laws regarding reproductive rights. The people who fear government taking their guns are often in favour of a militarized police force. And the people who claim to be liberal seem to be quick to jump to censorship. What do you find is a political term that is used incorrectly these days?

"Ward & Al" is heard weekdays on SiriusXM, channel 167, from 1pm to 4pm Eastern Time. I'll Be Here All Week is in bookstores now.