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Linda_Owl's avatar

Have you ever thought about what might be the real reason behind the antipathy between the Republicans & the Democrats?

Asked by Linda_Owl (7728points) July 19th, 2012

Do you ever wonder if the super-religious Republicans actually see the Democrats as being lazy & unwilling to work? Do you think that they want to truly keep those in need from being able to get the help they need because they think that the money is coming directly out of their personal pockets? Why are the Republicans so willing for the Military Budget to NOT be cut? Do the Republicans think that they are paying more than their fair share of taxes? Do the liberal Democrats truly see that our national deficit is killing us? I generally vote Democrat & I can clearly see that our national deficit is going to have serious ramifications if we do not do something to stem the tide & I am willing for the Military Budget to be cut in half. What is preventing these two political parties from being able to work together for the common good of the United States?

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27 Answers

Seelix's avatar

You can please all of the people some of the time, or some of the people all of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Simplistic? Maybe. But that’s what it boils down to. We have the same issues between the NDP and Conservatives in Canada.

thorninmud's avatar

I think Heidegger got it right when he predicted that in a system such as ours, there would come a time when being in power would become the primary goal instead of the welfare of the people. Politics would then become a zero-sum game in which dominating is what counts. cooperation then becomes impossible. That seems to be a frighteningly accurate diagnosis of the current situation.

wundayatta's avatar

I think it has more to do with human nature than things we can control. We’d like to think we are logical, but our logic is beyond our ability to understand and articulate at this moment. We might think science is important, but that can’t explain our behavior. We might think common sense is important, but it is clear we behave in ways that don’t seem to be common sensical and anyway, everyone has different ideas about what common sense actually is.

There is more going on that we yet understand. I think game theory helps us, and many other theories of human behavior can help us. I’m sure there are things going on in political science and sociology and economics and psychology and creativity theory that would help us understand politics, but it’s too much for one person to know.

I have faith that it makes sense, or will make sense, when we develop good theory and find evidence to support those theories. I suspect that we have many motivations hidden from ourselves—that we are not yet aware of—that will help us make better sense of our political behavior.

jca's avatar

I think we have a heightened awareness of it during election season, when the battles get nasty and personal (or should I say, more personal than usual). Then things die down to a dull roar, and then start up again, cyclically, every election.

Jaxk's avatar

I know this will come as blasphemy to many out there, but there are deep philosophical differences between the parties. It’s easy to paint it as simple partisan politics and there is a good deal of that. The military budget is always a good example of the differences. Current estimates say that 2 million jobs could be lost if the cuts are made. I’m not sure our economy can take that right now. To make matters worse, the world is getting more dangerous by the day. I don’t know how many can remember the Carter days when the military was cut to the bone. When the Iranians took hostages from our embassy, we couldn’t even mount a rescue without killing ourselves before we even got there. It’s almost amusing that Obama would talk about the Internet as a giant boom to business provided by government. We’ll skip the details but the Internet started out as a defense department network. Hell, most of the advances that can be attributed to government came from the Defense Department. Gutting defense has long been a goal of Democrats with the exception of Kennedy.

wundayatta's avatar

There are different views about all those issues @Jaxk mentioned, of course. I’ve seen studies suggesting that money spent on the military generates significantly fewer jobs than money spent anywhere else. That means that if we cut the military, we might lose 2 million jobs, but gain 2.2 million jobs. Maybe more. There would, of course, be dislocations caused by the transition, but this is the “peace dividend” we are talking about.

As far as foreign policy issues are concerned, I think we are seeing the most efficient foreign policy we’ve had in decades, maybe even in a century. We have largely caused our own problems. We’d have been better off in so many situations by doing nothing. Had we never supported the Shah, the hostage crisis would never have happened. Anti-Israeli feeling would have diminished and the terrorism problem would have been much smaller, or even non-existent. We need to back off, not become more belligerent.

It is true that defense research leads to advances useful in consumer industries. However, once again, people do argue, and with evidence to support them, that the same money, invested in civilian research, would have generated even better results.

I think it is part of a typical pattern that Republicans tend to look at what is, and not what could have been. They discount research showing things would be better in other situations. They say look at what research benefits defense gives us; not what could have been. They say look at welfare fraud; not how much people have been helped compared to what their lives would have been like, otherwise.

Republicans often look through metaphorical glasses tinted by their philosophical views. They select facts that support their views and ignore the other facts. Democrats do this, too, of course, but they do less of it. Democrats tend to believe more in people. Republicans would call them naive. But it all comes down to which facts you choose to see as most important.

Why that is the case, I don’t know. Wish I did. But the relationship between philosophy, beliefs, and political arguments seems to me to be a fruitful area for study.

Linda_Owl's avatar

Are you saying @Jaxk , that the United States must keep the Military Budget from being cut in order to keep jobs in the defense industry? That we must continue to make war despite the devastation that war causes? Why must the United States have the largest military budget in the entire world? Other industrial nations make do with far less. In this instance I tend to agree with @wundayatta . I think that the military budget should be cut drastically & I think that private sector jobs could well off-set the loss of defense jobs. I know that the taxes could then be spent on repairing our crumbling infrastructure & possibly up-grading our education processes. But without cutting the military budget, neither of these things is going to happen.

wundayatta's avatar

But @Linda_Owl, I thought we were talking about the underlying reasons for differences between the views, not actually arguing in the issues. I do not intend to argue the issues here. My points were just for illustration, not to engage in debate.

Linda_Owl's avatar

@wundayatta , I am not engaging in a debate, I am looking for answers as to why the two major political parties cannot seem to find common ground. I mentioned cutting the military budget because it seems to be a key issue between the two parties & I do happen to agree with your point of view that private sector jobs could well off-set the defense industry job loss.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

These generalizations are so vast and sweeping that it isn’t possible to give a useful answer.

Respectfully, I suggest that honest impressions of the two parties from other users might not be meaningful (or believed) by you.

A good start would be to find our in greater detail what these parties are really made of.

The Religious Right is just a part of the Republican party for example. Despised by conservatives like me.

2davidc8's avatar

@thorninmud Being in power is what it’s all about in all “systems”, not just ours. Witness what is happening in Syria. This has been true since time immemorial, in ALL systems. Ultimately, it’s all about human greed.

Jaxk's avatar

Democrats are more idealistic, Republicans are more practical. Democrats are more concerned with the collective while Republicans are more concerned with the individual. Democrats look to government to solve our problems while Republicans look at government as the source of our problems.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

@Jaxk Well described.

Though this conservative has been called idealistic many times.

thorninmud's avatar

@2davidc8 Power is, by definition, the necessary precondition for influencing the course of events. If you want to direct the course of events, you must first acquire power. But the question is to what end will that power be used? Is the power an instrument used in the service of an ideal of a better society, or are the “ideals” themselves instruments fashioned to insure access to power?

Representative democracy may be the best system we’ve come up with yet, but it does suffer from this particular flaw: political power derives from a populace who are, by and large, unwise. The populace is more likely to base their choice of leader on charisma, appeals to self-interest, simplistic understandings of how the world works, or rumor than on informed reason.

The upshot is that a wise would-be leader, in order to attain to power, is obliged to cater to the whims of the populace. Some of that’s not necessarily bad, as long as there’s the understanding on the part of the populace that there will be times when the wisdom of the leader(s) will have to trump the popular urge.

I think that understanding has been there, if imperfectly, for much of our history. But I think it’s now vanishing (and this is what Heidegger foresaw). Over time, the political parties have become more and more adept at the business of identifying and catering to the public’s whim and emotion and instincts. Policy is now tailored to the specific aim of getting or retaining political power, so that what a party embraced last year may be disavowed this year; those flip-flops are not based on the merits of the policy, but purely on strategic considerations.

Meanwhile, the public becomes more and more used to the idea that the politicians are just there to do exactly what we want, and that we will never be asked to hear what they don’t want to hear. We get really pissed when things aren’t going our way, like spoiled children. The political parties are now just highly efficient machines at delivering the policy candy that the spoiled kids want.

Heidegger may have been right in identifying this flaw, but he sure didn’t have a better idea. He was all for authoritarianism, and was an early supporter of Nazism.

bolwerk's avatar

Much of the squabbly poo in American politics is just power hunger-driven propaganda. Nobody who pays attention seriously thinks Romney is going to balance the budget, and nobody in their right mind thinks Obama is going to stop all military adventurism. The Republikans are a bit odd in that they actually project their flaws/incompetencies onto the opposition: Demokrats (the politicians, not necessarily the voters) are actually less spendthrift, more financially literate, more appreciative of the status quo, and less prone to overreaching government power than the Republikans are – on the whole, Demokrats are more republican and more conservative.

While there are 3–4 major Republikan factions, there are probably hundreds of distinct Demokratic factions that break down along regional or even local (there is nothing like the Democratic machine in New York City, perhaps the most distinctly conservative bunch in the country), economic, social, and even professional (e.g., trial lawyers) lines. That’s why every time Demokrats are in charge they tear themselves down with ridiculous infighting.

ETpro's avatar

I’m guessing that @bolwerk has a good part of it nailed. That’s why George Washington warned against ever having political parties. All too soon, they take on a life of their own, with a hive intelligence that is largely focused on ways to gain and perpetually hold all power.

But clearly there are a group of Americans now that have adopted the right-wing Randian Objectivism pushed by billionaires and corporatists from their own selfish reasons, and those people have slowly seized control of the Republican Party. While Ronald Reagan is the nearest thing to a Saint in Republican winds, the real Ronald Reagan was willing to reach a compromise with Tip Oneal when he knew it was necessary. He raised taxes 16 times and massively increased the size of the government. Those things would get him driven out of today’s Republican party as a hated RINO.

The battle over the recommendations of the independent budget commission are telling. Democrats agreed to cut $10 in spending for every $1 in new revenue to close the deficit and balance the budget. Republicans walked away from the deal. Of course, they lied about Democrats making them do it, but sometimes even liars forget and tell the truth. You have one party which will try to do what the country needs, versus another which is willing to drive right off a cliff, as they threatened to do during the debt-ceiling debate, rather than consider ANY compromise. Compromise has become a dirty word to them.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

If an individual or groups policies are governed by ideals and principles they will find the idea of compromise repugnant.

ETpro's avatar

@Crashsequence2012 No, that’s totally untrue. It they are governed by principles, then getting closer to them is better than staying frozen far away. Principles and extremism are two entirely different things. If you think of Islamic extremists compared to moderate Muslims, I am sure you can see that.

wundayatta's avatar

Republicans don’t seem to do well about cutting the budget. Didn’t Reagan and Bush II both preside over huge increases to both the budget and the deficits? Why is this? Is there any reason to expect that Romney would be different? Wouldn’t he cut taxes and expand spending, anyway? After all, it is the only thing the govt can do to stimulate the economy. So we’d see the budget deficit increase with him, too, most likely.

Republicans like to get reelected, I think. They know they can’t do that by cutting Federal programs. That drives up unemployment and poverty, which even they seem to worry about a little, if only because if the people ever get organized, they’ll lynch all the rich dudes. And it’s only possible to confuse the people when you can blame the Dems. That’s hard to do if you are in power.

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta Have I ever told you I love your pragmatism?

bolwerk's avatar

@wundayatta: Reagan also raised taxes through the backdoor.

josie's avatar

I would be disappointed in either party if, as the loyal opposition, they did not oppose. Like them or not it is what they are supposed to do.

thorninmud's avatar

@josie There’s a constitutional scholar named Yigal Mersel who has written some important analysis of the role of opposition in democracies. This is from a paper he wrote in 2004:

”...There is a serious tension between the minority’s right—and even duty—to dissent, and the majority’s right to govern. The resolution of this tension can be based on the Roman distinction between potetas (oppose) and imperium (govern). It is difficult to justify the existence of the minority if its sole function is to oppose (potetas). There is no point in an institution that exists in order to say “No” to any initiative of the majority…A consistant opposition can also be regarded as undemocratic if it regularly obstructs the majority on any matter.”

josie's avatar

@thorninmud
Everybody says that about the opposition when it interferes with their guys in the majority party trying to have everything their way.

I clarified that I embrace the concept of the loyal opposition, a British Parliamentary notion that got a foothold in the US in Washington’s first term when there was opposition to Hamilton’s financial policies. It simply means you can oppose without fear of being regarded as a traitor. It doesn’t mean you have to do it all the time. But I repeat that I would be suspicious of a party that did not do what they could to offset their political minority status.

Thus I am not talking about opposition for the sake of it. But in a democracy, each party has a constituency, and often enough they have opposing interests. That is why political parties emerged-constituencies with different expectations of their government. There are really not that many legitimate “national” issues. Most central government debates are attempts to resolve differences between competing constituencies. Sometimes those are simple to solve, sometimes they are not. These days they are difficult. Not, however, as the ones that led to the Civil War.

It could be a lot worse.

ETpro's avatar

@josie Facts are facts. Everybody says that too, now don’t they?

thorninmud's avatar

@josie There’s a difference between advocating for the interests of one’s constituency and systematic obstructionism. How can you tell when that line has been crossed? If a politician or his party demonstrates a pattern of advocating certain policies until they’re put forward by the other party, then it seems pretty clear that the positions aren’t being taken on the basis of whether or not the policy is in the interests of the constituency.

Likewise, when the opposition extends beyond policy matters to affect the actual functioning of the government, then clearly no constituency stands to benefit. Among other examples, this is the case with presidential appointments to fill seats in the government and judiciary. Take a look at this record.

bolwerk's avatar

I find the idea of loyal opposition kind of repulsive. I don’t see any reason to be loyal to my oppressors for any reason.

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