It seems that the backdrop more every major political race is the butting heads of conservatism versus liberalism, Republican versus Democrat. The confusion that may accompany the barrage of information presented may actually deter people from voting at all. In fact, the two parties' ideologies seem to share many of the same goals for the economy, foreign policy, and personal liberties. Furthermore, both Democrats, the supposedly liberal party, and Republicans, the supposedly conservative party, have been appointed to the highest office, the President of the United States of America. In most cases, the President has been effective in building notable progress in our nation's growth, regardless of the political party that they belong to. Upon closer examination into the history of the Democratic and the Republican parties, we are able to determine that the political philosophies from which they originate have glaring contrasts in their ideologies, but may also share a few similarities.
The Republican Party was created in 1854 in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act that would have allowed the expansion of slavery into Kansas. As well as opposing the expansion of slavery, the group also emphasized higher education, banking, railroads, industry and cities, and promised free homesteads to farmers.(wikipedia.org) Republicans are generally seen as the conservative party. Conservatives are strong defenders of liberty. They value small government, fiscal restraint, and individual rights & responsibilities. Conservatives tend to emphasize traditional views of social units such as the family or church, and often use history as a means to justify their beliefs. A conservative political philosophy is based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change. ( merriam-webster.com) Conservatives seem to favor a Pyramid approach to politics, allowing the government to decide what is best for the greater good. As seen with Madison’s Federalist #10, conservatives believe in a strong controlling government. According to conservatives, a Republican government can be relied upon to make decisions that will benefit the greater good of the country.
Historically, conservative thought supported the idea of individuals being economically responsible for their own actions and decisions, and sought to preserve property rights rather than redistribute wealth or reduce inequality. As evident in Sumner’s Rich are Good Natured piece, conservative thinkers feel that hard work is justly rewarded. Today’s Republicans offer a more practical approach to politics, while still staying true to their conservative values. According to GOP.com, Republicans have always been the Party of fresh ideas and new thinking. They encourage
debate on the major issues of our day, and consistently act in accord with the
greatest values of our country – freedom and opportunity for all. Their plans focus on ensuring that America remains safe, terrorists are defeated, and democracy flourishes in the world … on expanding opportunities for ownership and investment … on making tax relief permanent and ensuring greater energy independence … on increasing the affordability and accessibility of health care … on promoting works of compassion and strengthening our greatest values … on preparing students for success in life by bringing the benefits of education reform to high schools … and on helping workers adjust to a changing economy by offering flexible training options that meet their individual needs.
The Democratic Party is the oldest political party in continuous operation in the United States and it is one of the oldest parties in the world. The Democratic Party traces it’s origins to the Democratic-Republican Party, founded by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other influential opponents of the federalists in 1972.(wikipedia.org) Democrats are generally seen as the more liberal of the two dominant political parties. Liberal thought usually considers individual liberty and equality to be the most important political goals, emphasizing individual rights and equality of opportunity. Liberalism encompasses a fish bowl style political model, promoting a non- hierarchical government. In William Jennings Bryan’s cross of gold speech he talks about treating the man who is employed with same amount of respect as his employer. This is a perfect example of the liberalistic attitude of equal opportunity and protection of individual liberties.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines liberalism as a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties. Today’s Democratic Party adheres to basic beliefs found in historical liberalism. The Democratic Party is committed to keeping our nation safe and expanding opportunity for every American. That commitment is reflected in an agenda that emphasizes the strong economic growth, affordable health care for all Americans, retirement security, open, honest and accountable government, and securing our nation while protecting our civil rights and liberties.(democrats.org)
While Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the individual to solve problems, Liberal policies generally emphasize the need for the government to solve people's problems. Conservatives believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense. They believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals. Liberals believe in governmental action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all, and that it is the duty of the State to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights. They believe the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need. Clearly there are many differences in where Republicans and Democrats base their ideologies. However, there are significant similarities that deserve to be noted.
Republicans and Democrats are in general agreement about the qualities they are looking for in the president of the United States. Both sides demand honesty, strong leadership, management skills, and moral integrity in the nation’s president. Both sides also put lower emphasis on military experience, business experience, political experience, and religious commitment. (gallup.com) Republicans and Democrats share similar views on the importance of individual rights, although they emphasize different areas. Democrats want more individual freedoms in social areas such as free speech, while Republicans emphasize individual freedoms in areas such as business. Republicans and Democrats both believe in the power of a centralized government; however Democrats want the government to regulate business and protect the minorities of society, where Republicans want government to enforce societal norms and protect business.
During political campaigns, it is sometimes difficult to sort through the static and get to the candidates real views on issues. I think it is important to look at the opposing parties core beliefs, and decide who you identify with more. While you may agree with the Democratic candidate on some issues, a Republican candidate may seem more capable in remedying other issues. Unfortunately, you can only pick one! Looking at the ideologies that political parties subscribe to may help in deciphering the differences in candidate’s beliefs, and empower people with the knowledge they need to make an educated decision as to who they would vote for as President.
The essay below is not an exact transcript of the video, text has been added or edited, and the video does not cover the entire essay, exactly, but it comes very close. Enjoy!
I would like to explain the fundamental difference between the two most prevailing political parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, also referred to as the liberals and the conservatives. Because, believe it or not, most people actually don’t know the difference. If you were to approach most people on the street and ask them why they’re a Republican or why they’re a Democrat, their best answers would likely be quite vague and broad. If you asked them why they were voting for a particular Republican or Democratic candidate, they would likely mention things like I think he or she is a good speaker or trust worthy. They may even be able to regurgitate a few party catch phrases, sound bites, or slogans, but they will usually not provide any specific reasons in terms of the issues or party ideology, simply because they don’t know them. Studies have shown that most people vote the way they do primarily because its how a family member or friend of theirs is voting. Studies have also shown that people often cast their vote towards a candidate who they think is going to win, regardless of their political philosophy.
Here is the core difference between Democrats and Republicans, which is actually quite easy to remember. Republicans crave more economic freedom but fight for social and moral regulation, whereas Democrats desire more social freedom, yet fight for economic regulation. You can see that these two parties, or rather political forces, have a Yin-Yang type relationship. This two-party system, regardless of what each may actually be called, is always inevitable to form within any democratic political system and can never be truly lost. These two parties help to provide many of the checks and balances our government needs.
One of the biggest debates between the two parties is how big should the central government be. How strong of a role should government have in our lives? This question has been struggled with as far back as the Founding Fathers and well beyond. The problem is, both parties are in part correct and both are in part incorrect. We need more government in certain areas and less government in other areas. It’s a delicate balancing act.
I should also point out that being a Democrat or a Republican is not as black and white as many may think. There is a whole spectrum of variations between the two—a gradation that extends from one extreme to the other, from the far left pole to the far right. For example, far right-winged Republicans believe in an extremely free market society, but moderate Republicans do not. Far left-winged Democrats believe in a very free socially expressive society, but moderate Democrats do not. Most rational thinking people fall somewhere in between, believing some economic and social restrictions are necessary, and that some social and economic freedoms should be allowed.
Some of you may be familiar with the Nolan Chart, which diagrams and illustrates the two main scales of freedom; one being the economic scale and the second being the social scale. When combined, you get a chart with four main quadrants, usually viewed in a diamond configuration. The left quadrant indicates liberal or Democratic views, the right indicates conservative or Republican views. If you believe in a lot of economic and social freedom, then you are a libertarian, indicated in the upper quadrant. Thankfully, pure libertarians are becoming extinct, because we’ve all basically learned that we humans need some rules and restrictions to actually better our lives. If you believe in a lot of government control, in all areas, whether economic or social, then you are a statist or an authoritarian like Hitler or Stalin, indicated down below. Everyone, based on their beliefs, falls somewhere on this chart. This may be upsetting to those of you who hate to be labeled, but try not to let it get to you, because it’s simply meant to show where you may stand on the issues. I am personally somewhere in between, making me a moderate or centrist, but I do lean much more strongly towards the Democratic philosophy and I do believe in some government regulation as long as it’s in the right areas and as long as it’s not overdone.
Nolan Chart, created by Guyus Seralius, © 2012. All Rights Reserved. Adobe Illustrator.
Since Republicans prefer more economic freedom, then it goes without saying they also support capitalism and the free market system. Democrats on the other hand tend to support socialism or at least socialized services and programs like public schools, public fire departments, public libraries, public broadcasting, and Social Security and Medicare.
Unfortunately, most Republicans seem to think that capitalism, competition, and free markets solve all problems and have an “every man for himself” type philosophy, whereas Democrats tend to think government spending solves all problems, but thankfully, hold an “all for one and one for all,” type philosophy. Republicans celebrate financial independence, self-reliance, and individuality whereas Democrats more often celebrate interdependence, cooperation, and community.
Republicans also frown on the idea of the government raising taxes on big businesses and on high income citizens, while providing a tax relief for smaller businesses and lower income citizens, especially when a percentage of that revenue goes towards helping the sick, the needy, and the poor. Republicans call this “redistributing the wealth,” and view it as a great injustice. Apparently most Republicans feel that every dollar is truly and justly earned, as well as every empty pocket. They also claim that taxing the rich to give to the poor slows down the economy by causing large business owners, who they believe are the main job creators, to stop hiring and eventually to start downsizing and laying off workers. But history has repeatedly demonstrated, time and time again, that government spending towards the middle class and the poor helps everyone, including the rich, by strengthening our economy. Most respected, well educated economists will correctly tell you that this type of government taxing and spending is the best way to boost the economy during a recession and historical statistics confirms it. I think its good that the Republican party helps to prevent the government from over taxing and over spending, but there are times when the distribution of wealth becomes suspiciously offset, indicating economic injustice or corruption, and it becomes necessary and justified to redistribute the wealth. Let’s face it, the upper class does stand on the backs of the middle class, who ironically work the hardest, yet get paid the least. And believe me, the wealthy class have found many sneaky, covert, and in many cases, unethical ways to unjustly redistribute the wealth of America. Too often the dice are loaded and the tables are rigged. So, since the relatively free market system is nowhere near perfect and never will be, “we the people” must use government to help justly redistribute the wealth. Keep in mind, if the foundation of the middle class falls, so will the upper class, and they will have the longest fall to endure.
Republicans usually advocate Trickle Down economics, believing the better off the wealthy class is the better off everyone else will be, since they believe the wealthy are the main spenders and job creators. The idea is that wealth will “trickle down” to the lower classes. But that philosophy has already proven many times in the past not to work. Wealth almost never trickles down, and instead, almost always trickles up. Large corporations and wealthy CEOs have been shown historically to sit on their money out of fear and/or greed, especially during a recession, and kink the circulation of money, which harms our economy. Statistics have shown that small business owners collectively invest more than large business owners because they do not have the luxury not to. They also usually keep a more responsible watchful eye on their business in order for it to survive and thrive, and they are known for taking better personal care of their customers. The large business owners don’t have the same incentives or desperation to do so. Also, large businesses eventually reach a maximum thresh-hold and can’t grow and so they end up seeking cheaper labor and sending American jobs overseas in order to remain competitive. It turns out that the better off the middle class is the better off everyone else is, at least up until the point of reducing the excessive power, control, and wealth of the super rich. So if the government raises taxes on the wealthy class and on larger business owners, while at the same time, providing a tax relief for the middle class and smaller business owners, then the middle class, which is the main backbone of our economy, will be in a position to spend more, expand their own businesses, and hire the workers that the big corporations can no longer afford to hire. Overall, the economy will prosper and be better off.
There also seems to be a cultural dichotomy when evaluating these two main political parties. Republicans tend to share a common personality profile with each other and so do Democrats. For instance, Republicans are usually Christian whereas Democrats, if not Christian, often study Buddhism or some form of new-age spirituality. The irony here is that the Democratic way should actually appeal to all Christians, because that party believes in sharing the burden to help all citizens as though we are all one family. Jesus could be described as a Democrat. He believed in helping the poor, healing the sick and giving aid to the elderly at his expense and respected those who did the same. Many Republicans have explained that they are not against giving to those in need, but have argued that it’s more noble to give voluntarily instead of everyone being forced to give by the government. However, I can’t help but to believe they conveniently hide behind this logic because statistics have shown that the more money one has the less percentage they tend to give and that people simply do not donate enough. During the great depression of the 1930s, President Herbert Hoover tried a program called “volunteerism,” but it failed miserably. There simply weren’t enough Dudley Do-Rights or Mother Teresas in the world to make it work. It’s also extremely embarrassing to seek charity and could leave a needy citizen to be branded for life. Now as far as the Republicans are concerned, this humiliation helps to serve as a great disincentive to ever rely too strongly on charity as well as a lesson not to ever fall financially behind, but this pressure can too often be too much and frequently leads to domestic abuse, theft, murder, or suicide. Public aid is genuinely needed at times and the recipients are often not to blame. What would be most charitable and noble is for us to all agree now to permanently volunteer to aid those who are truly in need.
There are other important differences like how Democrats usually seem to show more concern for the health of our environment than Republicans do. For example, Democrats tend to believe global warming is a real threat primarily caused by man’s over production of carbon emissions, while Republicans tend to believe man-made global warming is just a myth or at least turn a blind eye to protect special interest groups. Republicans usually make a lot more money and are said to cater to the wealthy, upper class while ignoring the minorities. Democrats are usually not as financially well off and are said to cater to the middle class, the poor, the impaired, and the elderly. The Republican party is often viewed as racist and sexist, which of course does not include all Republicans, and the Democratic party is known to support all kinds regardless of race, age, or sexual preference. Republicans are usually more ego-driven, whereas Democrats are usually more humbled and passive. In fact, the further to the right one is, politically, the more self-centered, selfish and stingy one tends to be, like an immature child who hates to share. The further to the left of the political spectrum, the more laid-back, tolerant, and giving one usually is, even to a fault. Therefore, far right-winged Republicans are often viewed as heartless, intolerant, and uncaring and far left-winged Democrats are often viewed as gullible, naïve and overprotective. To continue the comparison, Democrats usually root for gun control, while Republicans usually fight for the right to bare arms. Republicans are usually pro-life and Democrats are usually pro-choice. The list of course goes on.
Aside from the more important distinctions, there are some more trivial but still interesting personality traits that seem to be shared by members of each party. For instance, Republicans are more likely to watch Fox News, American Idol, The Apprentice, and Survivor, whereas Democrats are more likely to watch MSNBC-News, The Simpsons, Saturday Night Live, and Star Trek. Republicans tend to prefer Jay Leno and Democrats tend to prefer Conan O’Brien. It’s not always the case, but if you live in the South or the Midwest, or love country western music, or really love to hunt, or believe the Apollo moon landings were faked, then you are very likely a Republican. Again, it’s not written in stone, but if you live up North, or live in a big city, or love New Age music, or believe in extra terrestrials, then there is a really good chance that you are a Democrat. Remember though, there are no guarantees. It’s possible to run across a Republican who can’t stand the site of blood and you can find a Democrat who loves to wear cowboy boots and lives on a farm.
But to get back to the main difference between the two parties, Republicans seek economic freedom and Democrats seek social freedom. In my opinion, both forms of freedom are good as long as they are not in the extreme. There is such a thing as too much freedom. When there is too much freedom, then people are free to unjustly take from others, free to take advantage and manipulate others for their own selfish needs, and free to behave any way they want even if it annoys others. True freedom is to be free to walk down our neighborhoods without fear of being attacked or mugged. True freedom is the freedom to have a descent job, and the freedom to learn, and the freedom to save money. Ironically, we have to have fences in order to have true freedom.
Currently, we are in an economic recession, a problem caused by both Republicans with their desire for less economic regulations and Democrats with their endless wasteful spending. So I strongly recommend to all Republicans and to all Democrats, become a moderate or a centrist. Move towards the center of the overall political spectrum. If we can all find a middle ground and a healthy balance between rules and freedoms, I believe our nation will prosper in every way. I believe man kind will finally live the way man was intended to live—in balanced comfort, with true freedom.
Added note: No political party is ever without flaw, but if you wish to know which party to support, look to the one that truly struggles for those who truly suffer. Whenever there is great corruption within any system, there are always those who benefit from that corruption, usually an elite few who gain at the expense of all others. Use multiple, reliable sources and accurate, statistical facts and figures to find the party that is being paid and/or deceived to support those who wish to preserve this unfair imbalance. They are the ones who will lie, cheat, and distort the truth in order to maintain the status quo.