The Democratic Party
Note: When I refer to the Democratic party I am referring to the post-reconstruction party, not its previous incarnation in the south before the civil war. I also need to clarify that there are strong, progressive voices within the Democrats, but too often they are silenced in the aggregate of the Democratic Party as a whole; these progressives (Grijalva, Grayson, Warren, etc.) not only do not deserve to be tarred under the same brush as the rest of the party but are, in my opinion, the future of the party.
Over the past four decades, the Democratic Party has been a large tent party which supports labor, the middle class, and equal rights for minorities/women. Democrats have also been the driving force behind civil rights advances, entitlement programs (Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security) that benefit the poor and middle class, and environmental protections that have prevented our rivers from continuing to catch on fire. Democrats have also traditionally supported humane immigration policy and women’s reproductive rights but there has always been more variation in beliefs for these two issues.
The current incarnation of the Democratic Party resembles the Democratic Party of the late 20th century in the same way a Chihuahua and a malamute resemble each other—they are both dogs, although one is strong while the other is whiny, irritating, and hides under the bed when intimidated. The current Democratic Party insists on compromise to the point of complete ineffectiveness and has refused to fight back against Republican extremism in a vast majority of cases (excepting extreme cases like the debt ceiling).
When the Democratic weakness is combined with the insane radicalism of the Republicans, the result is that the Democrats are no longer liberal nor progressive but rather centrist.
A majority of Democratic politicians seem largely incapable of showing any spine either in defense of their views or their fellow Democrats. Because of this, the Democrats have gradually been pulled over to the right through compromise and refusing to draw a line in the sand.
To the Republicans and corporate interests, the Democratic Party is essentially one of those blowup-punching bag clowns; irritating, impossible to completely knock over due to its heavy base re-righting it, but at the same time completely incapable of fighting back or protecting itself.
Somehow many of the deals between the Democrats and Republicans end up with the Republicans getting more than the initially asked for (See: 2011 Debt ceiling fight or budget debate for examples of this). Whenever two groups get together and start haggling, the ideal is that they eventually compromise in the middle. However, the Democratic Party has capitulated in some such haggling sessions to the point where the agreed upon “compromise” is actually more right wing than the Republican’s initial position.
Unfortunately the Democratic Party is by far the best choice for political representation in the current national debate because while they are severely flawed, they are the only thing standing against a group which actively wants to destroy the US government and install a cross between a Christian version of the Taliban and an Ayn Randian dystopia.
While the Democratic Party is weak, ineffective, and makes deals which even the average middle school student can see border upon complete capitulation, they have two things going for them: First and foremost, they are better (and far more sane) than the Republican alternative. Secondly, they have a few strong voices that, if given a chance, could reform the party out of its current weakness and into one that could do a huge amount of good for the country.
The Republican Party
Note: I am not talking about the historic Republican Party in this post, but rather the Republican Party of the last 40 years. The Republicans spent decades as a legitimate political party, with an ideology based in reality, but in recent decades, they have degrades into a shadow of their previous selves.
The Grand Old Party (also referred to as the Gas and Oil Party, or Greed Over People party by those who pay attention) is a party that uses three major ideas to unite a collection of libertarians, corporatists, neo-confederates, theocrats, warhawks, anarcho-capitalists, and elderly conservatives who are terrified of losing “their country” to “illegals, blacks, atheists and gays.”
- Lower taxes and Cut services/abolish the welfare state;
- Shrink government and give power to the people;
- Impose social conservative morality on America, or make it possible for powerful individuals to discriminate against others until they conform
While these three ideals are the central tenants of modern conservatism, there is a bipolarity of beliefs in the Republican Party for every such goal and their policies express this divide:
1) Lower taxes and cut services/abolish the welfare state — This Republican ideal, when expressed in policy, boils down into cutting THEIR taxes and cutting OTHER PEOPLE’ services and economic welfare programs. The same people who are the first to complain about unemployment benefits to the poor or single mothers would have a collective seizure if their Medicare or Social Security were ten seconds late.
In addition to the endemic selfishness in the policies of taxing and cutting, republicans as a group, seem to have no comprehension as to what pays for defense, roads, disaster relief, and education. The Republican base seem to see no connection between the taxes that they pay and the services that the receive, instead attributing the services to something akin to magical fairies fixing the roads at night; but god help their representative if the roads start breaking down or if the underpaid and disrespected teachers are unable to teach their 50 student classes well enough that every one of their children gets into a good college.
2) Shrink government and give power to the people — Republicans, as a group, hate what they see as government overreach into their lives, while, at the same time, want the government to reach into the lives of other in order to regulate their behavior. Classic examples of rights Republicans demand but are inconsistent upon are personal rights such as the right to bear arms and, the freedom of religion.
Here are two such examples:
- Many Republicans want to be able to own any gun including assault rifles and to carry it anywhere they want. At the same time Republicans are trying to use 10th amendment arguments to secure the right to carry bazookas, they disregard the exact same argument in favor of gay marriage.
- Republican fundamentalists demand the right to not only practice their religion but insert it into the public discourse while at the same demonizing other religions, particularly Muslims, and attempting to take their rights. Ironically, the same people who are pushing for a Christian theocracy are those who demonize American Muslims for the Sharia laws of other Muslims half the world away. This situation makes one wonder whether they dislike the idea of Muslim laws or whether they are simply jealous that the Sharia law proponents have succeed in controlling the population and oppressing women, while they haven’t been nearly as successful.
3) Imposing social conservative views on the country — The Republican base is, for the most part, socially conservative and feels the need for to impose these views on everybody else through legislation. While a majority of the Republican base feels the need to impose their views through legislation, they react extremely badly to what they perceive as others reaching into their lives.
Many libertarian Republicans dislike attempts to mix religion and politics, but the sad fact is that they are hopelessly outmanned within the Republicans and elected GOP officials have made concrete steps towards imposing Christian values on public policy.
In addition to the bipolar nature of Republcian values, the modern Republican electorate has developed the habit of electing unbelievably stupid candidates to office. Politicians such as Bush, Palin, Bachmann, West, and Perry are all examples of unbelievably stupid Republican politicians who have garnered enough support to get elected in recent years. I can find no elected Democratic politician who matches these Republicans for shear lack of knowledge or intelligence. While it is entirely excusable for a few ignorant politicians to get elected based upon their charisma or just luck, the volume of ignorant Republicans is so high that it indicates a party wide problem rather than a few isolated cases.
The combination of stupid politicians, large amounts of corporate money and illogical, religiously based, beliefs has turned the Republican Party into a caricature of its past self. Even Ronald Reagan would be considered too liberal to survive in the current Republican Party; a party that has adopted a kamikaze like mentality where the government and economy can crash and burn while they get paid just as long as they have their bibles and get paid by their true bosses (See: The 2011 debt ceiling fight as an example).
GOP Subcategory: The Tea Party
The Tea party is often portrayed as separate from the Republican Party, sharing most of their views but operating on a more populist hierarchy. Put simply, this is false, and they are simply the most extreme fringe of the extreme right wing that has tried to rebrand itself using millions in corporate donations.
The Tea baggers are essentially a distillation of the white, old, middle class right wingers of the Republican Party. Tea baggers as a group know nothing and are perversely proud of it leading them to act like right wing political lemmings (I seriously question the intelligence of a conservative Christian political group which accidentally names itself after a gay sex act and is surprised when people mock them). Corporations, notably the Koch brothers and various Karl Rove affiliates bankroll these gullible people to act against their own interest in order to help the rich. Ironically, the Tea baggers are just the people who would stand to benefit from the policies that they are hell-bent on opposing.
In a battle of wits and facts, the Tea Party has unilaterally disarmed, but they do make up for it with nastiness, dedication and decibels. This has allowed them to paralyze the federal government and it appears as though they are going to be around until their donors decide that they are simply too extreme to support.