It was in 2005 that I finally read the 2004 Democratic Party campaign platform, a statement of the Party’s values, when I concluded there was no significant difference between the parties. The positions expressed in that document were, to me, indistinguishable from Republican positions.
At some point I found Gore Vidal’s famous line about the United States having a single party system with two right wings, and I’ve been citing it ever since.
Events this year now force me to the realization that there is a difference between the two parties–which I have been referring to as factions to underline their similarity. Simply put, the Republicans now predominate only in the South. Their expression of their desire for power no longer entails electoral success. If we are to assume that they still seek power (and the alternative seems incomprehensible), then we must conclude that Republicans seek power through an uprising–presumably violent or through the threat of violence.
This is not an endorsement of the Democrats. The economic stimulus has produced far fewer jobs than claimed and Obama has only recently come around to the recognition that something might be done. So far, that something consists of no concrete action.
The only action taken to address anything remotely relating to U.S. economic pain has been a bailout for the banks which has produced little, if any lending for small businesses. Meanwhile corporations continue to lay people off and to export jobs just as fast as they can.
The Obama administration decries all this but does nothing, insisting that things would be worse without the stimulus. The trouble with such a claim is that we do not have access to an alternative universe where the stimulus didn’t occur and where we can see the outcome. It is an unverifiable claim, supported only by economists.
What we do know is that we’re about $1.5 trillion deeper in national debt for a bailout and a stimulus that as far as can be known, have only further enriched the rich.
Meanwhile, we’ve had much fury over a plan purportedly to raise U.S. health care system performance to developed world standards–the World Health Organization ranks health care in the U.S. as the world’s most expensive, but 37th in overall performance, and 72nd in level of health–but reaffirms abstinence-only sexuality education and offers a nearly worthless public option that will likely serve those who can’t find insurance elsewhere and cost more.
The difference between the parties is that the Democrats bend over backwards to accommodate the Republicans. Republicans feel no obligation whatsoever to compromise; rather they provoke an uprising and offer little pretence that they seek power through electoral means. So the Democrats bend further.
I’m guessing the conventional wisdom on this is that Republicans think they can show Democrats to be ineffective. Republicans will not need to argue that their policies are better than those of Democrats, only that they can actually get something done. This will entail arguing that Republicans have a plan, when Democrats can accuse them of only being the “Party of No.”
I think this grants the party of George W. Bush and of Ronald Reagan far too much intelligence. You have to go all the way back to Dwight D. Eisenhower to find a Republican President with any discernible intelligence. Democrats Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter have all been clearly intelligent presidents.
It might be that the Republicans really don’t have a plan. They might just place their faith in corporations, the military, and evangelical Protestants and figure they can always find a job. But this would underestimate the lure of power. Politicians almost always can find better paying jobs in the private sector where they can live their lives quietly and in prosperity. They’re politicians, opening their private lives and those of their families to merciless and unbearable scrutiny, because they hunger for power and the limelight.
So yes, I now accept there is a difference between Democrats and Republicans. Evangelical Protestants are dissatisfied with the political process in part because they are strongest in the same region, the South, where Republicans are strongest. And the Republicans are weak everywhere else. That means they either need a viable strategy to recapture popular appeal (that would be the heretofore mentioned conventional wisdom) or they are seeking power through other means.