Here's the real difference between Republicans and Democrats — and why it matters

Here's the real difference between Republicans and Democrats — and why it matters
Vice President Joe Biden walks from the Senate side to the House Side, with Senators Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, and Dick Durbin, before the State of the Union Address, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

Let's not be naive about American politics. The truth is the Democrats are as self-interested and calculating as the Republicans are. The difference, however, must be said. While the Democrats are as partisan as the Republicans are, their partisanship runs more or less in the direction of democracy and its first and second principles, which are equality and freedom, in that order. If a political party gets what it wants in the pursuit of delivering something most people want most of the time, then so be it. That's not a cynical observation. Instead, it's an observation of a healthy republic.

The same cannot be said of the Republicans. Their interests do not run in the direction of democracy, especially not equality. Freedom is important, but by that, they mean the freedom of the dynastic and monied few to flex power over the many. Democracy is not an objective, because it and its first principle give power, rights and privilege to people who contemporary Republicans do not believe deserve them. Consider the meaning of "special interests." For the Republicans, it's the rich, businesses and corporations, almost always. For the Democrats, it's Black people, LGBTQ, teachers, labor, etc. Both parties are partisan. But only one of them is partisan in the service of most people.

If a party gets what it wants in the pursuit of delivering something most people want most of the time, so be it.

There's nothing morally wrong with being the party of corporate interests. There's nothing wrong, for that matter, with viewing politics as the preserve of the few, not the many. (Democracy does contain multitudes, after all.) What's wrong is lying about it. What's wrong is treating the opposition as if it does not have a legitimate claim. What's wrong is setting off a conflagration of white-power fury that consumes nearly everything, even the republic itself, in order to slake a thirst for power. The day Joe Biden decided to run for president was the day this white-power fury burned through Charlottesville, screaming, "Jews will not replace us." That day, according to published reports, is the day Biden chose to fight to "restore the soul of America."

Maybe he's full of it. Maybe Biden and the Democrats don't really believe what they say when they talk about everyone being in this together. That's certainly what the Republicans and their media allies believe. A critic said Thursday that we can expect to see from Biden "lofty rhetoric about unity, while acting below the radar to smash norms to implement the Left-wing agenda." The same day, a Times reporter asked the White House press secretary why the administration has not offered a bipartisan "fig leaf" to the Republicans, given the president putting so much emphasis on unity. Maybe the Democrats don't mean what they say. Maybe it's just politics-as-usual.

Please. We're all adults here, right? The Democrats are political animals, same as the Republicans. But, again, the difference must be said loud enough for a Times reporter stuck in a bubble of decadence and amorality to hear. While the Democrats are as partisan as the Republicans, their partisanship runs more or less in the direction of democracy and its first principles. Even if they don't mean what they say, the outcomes serve equality and freedom in that order. Even if Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki didn't believe what she said, she was right to suggest that what the Democrats want is what most people want, even Republicans: "Is unemployment insurance an issue that only Democrats in the country want? Do only Democrats want their kids to go back to schools? Do only Democrats want vaccines to be distributed across the country?"

The Republicans accuse the Democrats of not meaning what they say, because the Republicans nearly always don't mean what they say. If the Republican don't, it stands to reason the Democrats don't either. But again, a difference. The Democrats aim to serve the many. The Republicans aim to serve the few (without appearing to). If the Democrats don't mean what they say, the many still benefit. Not so for the GOP.

Moreover, the Republicans, because they don't mean what they say, can't be trusted to stand by their demands. Even if, say, the Republicans demanded greater border security in exchange for supporting Biden's immigration reform bill, they'd make up a reason why the Democrats reneged on their commitment in order to renege on theirs. Psaki knows that's precisely what they did to Barack Obama. Better to trust your instincts as to what's best of the country than to trust the Republicans to tell you.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card

Close

Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.