elephant v donkey

Political Parties

Who doesn’t like to see competition intertwine with the personal? Whether it’s Coke or Pepsi, Yankees or Red Sox, Mel Gibson or anyone who doesn’t love Jesus, we as Americans, can’t help but giggle with glee at the sound of rivalries. They add the spice to the recipe of life, which can sometimes taste like warmed leftovers from time to time.

Then there’s American politics.

For all the things George Washington did for our country, probably the wisest thing he said was in his farewell address. He warned about how they would “serve(s) to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration....agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one....against another....it opens the door to foreign influence and corruption...thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another."

Despite the General’s wishes, we went ahead and did it anyway and we did it often. The “nice” dichotomy of Republican and Democrat that we see today in the 21st Century is really something new. Throughout our history we’ve had Federalists, anti-Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, Whigs, Know-Nothings, Free Soil, Bull Moose, Dixiecrats and a slew of others that linger to this day but are irrelevant on the national stage.

However, the two we have no provide the American public about as much as it can handle in terms of firepower. If party is doing something right, the other is doing everything in their power to tear them down. If one party looks bad, then it’s Christmas Day for the other party.

What could possibly motivate these parties to think, say and act as they do?

Come on in, the party’s inside.

Meet the Republicans

Although the term “Republican” had been used since the 18th Century, the Republican Party didn’t officially start until the 1850s. The party was founded as a refuge for those from other parties who couldn’t stomach the notion of slavery. Contrary to the images that they portray today, the Republican Party was considered the “radical” party of the day. Their first president, elected 1860, was a gangly backwoods lawyer who would be called to lead a nation in its biggest trial—The Civil War.

After the Civil War, the Republicans were isolated from the Southern states, an indication of the bitter taste left by the war. Republicans got the reputation for being “Yankee” and “elite.” For the remainder of the 19th Century, Republicans enjoyed a stable hold on American government.

Then in the 1930s when stocks came crashing down in response to global economic depression, many Americans blamed Republican non-interventionist policy for facilitating the crisis, causing the Republicans to scramble while Americans embraced New Deal policies.

Although the Republicans were able to get a candidate in the White House in the 1950s (the popular war hero Dwight D. Eisenhower) they were in the midst of an identity crisis. Moderates and conservatives jockeyed for control of the party, allowing the Democrats to enjoy power in the 1960s. It didn’t help that their Richard Nixon, their answer to the Democrats, would have to resign the Presidency on account of the Watergate scandal. Republicans needed an answer for the American public. They would get one in 1980.

Seen by many Republicans as a conservative Superman, Ronald Wilson Reagan, a former actor turned politician, vowed to right the ship that had veered off into economic malaise. With his slashing of government regulation, tough international stance and care-free demeanor, Reagan became an patron saint for American conservatism. To this day, many Republicans use his legacy as a beacon for what America can and should become.

The latest Republican influence came in 2001-8 when George W. Bush, the son of the 41st President, George H.W. Bush, took the reins. In the span of his presidency, Bush would lead a nation through one of its roughest patches in American history, September 11. However, an unpopular war in Iraq and a floundering economy under a Republican administration had its consequences as Democrats swept through, claiming the Presidency and Congressional control.

Meet the Democrats

Although it stands as the antithesis to the conservative answer in today’s American society, the Democrats were once joined in union with the Republicans

Well…only in name really. Under the guidance of Thomas Jefferson, the “Democratic-Republicans,” as they were called, vowed to be a party for the common man. This concept was completely exemplified under Andrew Jackson, America’s 7th President, who wanted to make government not something for uptight men in pantaloons and spectacles, but a party for the farmer, the tradesman and the common man. By 1848, the Democrats became the largest political organization in the world.

Then it all came tumbling down with the first shots of the Civil War. Many Democrats were seen as unpatriotic and traitors for not supporting the War, although Andrew Johnson, a supporter of the Union from Tennessee, became President in 1865 after Lincoln’s assassination. . For the rest of the century, Democrats fought to earn the trust of the American people.

The Democratic Party that we know today really began to emerge under the guidance of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Launching what he called “a New Deal,” Roosevelt oversaw a onslaught of government programs that hoped to curtail unemployment and provide stability for the America. Serving an unprecedented four terms, Roosevelt helped guide a nation, lost in the abyss of world war and economic depression.

Along with their Republican rivals, Democrats had their share of political ebbs and flows From JFK and Clinton to LBJ and Carter. Today’s outlook, however, has never looked more opportune as the Democrats have Barack Obama, a charismatic executive, and a stronghold on the Congress. However, with two wars and a still dismal economy, the Democrats have been forced to provide answers for the American public. Whether they succeed or not will be left for history to judge.

What's the Difference?

Although many Republicans and Democrats share personal friendship, the matter of politics leaves them divided. Their answers to questions regarding political ideology, they believe, are non-negotiable for the most part. Here are some of the main differences between the respective parties:

Republicans favor an economic system where there is less government involvement and more is left to the individual. Republicans argue that government is never tuned in to the wishes of the free market. The free market, they argue, works better when taxes are kept low, especially on big corporations. If such is allowed, then companies can provide more jobs to the American public, which will help stimulate the economy.

Democrats, on the other hand, favor an economic structure that allows the government more control. This, they argue, prevents corruption and greedy practices from crippling the American citizen. By taxing large corporations in the upper economic echelon, government, they argue, can provide more services and programs that will help the people and contribute to a better standard of living.

In terms of foreign policy, Republicans, especially neoconservatives, believe that America should assert itself on the national stage as the prime force. America, they argue, should intervene whenever it serves in the country’s best interests, both domestic and abroad. Although Democrats are not anti-conflict, they tend to take a more passive approach to this viewpoint.

In terms of social/miscellaneous policies, Republicans favor less gun control, stronger ties to religion, tougher regulations on illegal immigrants, opposition to stem-cell research, unions and gay marriage and are pro-life on the abortion question. In contrast, Democrats support strict gun control, , looser regulations on illegal immigrants and support stem-cell research, unions and gay marriage. They tend to be pro-choice on the issue of abortion.