The following is my third and last “Left Turn” to appear in El Estoque. It’s mostly an informational piece for teens that, uh, don’t know much about politics.
donkey vs. elephant
by Kenneth Huang
from the March 17, 2004 edition of El Estoque
Ever wondered what’s the difference between Democrats and Republicans? I’m sure you really haven’t, but I’ll tell you about it anyway, because on March 2, California is having its presidential primary (among other things), and some of you will be lucky enough to vote! So, here’s how the two-party political system has been for the past eighty years or so.
Republicans (generally classified as “conservatives”) are the people of small and limited federal government in the public arena, and they are in favor of active federal government in terms of personal and cultural issues. In other words, they want less spending and involvement in areas of public concern, such as social welfare, education, the economy and jobs, health care, infrastructure, transportation, and so on. Instead, they wish the federal government to be involved in areas strictly dictated by the Constitution (mainly defense) as well as in fighting back the wave of moral relativism and preserving traditional standards (which explains their opposition to abortion, homosexual rights, and the legalization of certain drugs). When it comes to the powers assigned by the Constitution, Republicans say, “If it doesn’t say we can do it, we can’t do it.”
Democrats (classified as “liberals”), as a rule, want the opposite: They believe in an active federal government that is involved in public issues (such as the ones listed above) and have a more broad, or generous, interpretation of the Constitution in that regard, with the thinking that “if the Constitution doesn’t say we can’t do it, we can do it.” However, Democrats believe that the government should stay away from interfering in personal choices. That’s why they defend the right to abortion for women and marriage (or “civil unions”, at least) for homosexuals. They tend to be more in favor of a secular, religion-free government, as opposed to the Republicans, who, due to the large number of religious people in its ranks, do not want to see all religious symbols and references erased from government, and point to the Judeo-Christian traditions of the United States. Democrats are also more in favor of social and public programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and many others, whereas Republicans feel that the tasks assigned to government programs would be better addressed with local and state governments, or private concerns, whether it be businesses or nonprofit/charity organizations.
These categorizations can fairly describe the collective thoughts of the two parties. Now, just to be clear, these are all broad generalizations. There are plenty of people on both sides of the party that don’t line up all the way on the issues – and even a few traitors who, judging by how they think and vote, might as well be on the other side. And both parties have recently been stealing ideas from the other side. But, in general, one can safely say the following things about the two parties: Democrats want a federal government active in public and economic issues and a reduced role in personal and cultural issues. The Republicans want a federal government active in just a few public and economic issues while refraining from getting involved in most public needs (preferring to let private groups and state/local governments deal with them) while supporting using government power to back a set of traditional values.
Be aware that you have many more choices than just these two; it’s just that Democrats and Republicans happen to be the dominant parties in this country. But there are over fifty smaller parties out there. For a comprehensive guide, visit http://www.politics1.com/parties.htm.