Liberalism is the dominant ideology of the capitalist system, encompassing ideas like classical liberalism, social liberalism, and neoliberalism. Modern conservatism melds old school concern for tradition with classical liberal and neoliberal economics (so in many ways conservatives are still liberal), and modern “Democrat Party style liberals” fall into social liberalism. It’s confusing because there’s a lot of overlap, but what’s important to realize is that everyone acquires varying levels of liberal ideology by default through living in capitalist society, regardless of whether or not they’re Democrats or Republicans, Tory or Labor, etc.
By dominant ideology, here’s a few examples of what that might mean in real-world context:
-Liberal representative democratic capitalism is seen as the “end of history”, an unspoken dogma that social organization cannot advance beyond what we find ourselves in right now
-A vague notion that “all views” ought to be accepted at the “marketplace of ideas”, with zero concern for power dynamics (which merely reinforces the imbalanced status quo)
-A belief that the system can be worked with and reformed to eventual perfection, even if there’s disagreement on what those reforms entail
-A reverence for the concept of private property and a belief that hierarchical market transactions are economic freedom in its purest form, even if they believe that that “economic freedom” needs to be curbed a bit for the betterment of society (as social liberals argue)
-Believes in some degree of horseshoe theory, where politics is seen as a “circle” (militant ideologies are all seen as inherently the same thing) rather than as historical struggle over the modes of production and the accompanying ideologies
-Will ultimately admit that the economy’s #1 priority is to meet the needs of capital when the chips are down (indeed, that is capitalism’s primary function).
With regard to the above examples, it doesn’t generally matter what a person labels themself – if they subscribe to a mainstream political position, they very likely believe in most of the above. When politicians accept “bipartisan” actions; when crisis afflicts the capitalist system and people need to “come together” to find solutions; when Michelle Obama hugs George W Bush and they act like best pals; when Democrats peacefully hand power over to Donald Trump after months of labeling him dangerous and on-par with proto-fascism – that’s when the idealistic bubble of political liberalism tears and you’re able to see the unified interests of the ruling classes, realized in the maintenance of capitalist society.