It seems that the backdrop more every major political race is the butting heads of conservatism versus liberalism, Republican versus Democrat. The confusion that may accompany the barrage of information presented may actually deter people from voting at all. In fact, the two parties’ ideologies seem to share many of the same goals for the economy, foreign policy, and personal liberties. Furthermore, both Democrats, the supposedly liberal party, and Republicans, the supposedly conservative party, have been appointed to the highest office, the President of the United States of America. In most cases, the President has been effective in building notable progress in our nation’s growth, regardless of the political party that they belong to. Upon closer examination into the history of the Democratic and the Republican parties, we are able to determine that the political philosophies from which they originate have glaring contrasts in their ideologies, but may also share a few similarities.
The Republican Party was created in 1854 in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act that would have allowed the expansion of slavery into Kansas. As well as opposing the expansion of slavery, the group also emphasized higher education, banking, railroads, industry and cities, and promised free homesteads to farmers.(wikipedia.org) Republicans are generally seen as the conservative party. Conservatives are strong defenders of liberty. They value small government, fiscal restraint, and individual rights & responsibilities. Conservatives tend to emphasize traditional views of social units such as the family or church, and often use history as a means to justify their beliefs. A conservative political philosophy is based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change. ( merriam-webster.com) Conservatives seem to favor a Pyramid approach to politics, allowing the government to decide what is best for the greater good. As seen with Madison’s Federalist #10, conservatives believe in a strong controlling government. According to conservatives, a Republican government can be relied upon to make decisions that will benefit the greater good of the country.
Historically, conservative thought supported the idea of individuals being economically responsible for their own actions and decisions, and sought to preserve property rights rather than redistribute wealth or reduce inequality. As evident in Sumner’s Rich are Good Natured piece, conservative thinkers feel that hard work is justly rewarded. Today’s Republicans offer a more practical approach to politics, while still staying true to their conservative values. According to GOP.com, Republicans have always been the Party of fresh ideas and new thinking. They encourage
debate on the major issues of our day, and consistently act in accord with the
greatest values of our country – freedom and opportunity for all. Their plans focus on ensuring that America remains safe, terrorists are defeated, and democracy flourishes in the world … on expanding opportunities for ownership and investment … on making tax relief permanent and ensuring greater energy independence … on increasing the affordability and accessibility of health care … on promoting works of compassion and strengthening our greatest values … on preparing students for success in life by bringing the benefits of education reform to high schools … and on helping workers adjust to a changing economy by offering flexible training options that meet their individual needs.
The Democratic Party is the oldest political party in continuous operation in the United States and it is one of the oldest parties in the world. The Democratic Party traces it’s origins to the Democratic-Republican Party, founded by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other influential opponents of the federalists in 1972.(wikipedia.org) Democrats are generally seen as the more liberal of the two dominant political parties. Liberal thought usually considers individual liberty and equality to be the most important political goals, emphasizing individual rights and equality of opportunity. Liberalism encompasses a fish bowl style political model, promoting a non- hierarchical government. In William Jennings Bryan’s cross of gold speech he talks about treating the man who is employed with same amount of respect as his employer. This is a perfect example of the liberalistic attitude of equal opportunity and protection of individual liberties.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines liberalism as a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties. Today’s Democratic Party adheres to basic beliefs found in historical liberalism. The Democratic Party is committed to keeping our nation safe and expanding opportunity for every American. That commitment is reflected in an agenda that emphasizes the strong economic growth, affordable health care for all Americans, retirement security, open, honest and accountable government, and securing our nation while protecting our civil rights and liberties.(democrats.org)
While Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the individual to solve problems, Liberal policies generally emphasize the need for the government to solve people’s problems. Conservatives believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense. They believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals. Liberals believe in governmental action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all, and that it is the duty of the State to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights. They believe the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need. Clearly there are many differences in where Republicans and Democrats base their ideologies. However, there are significant similarities that deserve to be noted.
Republicans and Democrats are in general agreement about the qualities they are looking for in the president of the United States. Both sides demand honesty, strong leadership, management skills, and moral integrity in the nation’s president. Both sides also put lower emphasis on military experience, business experience, political experience, and religious commitment. (gallup.com) Republicans and Democrats share similar views on the importance of individual rights, although they emphasize different areas. Democrats want more individual freedoms in social areas such as free speech, while Republicans emphasize individual freedoms in areas such as business. Republicans and Democrats both believe in the power of a centralized government; however Democrats want the government to regulate business and protect the minorities of society, where Republicans want government to enforce societal norms and protect business.
During political campaigns, it is sometimes difficult to sort through the static and get to the candidates real views on issues. I think it is important to look at the opposing parties core beliefs, and decide who you identify with more. While you may agree with the Democratic candidate on some issues, a Republican candidate may seem more capable in remedying other issues. Unfortunately, you can only pick one! Looking at the ideologies that political parties subscribe to may help in deciphering the differences in candidate’s beliefs, and empower people with the knowledge they need to make an educated decision as to who they would vote for as President.