Politics is a relatively difficult subject to discuss, considering the emotion and sheer gravity of the subject. People have been known to get into arguments, fights, and global wars based on differences of opinion regarding this subject. We pay Congress hundreds of millions of dollars a year to debate politics, and let's face it; it takes them a week to make instant coffee. Today let's take a look at the political scale, or alignment, in the world of politics. When asked how they think about issues, people often respond that they are "Republican" or "Democrat", or that their beliefs mirror a specific politician's. Such a response isn't necessarily an answer. Republican and Democrat are party alignments, not veins of thought. We all know that there aren't simply two possible thought processes, so what others stops are there along the political scale? Let's look from far right to far left, taking note of the ideological beliefs rather than simple party names.
Socially Liberal, Fiscally Conservative - Libertarians are on the far right of the political scale. Imagine them as the number 13 on a number line from 1 - 10. The typical libertarian is socially very liberal (progressive, willing to accept change, allowing for virtually all personal choices without government regulation, etc.) and believes that people should be responsible for themselves. A Libertarian wishes for the government to control finances, and only finances. Libertarians don't like a big, central government dictating the social aspects of life, rather, they prefer the federal government should exist only to hold the states together and provide basic protections of the people, such as an adequate military.
Socially Conservative, Fiscally Conservative - To be a Conservative (or to think along these lines) is to say that you believe that a federal government should exist solely within the framework laid out by the Constitution. Such a central government does have more "privileges" than the limited government preferred by Libertarians, but it shouldn’t dictate what goes on in people's lives. Typical thoughts of a Conservative would be pro-2nd Amendment, less government intervention in big business, states dictating for themselves all rights not delineated in the Constitution, etc. Conservatives believe in personal responsibility, limited government regulation and strict adherence to the Constitution as written.
There isn't any "typical' thought processes for someone who considers him/herself to be Moderate or Independent, as this is perhaps the biggest melting pot of opinions and ideologies. Moderate ideology believes that it balances the thoughts of the extreme political ideologies. Not too fond of big government, but not willing to accept minimal government involvement, moderates are fiscally more liberal than Conservatives. Not willing to stretch interpretation to the breaking point as far as personal choices are concerned, moderates are socially more Conservative than the left-wing. Moderates find the middle road and believe that balance will secure the nation, but for many moderate or independent identities, there is a large difference as to where the lines are drawn.
Socially Liberal, Fiscally Liberal - In general terms, a liberal likes government involvement. They believe that a strong, centralized government can and should handle things such as corporate regulations, healthcare and all benefits and wage issues with regards to employment. Liberals believe that the Constitution is an elastic document designed to accommodate social change, such as same sex marriage and abortion. Liberals also favor entities such as labor unions, in an attempt to mandate wages and benefits, and influence big businesses and their decisions.
Socially Conservative, Fiscally Liberal - Socialism is the far left of the political scale. The most important aspect of Socialism is big, central government. Thought of as an absolute necessity, the large and powerful federal government is the final say on all things social and fiscal. All money is filtered through the government at some point, and distributed as seen fit by the leaders. In addition, the government decides nearly every aspect of social life, from holidays to curfews to staying in/leaving the country. Countries such as Cuba and the old U.S.S.R. ran on a socialistic government.
Think about your opinions, and see which ideology they most align with. It isn't necessary to define yourself on strict party lines; you can be much more than a Republican or Democrat, especially in your nuances of thought. Analyze your thoughts on various subjects; who knows, you may even surprise yourself when you find out where you end up on the political scale.