Suppose a foreigner asks, “What is the difference between Republicans and Democrats?” One could reply that Republicans are pro-rich, pro-business, pro-religion, and advocate smaller government while Democrats are pro-equality, pro-regulation, and advocate bigger government.That is a mouthful, and it is not necessarily accurate. Perhaps a more useful and concise reply is that Republicans are elitists and Democrats are egalitarians. Oversimplification? Certainly, but this is essentially their philosophical difference, and it explains their behavior more accurately.
Elitism is the belief that not everyone is equal and that superior ability can and should rise to the top over time. Elitists tend to believe that the world is black and white; that their own beliefs are the standards by which others should be measured; and that everyone should take care of himself or herself.
One can model the behavior of Republicans quite well by applying the above definition to them. Republicans believe that America is superior, and they are not afraid to use whatever means necessary to ensure that it maintains this position. To that end, they spend hundreds of billions of dollars each year on the American military. It is inaccurate to say that Republicans believe in smaller government; they merely choose to spend the money differently. They believe instates’ rights and give tax breaks to individuals and businesses because it is their responsibility to take care of themselves. They are not pro-religion; they are pro-Christianity because it is their own religion. They are pro-rich and pro business because these are their fellow elites. Republicans trust them, rather than the government, to help them improve society. That is the logic behind things like “trickle down economics” and charitable deductions.
In contrast to elitism, egalitarianism is the belief that everyone is equal or at least that everyone should receive equal opportunities and rights. Egalitarians tend to believe that the world is gray; that collective duty and responsibility is paramount; and that the government should take care of people who cannot take care of themselves.
One can model the behavior of Democrats quite well by applying the above definition to them. Democrats spend a lot of time talking and promoting legislation about equality and fairness. They are willing to accommodate many different viewpoints and interest groups; consequently, the Democratic Party often seems less cohesive compared to the Republican Party. Businesses need to be regulated because of the corrupting nature of profit seeking. To pay for the large costs of their social programs, Democrats ask the rich to pay more because they can and also because they should “pay back” society for the benefits that they so greatly enjoy.
Which is the better party? That depends on your personality and beliefs. Neither is necessarily “wrong.” They simply represent two very different visions. What is clear is that good government needs both voices and that the best policies are often those that balance the two. Unfortunately, politics often gets very personal and bitter, and people soon forget that they are all Americans. We need good leaders, regardless of party, to remind us of this and to channel our passions into greater pursuits.