Early in our nation’s history, Thomas Jefferson created a political party to confront the Federalists of Alexander Hamilton. Jefferson’s party was called the Democratic Republicans, and it is the basis of both major political parties today – the Democrats, and the Republicans.
The Democrats broke off in 1828, when Andrew Jackson formed the Democratic Party to exterminate Native Americans, and to preserve slavery. Later, the Republican Party was formed to end slavery.
Though slavery was the initial issue that separated the early Democrats from the early Republicans, there is perhaps a larger difference emblematic in the names the parties picked. The Democrats picked the name ‘Democratic Party’ in support of ‘Democracy.’ The Republicans picked their name in support of the notion of America being a ‘Republic’.
In the modern vernacular, the words ‘Democracy’ and ‘Republic’ are often used interchangeably, but these words actually have very different meanings, and many of the differences between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party revolve around these differences. In this article, I am going to suggest that there are two viewpoints that can be used to articulate the differences between the modern Democrats and the modern Republicans. I am not going to suggest that these two viewpoints explain every subtlety between party positions, but I do think they are highly illustrative of major philosophical differences between our two primary political parties.
The first difference is perfectly emblematic of the names. Democrats want the people to have whatever power the people assume, whereas Republicans believe in the rule of law, and would not extend to the people any powers not expressly given to them under the law (at the Federal level, that would be the US Constitution).
Ironically, the notion that the people only have the powers given to them under the Constitution actually gives the people far more power than would a Democracy. The difference is that a Republic gives We the People power as individuals, whereas a Democracy takes all individual power away. In other words, if you want power over other people, you should be a Democrat, whereas if you want to have power over your own life, you should be a Republican.
The second difference is that today’s Democrats assume that they represent, not so much the literal will of the people, so much as what the will of the people should be, and as such, whereas the Republicans believe in democratic processes within the rule of law, Democrats believe only in the exercise of power, independent of any restraint. This second difference may sound a bit confusing, but I think the Roman Senator Marcus Tullius Cicero illustrated it when he said, “I never claimed to be a representative of the people. I claim only to be a representative for the people.” Cicero was essentially claiming to be someone who knew better than the Roman people what exactly it was that the Roman people needed, and as such, he did not believe he needed to listen to the Roman people when looking at matters of policy. Cicero considered himself to be what one today might call the ‘moral and intellectual elite.’
A quote from Milton Friedman illustrates what Republicans think about the second viewpoint: “Democracy may be the best means yet devised to run a government, but government is the worst means yet devised to run a country.” Milton Friedman was not suggesting that we go without a government, but he was suggesting that each individual person should be left alone to live their lives however they see fit, provided they allow others to do the same. Milton Friedman believed that the only real role of government was to guarantee the freedom of each individual person, against infringement by other people or groups. Under this view, aggression can only be justified in defense of liberty.
If you believe in individual liberty, you should be a Republican.
When I was a child, the Democrats thought that ‘we the people’ were capable of collectively deciding what society should look like, and how it should operate. The Democrats of my youth wanted a larger and more powerful government than did the Republicans of my youth, but both parties believed in free markets, and in the basic fundamental freedoms our Bill of Rights describe. The debate was about what to regulate, and how much to regulate, but there were no calls for total state control over the economy in either political party. Even as late as 1992, Bill Clinton said that ‘The era of big government is over.’ If Bill Clinton ran on his 1992 agenda today, he would be a Republican, and when Democrats claim that the Republican Party has become more extreme, I remember that Donald Trump used to be a Democrat, and that based on where the parties were in 1992, he would still be a Democrat. If the Republican Party has moved, it is to the left.
What strikes me as strange is how older Democrats continue to vote Democrat even as they fail to agree with anything today’s Democratic Party represents. My mother says that people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will learn the folly of their ways and move away from socialism, but it seems odd, to me, to vote for someone based on what you hope they learn, rather than based on what they say they will do once elected. How is it that older Democrats do not recognize that based on today’s political norms, they are Republicans? My father died as a loyal Democrat, but on matters of policy he was always a closet-Republican. How is it that I could never convince him to change parties?
I actually met Jimmy Carter as a child. My father was active in the Michigan Democratic Party, and was a delegate in Michigan’s 1976 Democratic Convention. I was only five at the time, but I remember shaking then-candidate Jimmy Carter’s hand.
I also remember being given more barbeque chicken than any five year old should ever have (a leg and a thigh), and playing softball. When it was time for me to have my first at-bat, everyone on the other team said, “Young kid – move up,” and the entire team vacated the outfield. I hit the ball over their heads, and had I had longer legs, I’d have had a home run. As a five year old, I only made it to third base.
How fitting that even at five, I could hit a ball over every Democrat’s head…
I don’t say that to toot my own horn either. I say it to point out how little regard Democrats have for the capabilities of the common person. The very same Democrats who did not think I could hit a softball also did not think that black people were capable of getting a state ID, and did not think people from south of our border were capable of learning English, or of applying to enter our country legally.
I was probably nine or ten before I realized I was a Republican, but I was five when I got my first introduction into the Democrat’s prejudice of low expectations.
To the credit of the Democrats from 1976, the second time I came up to bat, some of them stayed in the outfield. Today’s democrats have moved much further left, and would have given me another triple.
My first economics teacher, likewise, should be a Republican. I’m not going to name names, but if you have been on my Facebook page, you have probably seen him comment on some of my posts. When I was in his class, I think in 10th grade, he had a box in his class where people could bring in things for the poor – mostly canned and boxed food. I worked at McDonald’s at the time, and I figured that a company that would hire a sixteen year old kid and allow him to make food, would hire anyone. I brought in a thick stack of McDonald’s applications and put it in the box. The teacher laughed, which today would make him a Republican. One of today’s Democrats would be mortified. Suggesting that someone work for food? Egads! We can’t have THAT!!
Democrats claim to be for the common person, but they have no faith in the common person. If you actually believe in the productive capabilities of your fellow human beings, you are a Republican.
Democrats are going to say I created a straw-man with that last comment, but how much of a straw-man was it in the 2016 Democratic Primary, where the Clinton Foundation kept the DNC on economic life-support, and steam-rolled Bernie Sanders? How ironic it is that the party claiming Trump stole the 2016 election did not even trust their own voters…
Not only has the DNC become the party of redistribution, but it is full of true believers, and all of the worst atrocities throughout history have been committed by true believers of some redistributionist philosophy. Without the need to redistribute, there is no need to take, and thus, no need to kill. Without true belief, there is no stomach for the killing such redistributionist philosophies require.
How is it that so many voters cannot see what the modern Democratic Party has become?
I do not hate democrats. I believe most of them have been duped, and as the old saying goes, ‘There is a sucker born every minute.’ I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to hate every one of them. But I do increasingly hate the DNC, as it increasingly stands against everything I have pledged my life to live for, and, if necessary, to die for.
The modern Democratic Party is the party of Saul Alinsky. Saul Alinsky’s fourth rule (from Rules for Radicals) is “Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.” Today’s Democrats don’t believe in rules except to the degree that they can be used as weapons against the political right. The Democrats, in the meantime, operate outside the rules.
The DNC is vile, evil, and corrupt, and as imperfect as Donald Trump is, he’s a hell of a lot better than that.