“There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between a Republican and a Democrat.”
This outcry typically comes from someone on the far left or the far right. In America, 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 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 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 has varied, but the direction has always been up.
Look at the red line (federal spending) in my chart (click 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 controlled 2 or all 3 of the law-making / law-executing bodies, the red line has never fallen.
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? For all but the selfish ones, 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.”
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 hereforth 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 criticism or praise? They’ll get lots of both, but which do they PREFER? Answer: Obviously they yearn to be praised and appreciated.
So now, the key question:
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, applied to the real world of politics. Any thinking animal will, consciously or not, tend to continue doing what it receives praise and adulation for, and it will tend to cease what it receives criticism and disapproval for. This is pure common sense. Where I live we call it horse sense.
Conservative voters must 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.”
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? If you believe in conservatism, 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.