The Philosophical Difference between Republicans and Democrats


Political analysts struggle to list the significant philosophical difference that exists between the republicans and democratic and how their parties view the proper role of the federal government. Others struggle to validate the claim that the two parties have no essential differences. For the purposes of this brief essay, the assumption that the two parties have some significant philosophical differences holds.

Based on that assumption, the essay will try to discuss the fundamental differences that shape the approaches taken by each of the two parties with regard to such governance issues as government spending, taxation foreign policy and environment conservation.

Background Information

US politics constitutes the philosophy of two major parties namely the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. This means that the US has to a large extent, a two-party political system, the difference between them being are some core ideologies (Baiamonte 1992, 73 -134).

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Founded in 1824, the Democratic Party today prides in the legacy built by its founding presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy Sr., Bill Clinton, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter. On the other hand, the Republican Party, founded in 1854, prides in the living legacy of such presidents as moderate Teddy Roosevelt, methodical Ronald Reagan, short-lived George Bush Sr., legendary Abraham Lincoln, and emphatic Richard Nixon (Cunningham 1963, 98 – 135).

The traditionally strong democratic states in the US are California and Massachusetts (Cunningham 1963, 98 – 135). On the other hand, the traditionally strong republican states in the US are Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas. The democratic have a donkey for a party symbol while the republicans have an elephant for their party symbol (Baiamonte 1992, 73 -134).

Differentiating the Republicans from the Democrats

An interesting comparative parameter of the two political parties is in their stand on many military issues. Here, the two differs to a complete opposition where what one party supports is the extreme opposite of what the other supports. Democrats believe and have in the past always exercised the belief that the US government should decreased military spending and commit those funds to social-welfare development (Wattenberg 1999, 34 – 56). They also believe that war with external parties should be avoided at all costs, even when the national security is threatened.

Comparatively, republicans are usually referred to as pro-war and the reputation of George Bush senior and George Bush Junior have worked to confirm this ideology. Republicans believe and usually advocate for increased military spending and will not hesitate to go to wear with anyone if the national security is slightly threatened. To the republicans, protecting American lives at all costs is the mandate and sovereign role of the government and it should never be sacrificed at the altar of diplomacy (Cunningham 1963, 98 – 135).

From an economic perspective, the fundamental differences between the two parties lies mainly on the priority in spending, sources of government revenue (taxation) and national economic objectives (Baiamonte 1992, 73 -134). The Democratic Party believes in the so called welfare economic ideals that place more importance on pro-poor programs, minimum wage increment and increased taxation on the wealthy. Distinctly, the republicans are neutral when it comes to welfare initiatives and do not prescribe to the pro-poor government initiatives (Baiamonte 1992, 73 -134).

The republicans believe solemnly that if taxes are to be raised, the raise should apply to everyone. The difference is captured well in the bills that each party supports and passes. Democrats are currently in support of the new health bill that mandates the government to pay for a universal healthcare program. The Republicans have been convinced that the individuals and or the companies should pay for the health program and not the government (Wattenberg 1999, 34 – 56).

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On the issue of wages, republicans believe that wages should at all times reflect the free market, where raises and reductions subscribe to market forces.  On the perspective of social and human issues, the parties are as different as black and white. Democratic believe in the concept of community where governance is based on social responsibility (Cunningham 1963, 98 – 135). On the other hand, republicans are individualistic and they believe that governance should be based on the rights of individual and a functional justice system (Cunningham 1963, 98 – 135).

In policy development, a role played impeccably and along party lines in the US Senate, the Republicans always follow a traditional conservative policy making approach while the Democrats have a tendency to introduce and support liberal policies (Bell 1973, 67 – 101). Some few examples will serve to elaborate this (Bell 1973, 67 – 101). The Republicans have consistently been opposed to abortion and are thus referred to as pro-life stance (Bell 1973, 67 – 101).  They usually refer to abortion as the murder of a foetus. The Democrats on the other hand have always been in support of the right of the mother to abort arguing that women must have the right to their bodies. The democrats have thus been called the ‘pro-choice’ stance (Bell 1973, 67 – 101).

Another example of the conservative vs. Liberal policy making stances held by the Republican and Democratic Parties respectively, is in same-sex marriage (Benjamin 2004, 72 – 83). As expected, Republicans are totally opposed to gay marriages while democrats have been labouring to legalize the same-sex marriages between gays and lesbians (Benjamin 2004, 72 – 83). In the same way, when Republicans opposed stem cell research, the democrats applaud it. When republicans support strict border controls and immigration laws the democrats seek leniency (Benjamin 2004, 72 – 83). Democrats have been in the forefront to fight for the rights of black in oppositions to republicans whose strongholds were pro-slavery (Benjamin 2004, 72 – 83).  

The democrats are opposed to the doctrine of unilateralism, where the US is supposed to use its military force without seeking any assistance allied nations in case of a threat to national security or social welfare (Baiamonte 1992, 73 -134). In this regard, democrats feel that the US should always act alone in the larger international arena but still strive to create strong alliances and international support (Baiamonte 1992, 73 -134). To democrats, the US should never get into war for its neighbours or allies. As for the republicans, the US should always intervene unilaterally when its national interests or those of its allies are at stake with total disregard of the world opinion (Baiamonte 1992, 73 -134).

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Another relevant comparative point is in the parties’ ideology in regards to federal and state power distribution (Bell 1973, 67 – 101). Republicans strongly believe that governance should be more robust at the state level, where the larger role in governance is left to individual states (Bell 1973, 67 – 101). Republicans advocate incessantly for more limitations to be placed on the federal powers and responsibility and the same to be committed to states (Bell 1973, 67 – 101). In a completely different perspective, democrats believe that what makes US a great nation is federal governance and not the states (Bell 1973, 67 – 101). To democratise, a very powerful federal government with weaker state jurisdictions is more ideal to the US nation (Bell 1973, 67 – 101).

The two parties also defer in regards to environmental conservation measures (Benjamin 2004, 72 – 83). Republicans opine that strict environmental regulations and high conservation standards only serve to hurt businesses, they always strive for reductions in the environmental regulations (Benjamin 2004, 72 – 83). This is largely because republicans are sceptical and even ignorant of global warming concerns. Comparatively, democrats have a strong believe in the notion that healthy families and a vibrant economy depend highly on strict and proper governance of a nation’s environment (Benjamin 2004, 72 – 83). So, as democrats fight to see the environmental laws strengthened and enforced, to an extent that people are guaranteed of clean breathing air and safe drinking water, republicans strive to protect business interests in disregard of the environment (Benjamin 2004, 72 – 83).

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