“There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between a Republican and a Democrat.”
This outcry typically comes from someone politically oriented on the far left or the far right. From where the complainer stands on the political spectrum, both parties are visible in the same direction. Today’s Democrats are a left-center party, and today’s Republicans are a right-center party. So the distinctions between the parties seem miniscule when viewed from a political position far away from both parties.
But are the two major U.S. political parties really almost identical? Unfortunately I can show you one way they are pretty similar.
For starters, here’s my cut at a short objective sentence describing the essence of each party’s vision. These are clearly oversimplified, but I believe I’m at least being even-handed in my simplicity:
- The Democrats generally believe in a relatively unconstrained government role that continuously evolves in response to current issues and the perceived urgent needs of the country.
- Generally speaking, the Republicans believe in a relatively limited government role that is constrained fairly closely to the original intended scope of the Constitution.
So then why, since the end of the Eisenhower era, has federal spending grown steadily, regardless of which party controls the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, and the White House? The rate of growth may vary, but the direction is always upward.
Look at the red line (federal spending) in this chart I have compiled (click on it to enlarge):
Conservative politicians SAY they’re for limited government, but the chart doesn’t show much evidence they behave that way. Even during times when the Republicans have controlled 2 or all 3 of the policy-making bodies, the red line never falls.
Why is this, and what should we start doing about it?
Please read on….
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Ever stop and think what goes through the mind of a would-be politician at that instant they decide to leave their private world and become a candidate for their first election? It’s probably something like this:
“I see a situation I think could be improved. I think I’m uniquely qualified to make a difference, and I’m willing to give it a try. If I get elected, I’ll do my absolute best to help the people I represent.”
In other words, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, politicians are a self-selected group of active thinkers who earnestly believe they have a unique plan of action for solving an issue or improving a situation. They are activists by nature, or they wouldn’t have stepped into the elected public arena. They want to achieve a successful outcome for large groups of people.
Because of this distinctive DNA strand they have, I am hereafter calling them Political Animals.
Next, stop and consider whether these Political Animals are really much different than any other thinking two-legged or four-legged animal. For their efforts, do Political Animals want to receive criticism or praise? They obviously know they’ll get both, but which do they PREFER? Of course the answer is they yearn to be praised and appreciated.
If you’re a conservative voter and you’ve successfully elected your chosen Political Animal to public office, how should you go about training it to restrain itself?
My answer involves simple behavioral psychology, which I am applying to the real world of politics here. Any thinking animal will consciously or subconsciously tend to continue doing whatever it receives praise and adulation for, and it will tend to stop doing whatever it receives criticism and disapproval for. This is pure common sense. Where I live we call it horse sense.
Conservative voters need to get smarter as political consumers, and learn to praise a Political Animal that has the guts to actually downsize government. Cheerfully and publically say to it, with sincere happiness displayed on your face: “Thank you sir/madam for passing legislation that does less for me. In fact, please double down. Next year, I want you to take it even further, and do even less for me. Indeed, the less you do for me, the more I will vote for you.”
Obviously that was a tongue-in-cheek example…now here’s what I seriously mean:
If you’re a conservative voter, you have probably criticized your – or somebody else’s – Political Animal when it voted to enlarge the scope of government. Great! But that’s only half the job of training it. That’s the stick. What about the carrot? When’s the last time you heaped praise and adulation on your Political Animal for doing little or nothing for you? I say it’s high time you started.
And while you’re at it, your Political Animal appreciates a pat on the head and a scratch behind the ear too.