The Democratic and the Republican parties are two oldest and most influential political parties in the US. The consistency with which Americans elect Presidents and vote for Congressmen from one or the other party has given rise to the dual-party system that provides stability and continuity to the US political setup.
Although the differences between two parties are not dramatic, they nevertheless demonstrate discrepancies in ideology, stances on various subjects and policies.
In general, the Democratic Party supports the tradition of social liberalism, whereas the Republican Party advocates classical liberalism. The distinction between the two is also that the Democratic Party usually supports more significant interference of the state social matters to combat social injustice and inequality and overcome poverty. It can translate into higher support for social services and advocacy of higher taxes.
The Republicans, in general, are in favor of the social arrangements in which most of the decision-making is made outside of the government structures, in the private sector. Many people believe that the Republican rule is better for stimulating the economy because of adherence to private entrepreneurship and small government interference. The party on economic issues typically favors policies developed within Reaganomics: the view that lower taxes are stimulating for economic growth. Concerning social services, the Republicans do not discard the “safety net” for the poor and disadvantaged but are reluctant to extend its size and introduce more publicly funded services. The tax cuts administered under the incumbent President can be considered typical of Republican policies.
At the same time, Republicans tend to be more conservative in their views on social values and policies involving the lives of individuals. Democrats are more likely to vote for bills that lead to greater civil liberty and those that given the individual more freedom. The party is at present divided on the issue of same-sex marriages and supports abortions. In contrast, Republicans oppose same-sex unions and call for stricter control on abortions. The Democrats advocate tighter gun control, whereas Republicans support the right to carry guns. The Democrats also tend to be more supportive of various affirmative action initiatives.
In international relations, the Republican Party is currently pursuing neo-conservative policies. They are exemplified by anti-terrorist systems, support for the establishment of democratic governments worldwide and military engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Republicans have also been less passionate about environmental issues, refusing, for example, to sign the Kyoto Protocol limiting emissions on an international level, insisting that it will be too burdensome for the US economy. The Democrats, in general, tend to be more environmentally-conscious.
The Republicans have been in charge of the White House for 26 out of the past 38 years. In fact, they have seen their voter base grow in the past with the expansion of their base in the Sun Belt states where Democrats previously ruled over political life (Bedford Martin’s). In general, Republicans seem to enjoy more support among men, whereas women and racial minorities tend to favor Democrats because of their support for affirmative action and more socially oriented policies. Religion also matters in the link between voter profiles and preferences. Historically, there was “a major division line between the parties before 1960, with Catholics heavily Democratic and Northern Protestants heavily Republican” (Wikipedia, 2006). The difference in religious views of both electoral groups persists: the Republicans the have the support of evangelicals, and Democrats have a link with African-American churches, in particular, those belonging to the Baptist Church.
The discussion of differences between the two parties reveals that they tend to pursue different policies on many issues. However, there are similarities between the two, and the controversy on many points is not entirely clear-cut. Thus, both parties support liberalism, civil rights, and a free market economy. For these reasons, the transition of power from a Republican to a Democratic president does not translate into an about-face change in the significant policies, both external and internal. Voters have not stayed loyal to only one party: thus, the term “Reagan Democrat” came to mean a voter who traditionally supported Democrats but defected to vote for Ronald Reagan in the presidential race. It said those distinctions in political decision-making and upheld policies and stances are only relative, and representatives of both parties can share each other’s views. Besides, within the same party, there can be disagreements that lead leaders to support decisions different from the ones advocated by its leaders. Such distinctions are inevitable in the democratic process and will always occur in intra-party politics.
Thus, Republicans and Democrats represent two main political forces in the American political world. Well-established among the political elite of the nation, these two parties continue to attract those aspiring to a career in legislative or executive power branches. Points of agreements between both governmental units reflect the unity and consensus that exists in American society that accepts such values as democracy in government, civil rights, and free market mechanisms in the economy. The discrepancies between the two parties allow them to tune in to views of specific interest and social groups, appealing to different parts of the electorate.
Bedford/St. Martin’s College. (n.d.) The Rise of the Republican Party in the Sun Belt and South, 1960 to 1980. Retrieved June 7, 206, from http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/historymodules/modules/mod37/main.htm
Wikipedia. (2006). Republican Party. Retrieved June 7, 206, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republican_Party_%28United_States%29
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