Who Are You? Republican or Democrat?


“I usually vote pro-life,” she said.  Then she looked me in the eye and added that she “cared about the environment too.”

“I guess I’m a moderate, ” she shrugged, “whatever that means.”

“Me too!” I smiled, but she looked doubtful.  I had just handed her a piece of campaign literature.

She reminded me of myself 12 years ago.  Back then I really didn’t have a firm commitment to either party.  All my voting life I’d chosen candidates that I liked regardless of their party.  I considered my choices to be more objective and fair that way. But with the partisan war that erupted during the election of 2000, I started taking my vote more seriously.  I could not clearly define Republican or Democrat in my mind so I started educating myself on each.   I started reading history, researching government programs, watching CSPAN, and flipping between the three top cable news channels.  I wrote down the political topics that mattered most to me personally and I researched them from both sides.  While other women were serving cookies at the bridge club I was doing research in the library and at home.  (I’m like that.)  Here is a summary of a small part of what I learned.

1.  Who is responsible for our success in life?

The Republican party leans toward the notion that the individual is responsible for his own path in life.  If a person is successful (financially secure) in life, it is due to his own initiative, hard work, and commitment.  I started this factory.  I’ve spent my life growing it.  I am the boss.  My name is on the door.  I built this. 

By the same ideology, the individual who lives poorly does so of his own choosing.  The general attitude is that these people are lazy and just want to live off someone else’s earnings. Leaders in the party often complain about people who depend on welfare, disability, food stamps, medicaid, unemployment, and other forms of government aid.

The Democratic party leans toward the notion that we’re all in this together and no one “gets there” on his own.  Where he grew up, who his parents are, the schools he attended, the healthcare he received, etc. all impact an individual’s success in life.   The city offered an incentive so he chose to build his factory here.  Workers who were educated in public schools spent many days laboring together and felt pride in their work here. Truckers delivered the finished goods over highways built by taxpayers. He makes the big bucks. He is the boss.  His name is on the door, but we built it too.  

Democrats agree that individuals have a responsibility to care for themselves but believe that the community bears responsibility as well.  In keeping with this belief that they are “their brother’s keeper” Democrats support the idea that government has an obligation to help level the playing field.

Democrats are responsible for starting and supporting most of the government assistance programs for the elderly, children and the needy. I’ve included some links to these programs below and would encourage readers to check them out or use the search engines to find numerous facts and opinions.

Social Security            Food Stamps                     Unemployment Insurance

Medicare                     Welfare                                Medicaid

 

2.  Ideally, what role should government play in our lives?

The Republican party supports the idea that the individual should be free to do as he chooses without government interference.  Ideally, government should consist of a strong military to keep us safe from foreign attacks but beyond that, government should be mostly absent in a man’s daily business.  Their adherence toward this idea is reflected in their policies to deregulate banks and Wall Street investors.  They believe as individuals they should be allowed to keep the money they earn themselves so they support measures that decrease their tax burden.   They oppose most government standards or initiatives that increase business costs and reduce profits.   Recent attacks have been against FEMA (candidate Romney said in one of the primary debates that he would eliminate it).  Another government agency that Republicans have attacked repeatedly is the Environmental Protection Agency because, though they may care about the environment in theory, it never seems to take priority over making money.

English: The headquarters of the United States...

English: The headquarters of the United States Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. Photographed on August 12, 2006 by user Coolcaesar. Español: La sede de la Agencia de Proteccion Ambiental de los Estados Unidos – Washington D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Quick fact:   The EPA was started by the Republican administration of President Nixon in 1970 after rivers in the east began catching fire due to the massive amounts of flamable pollutants that factories were pumping into them. 

Republicans champion the notion of smaller government, but for all the years they have preached this notion, the government has continued to grow during Republican as well as Democratic administrations.  It appears to grow in different areas, but it has continuously grown nonetheless.

The Democratic party supports the idea that government does have a role to play in our daily lives.  Equality, justice, safety, environmental protections, etc. don’t just happen on their own.  Democrats endorse the use of government as an equalizer and protector of its citizens against individual or group practices that discriminate or threaten the well- being of other citizens.

Democrats point to projects like the building of the interstate highways during the Eisenhower administration, the building of Hoover Dam during the Hoover administration, and the building of the “world wide internet” during the Clinton administration as projects that could only have been built by the government because no single business would have been willing to take the risk.  Government often pays for large projects that are not guaranteed profit makers. They do this increasingly now by “hiring” individual contractors who do the actual work for a profit, often at greater expense than it would cost to have the government do it themselves.  This has been “good business” for the private sector and its potential for business has been coveted by individuals willing to take advantage of the opportunity.  Some of this is just good for everyone.  The government pays a little more but utilizes the best talents and expertise that the private sector has to offer.

Some of it should be questioned.  Do we want to give up all government ran programs?  Democrats would say that programs like social security that provide a guaranteed income for seniors is worth protecting.  Republican politicians believe social security should be “privatized” which means they would eliminate the guaranteed benefit for life and turn it into a 401k type investment plan with no government guarantee.  This would be the best of both worlds for the private sector because once the government withdrew control of the program, billions of dollars of  “new money” would then flow largely unregulated into the hands of private investors.  Social Security would become “private security”.  We can hope that investors would gamble it wisely, but if not, we’re just old without income when the market tanks again.

My dad used to talk about the WPA and how the government put people to work during the Great Depression building roads and ditches, but people like my dad who remembered when the government actually built something are all gone now.  Citizens are being told that businesses are the only “job creators”, and many individuals just accept this as fact, oblivious or unwilling to accept the  “legitimacy” of thousands of government jobs(politicians, soldiers, teachers, policemen, lawyers, judges, prison guards, etc.) whose salaries are paid by taxpayers.

3.  Who votes Republican? Who votes Democratic?

Quick clue:  Learning a person’s perferred voting preference may be as simple as asking them to find a cable news channel on TV.  Those who turn to Fox are more likely to vote Republican.  Those who turn to MSNBC are more likely to vote Democratic.

Before President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Law in 1964 the south had many more Democrats than it has today.  Southern white Democrats who resented being told that “negroes” could now eat in white restaurants, attend white schools, etc. abandoned the party in huge numbers.  Ever since then the southern states have voted red.  Blue states remain (except for California) mostly in the North and Eastern parts of the country.  Today the Democratic party is populated largely by college-educated whites, women, blacks, and hispanics.  Male white voters and highly religious evangelical followers appear to dominate the Republican party.  These are generalities, of course, as you will find every race, age, sex, and religious believer in both parties.

Historically, people who own businesses usually voted Republican.  People who worked for businesses usually voted Democratic.  Today that distinction is less clear possibly due to the decline of unions and the rise of cable news channels.  Business owners still vote mostly Republican, but many blue collar workers now vote Republican as well.

Increasingly, voters appear to choose sides mostly based on one or two single issues that connect with them emotionally and personally.  This type of decision making is encouraged by both campaigns since their goal is to win — not educate.  Centuries of rumor mills have taught politicians that people believe what they hear, especially if its repeated often and in simple language. Make it juicy and add a little bit of truth or fear to make it believeable; no need to bother with complete truths after that….we’re running for election, for Pete’s sake!

As much as people say they hate negativity, politicians know that people thrive on it.  Last week my husband and I were walking back to our car from our local Wal-Mart.  We walked by a van where two men were standing.  One man was talking passionately about politics to the other man facing him.  “Democrats are EVIL!” he swore indignantly.  By his appearance, age, and the condition of his van I guessed him to be a blue collar worker.  In the next breath he chanted, “Those SOBs better keep their hands off my medicare!”   The teacher in me desperately wanted to give him a history lesson, but my husband wouldn’t let me.

4. What are the issues that decide votes and where does each party stand?

I’ve noticed that many voters decide their preferred party based on the abortion issue.

The Republican party supports a Pro-Life agenda.  The party has varied over the years as to whether all abortions should be illegal, or if some should be allowed for rape, incest, or the health of the mother.  Many Pro-Life advocates believe that life begins at birth and that the unborn fetus (though it is undeveloped and too small to survive at the time most abortions occur) should be defined as a child.  Republicans have fought against legallized abortions continually since abortions were legalized in the 1973 court case Roe v Wade .

Pro-Life supporters focus on the life of the unborn child and mostly ignore the life of the mother.  These advocates are passionate and emotionally uncompromising in their beliefs.  For them abortion “is not a choice…it’s a child”.  Most refuse to use the term
Pro-Choice, using instead the term Pro-Abortion to describe their opponents.

Quick fact:   No Pro-Choice person ever describes themselves as being Pro-Abortion.  To a person who is Pro-Choice this term is devisive, offensive, and misleading.  Encouraged by this, Pro-Lifers use it every chance they get.

The Democratic party supports the Pro-Choice agenda, but also supports measures to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place.  Democrats focus on minimizing the problem through prevention.  Thus, the recent controversy over the Blunt Amendment where Republican Senator Blunt attempted to add provisions into a highway bill that “would allow not only religious groups but any employer with moral objections to opt out of the coverage requirement” to provide birth control as part of the insurance coverage for their employees.

Pro-Choice supporters focus on the life of the mother as having priority over the unborn fetus.  Before Roe v Wade, many women died attempting their own abortions or by using unlicensed and untrained personnel. Having safe, legalized healthcare for women is part of the Pro-Choice agenda.

Many Pro-Choice supporters would not choose abortion for themselves but believe it is not their place to make that decision for another woman.  For them its not about the abortion itself but about who decides.  Pro-Choice believers think this is a decision that should be made between a woman, her doctor, and her god.

Quick fact:  When it comes to abortion, the role of government appears to flip between parties.  Republicans believe that government should interfere between a woman and her doctor to force her to carry her pregnancy to term.  Democrats believe government should “butt out” of interfering and leave it to the individual woman to choose what happens to her own body. 

Other issues that voters appear to use in choosing sides are guns, jobs, deficits, sex, and religion.  None of those issues are as simple as either campaign tries to make them and they are more complicated than I care to spend at this time detailing.

So here are some points I want to leave you with.

1.  Remember: All politicians are just trying to get hired for one of those government jobs. Lots of other people that work for their campaigns will also get government jobs when they land theirs.  Their buddies and rich supporters will get easy and quick access to the “rule makers”.  What you and I will get?   With so many people counting on them, they’ll sell us whatever they think we’re willing to buy.

2. Our job as a voter is to choose the best applicant.  I encourage every voter to take some time to hear both sides, check for facts,  read some history, and exercise both heart and mind when making your decision.  (I wouldn’t care really, except your choice might affect me.)

3. We have a great system in this country but its not perfect.  The best thing about the party system is we only have to lean one way or the other and we can switch at any time.  The worst thing about the party system is that it does more to divide than unite us.  I truly believe that most of us are moderates, whether we lean more to the left or more to the right.  Most of us understand that extremes rarely benefit anyone.  So let’s mostly just get real and be kind to one another.  There aren’t 50% of us right and 50% of us wrong.  One party isn’t good and the other party evil.  Every person deserves to be represented and no person of either party is being “Un-American” when they exercise their freedom of speech or their right to vote.

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About Glenda

Retired ... taking it slow and enjoying the simple things in life
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10 Responses to Who Are You? Republican or Democrat?

  1. Glenda says:

    Hi Glenda, I am a leftie, so I am batting for the Democrats. From the perspective of someone far, far, away, Americian politics seem extremely right wing. The Republicans appear extreme right and the Democrats appear a little more central but seem to have their hands tied by the Senate. Is this right?
    In Australia, our conservative party introduced gun laws after a mass killing. The best thing they ever did.

    • In our country people love their guns as much as their kids, I think, and they are as emotionally unrealistic as one would be to even the notion of being told what to do with them. The right uses it as one of their favorite “reels” to keep the men particularly (but some women too) hooked to their party. They use the abortion issue in a similar way. Their emotional scare tactics on these two areas keep the left solidly in toll. You never hear politicians on the left actually get serious about any kind of gun control. We have mass shootings almost weekly now …a reporter will ask the question, but politicians run away immediately. The right has so affectively trained our citizens to “fear” the evil lefties that even without one attempt they are still insisting that our left politicians are trying “to take their guns”…Your observation is right on as to “Republicans appear extreme right” and you are correct as well that the Dems are more central…not many true lefties anywhere it seems…the further the Repubs go right the more they seem to pull us their way. My observations are that the Blue Dog Democrats in the south are actually just the second string of Republicans who had to choose the other side to compete with a more popular Republican.

  2. drfugawe says:

    You did a wonderful job on this, Glenda – I just hope lots of folks get a chance to read it.

    If I may, I want to let you know that California is not the only blue state outside of the Northeast. We moved out here to Oregon, from Florida, in part because it was a traditionally blue state. And Washington and New Mexico also tend to be traditional blue states too.

    As I’ve grown older, one of my biggest disappointments is that other older persons of my age simply don’t seem able to understand those political issues which would benefit them personally. I simply don’t understand that, and have never heard a satisfactory rationale for why. ???

    • Thanks so much for your support…I didn’t have the map in front of me when I was writing so I forgot about the others..have heard more California in the news so it was fresher in my mind, but you are correct and I’m sorry I didn’t mention that in my post. Also thank you for your comment. I started to write a reply then realized that maybe it would be best to just consider using it as inspiration for another post. (The comment could get pretty long otherwise.) So glad to hear from you. I have been concerned that most of my friends would see the title and just click out…most of them don’t care much about politics and just can’t wait for the election to be over. At least I know that one other person has read it. (Glenda from passionfruitgarden read it too so I’m grateful to both of you.)

  3. Glenda says:

    Glenda
    I guess the basis of our politics is more English based. We have three significant parties, one moderately right, one central left and the Greens (a significant minor party) which is left. Most people of working class origins vote for the central left party though, as their aspirations change, their politics sometimes change, but not always.
    We don’t appear to be so concerned about the Government telling us what to do. Most people, left and right, supported the gun laws. There was a massive buyout where people who had the guns that were newly outlawed brought them into the police station where they were destroyed. Fantastic. It only took one mass killing.

    • I remember attempts years ago by some of the larger cities to do gun buyouts here, but I never hear of that anymore. I really don’t know if we’ll ever do anything toward even the most minimal control…

  4. drfugawe says:

    As a species, we humans just aren’t smart enough to learn the correct way to do things, and then leave well enough alone! The spectrum of human opinion will ALWAYS swing back and forth as each generation relearns the lessons of old. With each election, I always think that the result will either be a reinforcement that a lean to the left is finally proving itself to the majority, or that the mistakes of the conservatives will finally change the minds of voters forever. But neither ever happens. And the spectrum just slowly moves a little more.

  5. Glenda says:

    Yippee, congratulations!

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