So are you a Democrat, Independent, or Republican (listed alphabetically)? Have you ever wondered what the differences are between the parties? What does it mean to be a Democrat/Independent/Republican? Does your political party accurately reflect the major beliefs you have about the government, social issues, and the economy? Did you choose your political party for a particular reason or did you inherit it from your parents/family? As the fight between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton continue to heat up, it’s time that we ask the question…What’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans? This blog will start the journey and you are invited to tag along!
Before we discuss political parties, it is necessary to first clarify the form of government that the United States has. It may come as a surprise to some of you that the framers created the Constitution to guide a republic form of government NOT a democracy (the term “republic” is in the Pledge of Allegiance, but it is no longer allowed in public schools). In fact, James Madison who is known as the “Father of the Constitution” did extensive research on various forms of government before settling on a republic. His thoughts are clearly explained in Federalist Paper #10 which you are encouraged to read when you have more time. To keep the blog post visually interesting and a little less wordy, below is a nice video about what went down at the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787!
During the early stages of the Republic and during the constitutional debates, it genuinely meant something to be an Anti-Federalist or a Federalist! Those two factions were the predecessors to the modern-day Democratic and Republican parties. The Anti-Federalists (e.g. Thomas Jefferson) believed the national government should be weaker and less powerful than the states. On the contrary, the Federalists (e.g. Alexander Hamilton) advocated for a strong national government. At the time, however, being a Federalist was considered to be a conservative position because of its traditional views. There is a bit of a twist on how things evolved though, because the Anti-Federalist, although not considered to be conservative at the time, was the logical predecessor of the Republican Party until the mid 1800s when it split into the Democratic Republican Party (Jacksonian Democrats) during the administration of President Andrew Jackson who claimed to represent the “Common Man”. That’s when we really became a two-party system – Democrats and Whigs. At that time, the Democratic party represented the everyday worker or farmer, preferred stronger state governments, and less federal government intrusion. The Whigs (who evolved into the Republican Party) represented the views of industrialists and business owners who wanted greater government involvement to expand and protect their interests.
So ironically, the roots of the Democratic Party are tied to those of the Republican Party and vice-versa. Confusing…isn’t it? Just don’t think too hard! I think this cartoon image summarizes things perfectly!
Today, the Republican Party is considered to be “conservative” and the Democratic Party is considered to be “liberal” when it comes to social issues and federal government spending. Below is a brief list of what most people believe are the major differences between the two parties:
But are they really all that different? For example, do Republicans really want to limit government involvement when it comes to business growth? Well, yes and no. Big businesses do NOT like regulations (Don’t tell me what to do!) but do favor subsidies, federal tax breaks/exclusions, and protection during economic downturns (Please help me help you!). Also, while Republicans do advocate for cutting the federal government payroll (usually via privatization), this does not actually reduce the size of government or the budget! When a federal job or service is provided by the private-sector (federal contractor), they must be paid by…the federal government. Just because a program or service may no longer be run by federal government workers, does not mean that the federal government is off the hook for payment. In fact, the federal government pays very well and being a federal contractor can be a lucrative business. Of course, federal contracting is not necessarily a BAD thing and can be very helpful to a state’s budget, but most people think that a down-sized federal government means a reduced federal budget thus less federal taxes…but not necessarily. It is important to note that figuring out the exact costs and benefits of federal contracts is a daunting task according to a GAO report.
On the other side, the most commonly held-belief is that Democrats care the most about the interests of the middle-class, working-class, and poor people while Republicans only care about “the rich”. Well, guess what…as you move up the political party ladder you begin to see that both parties are comprised of very wealthy individuals who attend the same schools and the same social functions. Is there a salary difference between a Democratic and or Republican House member? Are their benefits different? Do they get different perks? A congressional report titled, Salaries of Members of Congress: Recent Actions and Historical Tables provides some interesting insight.
Finally, that brings us to our two big presidential campaign news headliners – Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R). What’s the difference between the two? They are both very rich. Donald Trump may be richer, but when you are in the millions…rich is rich! They are probably members of the same country clubs. In fact…they are or at least they were according to this CNN article. Donald Trump may have financed his primary campaign with his own money, but he borrowed it…from himself. How cool is that! We just learned that Hillary Clinton makes tons of money speaking at events and suddenly it is a crime. Well all former first ladies, presidents, House members, political appointees can earn a hefty salary doing speaking tours (both Democrats and Republicans)! Good luck trying to get them to come speak at your next backyard barbecue for free!
Okay…okay, this was a pretty long blog post and I really try to keep things short. However, we will soon have to make a choice between a Democrat and Republican (unless a third party candidate enters the race) and I genuinely trying to figure out what the difference is. How about you?
Thanks for “listening” to me whine. Hopefully my whining has made you think. If so, tell your friends/family/colleagues that you heard it through the Political Great Whine!