Friday, October 1, 2010

Ds & Rs

The other day my boy asked me what the difference was between Democrats and Republicans. I had to stop and think for a moment and then it became clear what my political science professor had meant when he told us that as a practical matter, there isn’t a nickels worth of difference between the two major parties. But I felt like I owed the boy an answer, so I tried to distill it down to generalities. What I came up with sounded something like this: In general, Democrats are in favor of more government services and benefits which have to be paid for by more and higher taxes and incremental forfeiture of individual rights. On the other hand Republicans have always claimed to be the party of smaller government and lower taxes.

Republicans assume that people want to be able to provide for themselves and try to enact policy to make that possible; Democrats assume that people are incapable of taking care of themselves and therefore create programs to take the place of their self-sufficiency. Republicans support individual efforts; Democrats assume that individuals are weak, and in need of government assistance. Republicans believe in liberty; Democrats believe in government. What all this means, then, is that Democratic philosophy thus demands more programs and higher taxes and takes from those who’ve worked hard and made good decisions, and gives to those who have not. GOP philosophy then, ideally, encourages individual efforts, creates an environment that supports hard work and achievement, and then gets out of the way.

I think it’s safe to say that Democrats do favor more government services, and benefits, as well as higher taxes to pay for them, but the Republican Party has lost its way. The problem may have been the success of our economy. There seems to have always been enough money for the Congress to throw around and no one seemed to be getting hurt too badly so it was normal for Democrats and Republicans to “reach across the aisle”, and to display the comity that everyone says they miss so much. But while this made for a nice peaceful picture there was something quite troubling taking place.

Democrats want a larger, more powerful government, and over the years they’ve been very successful at getting what they want. A small entitlement program here, a government guarantee there, an executive order here and there, and hundreds of key judicial appointments over the decades have brought us to where we are today. Even Republican administrations have been guilty of pandering to voters in order to win elections. It’s hard to make yourself attractive as a candidate or party when your opponents are offering stuff, and all you have to offer is the opportunity to earn stuff. If it hadn’t been for the collapse of the housing market as a result of the government involvement in the home mortgage markets we may never have become aware of our predicament until it was too late.

So what I’m seeing now is that ANY compromise that Republicans make on a Democratic agenda is a step down the path to larger government, higher taxes, and reduced personal freedom. I oppose that step and I will support candidates who oppose that step.

Of course by this time the kid had the same look on his face that the local squirrels get when my dog goes into the back yard: they don’t know or care how, they just know they have to get out of there while the getting’s good. But I had the door blocked so he was stuck in his chair. I paused for a moment hoping he’d have a follow up question and when it became clear that he did I don’t know that I've ever been so pleased. And then he said: “Yeah, yeah. I got that. Which one is the elephant?”

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.