The following is not meant as a nuanced treatment of the subject. Notice the title "Cheat Sheet." I originally wrote it for a friend who is just getting interested in politics. So, please don't howl in disgust that I misstated your liberal or conservative view. This charts territory from a pretty high level of abstraction.
1. Conservatives want to preserve American ideals found in the Declaration and the Constitution. Liberals want to “fundamentally transform America” (Barack Obama) through politics.
Conservatives believe America is basically good and self-reforming. Abraham Lincoln: America is “the almost chosen nation.” Conservatives are not afraid of American exceptionalism. Liberals believe America is deeply flawed and must be discredited and transformed, since its origins lie in black slavery and other evils.
What is America? 1619: First slaves come to America. Liberals think this is the evil basis of America. 1776: America declares independence as a sovereign nation. Conservatives think that the basis of America as essentially good. They are patriotic.
Conservatives believe in original meaning of constitution and want judges to interpret that way. This is called originalism. Liberals think constitution is a “evolving document” to be used for their purposes.
Conservatives believe in a small state and worry over centralized authority. Liberals believe the state should be large and define the nation. A recent Democratic convention had a video that said that the government is what we all have in common. Conservatives call this statism.
Conservatives want individual states to have more autonomy. Liberals want federal government to control the states. President Biden wanted to “codify Roe v. Wade,” that is, federalize it such that states cannot restrict abortion in any way.
Conservatives want strong and well-trained police force.Liberals want to minimize police, thinking they can solve crime through social engineering. Thus “defund the police.”
Conservatives realize that society will always be flawed and try to minimize the damage. Liberals was to engineer good society through public schools, social workers, progressive taxation, and quotas.
Conservatives want to preserve the historic American identity and want immigrants to assimilate. This is the melting pot ideal. Liberals want multiculturalism and non-assimilation.
Conservatives place value on individuals in their particular situations. Liberals view people through a group lens of race, gender, and class.
Conservatives support Israel as a bone fide state with an equitable Democracy. Liberals think Israel has stolen land from Palestinians and supports the Palestinians.
Conservatives are pro-life. Liberals are pro-choice and think all Americans should pay for abortion through tax dollars. That means tax money goes to support abortion overseas through foreign aid and to groups like Planned Parenthood that perform abortions.
Conservatives weigh environmental concerns with the need for affordable energy and jobs related to affordable energy. Liberals want to eliminate fossil fuels, no matter what the cost to American jobs and energy costs. Consider gas prices under the Biden presidency, caused by his refusal to allow new drilling in the United States.
Conservatives grant that racism exists, but to not claim it as systemic and intrinsic to the American system. They do not support affirmative action or specially privileging people based on color. All whites are not racist, only some are. People of color can be racist, too. Liberals view all racial disparities as being the result of systemic racism, and many structural changes must be made to redress this. All whites are racist because they benefit from that system. People of color cannot be racist.
Conservatives want America to make decisions for Americans, since we know it best and it is where we live. Liberals are globalists, thinking that American interests should be subordinated to international organizations, such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization.
Conservatives believe that there are only two genders, which are assigned by God at conception: male and female.Liberals think gender can be chosen by individuals.
Conservatives believe that marriage is a conjugal union between a man and a woman. Liberals believe marriage is a social construct and subject to change, as in same-sex marriage. The stage is set for the legalization of polygamy, polyandry, and polygamous marriage.
Conservatives respect the freedom of religion and want to protect it from state encroachment.Liberals support “freedom of worship,” but don’t want religion to have much say in public policy unless it agrees with liberal politics. Religious institutions may need to be penalized for their views of sexuality.
Conservatives think that the best way to stand up to repressive regimes is to hinder their influence and to oppose their bad policies. Think of Ronald Reagan’s strong anti-communism stance on the USSR.
Liberals believe that by making concessions, being a good model, and hoping for the best that they can reform authoritarian regimes. This brief comparison will not tell who is right or wrong, but it might help you better assess the lay of the land politically. For my political views as an Evangelical Christian, see my book, Fire in the Streets (Salem Books, 2022).