With the electoral race almost at its apex, we can see the two political parties in the forefront are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. The Democratic Party being the older of the two, originated out of the Anti Federalist factions before America achieved independence from British rule. The Republican Party was founded in 1850’s by anti-slavery activists who lead to Abraham Lincoln becoming the first Republican president. As each party has evolved from its roots, we have come to refer to each party as being either on the “left” or “right” (liberal or conservative). Although you do not need to register as a democrat, republican, or third party (i.e. Green Party, Libertarian) to vote, knowing each political party affiliation will give insight to understanding the core beliefs of each candidate. A good start is to see each party’s political platform which is announced at each party’s national convention that is made up of planks that explain their stances on domestic and foreign policies. The difference in political party affiliation obviously affects the stances on policies, but what influences this difference?
Although both parties overlap in practice, traditionally and generally speaking most of the differences are ideological, the most fundamental difference being their views and philosophy behind the role of government. The difference stemming from each party’s view of how much responsibility the government should have for the people especially in terms of government spending. First, democrats believe in more governmental responsibility or centralized government that provides a safety net for the common good of the people, such as providing more government spending towards program initiatives (i.e., welfare, universal health care, and government regulation of business). They believe that the government should do what is necessary to maintain equality amongst the populace, emphasizing communal responsibility. Republicans believe in less government interference of the people and less government spending with more responsibility to the individual itself. They acquire a pro-business platform with an emphasis on the deregulation of business that supports the principles of free enterprise acknowledging that the economic growth of our country have come from these principles. Republicans emphasize equity where there is less emphasis on welfare, and more on property rights. As for foreign policy orientation both parties are interventionists, implementing political and military involvement of other countries affairs, but historically democrats have held a more reluctant stance on military interference on countries than republicans. For example in the 2012 Republican platform, they accredit Obama for the rise of nuclear threat from Iran because of a failed engagement policy. In short, democrats believe you have certain rights as being a citizen in itself such as welfare or healthcare but republicans believe in equal fairness, you can have what you earned and can afford. Can you see how these views of government can affect and shape domestic and foreign policies?
Whether it is tax or healthcare policies the philosophies for each party’s view of the role with government heavily influences their stance. A constant debate between the democratic and republican party is how much Americans should pay for their taxes, democrats believe in progressive taxation meaning higher tax rates for incomes over 250K to help pay for program initiatives and balancing the budget. Republicans believe that taxes should not be increased for anyone, that everyone deserves the same taxation and that wages should be set by the free market. The deriving difference is in the interpretation of equality and fairness amongst the people: where democrats believe that people who are not privileged depending on their social economic status (SES) should be given the opportunity to achieve larger goals with help from the government and fellow community and where republicans lean toward the stance that true fairness and equality stems from being on a level playing field and that Darwinian qualities will help them prosper.
One of the most controversial policies between each party has been healthcare. Reflecting the same theme as before, democrats believe that the government should take more responsibility with covering citizens creating a single payer system which all Americans pay the same amount for healthcare creating a more affordable option since there is currently over 45 million uninsured Americans. Republicans stance influences their belief that health insurance should be privatized, keeping the government out of it since more competition will keep the costs down. Currently, the key provisions for each party’s platform is for the democrats to keep seeking and expanding health benefits and the republicans to repeal the current Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: the health reform known as “Obamacare”. I couldn’t stress more that each politician have different and nuanced views and interpretations on each of these policies, as well as the role of government within each party as we can see politicians continue to grow and change where they stand. There is not a necessary choice of being on the “left” or “right,” but regardless, our country has adapted a two party system of operation. Understanding the influence of each party’s philosophies over policies can help inform where you stand yourself.