Saturday, April 2, 2022

How Politicians & Citizens Do Government (Part 2)


Part 3: Understanding the "Republican and Democratic Parties"

The Democratic and Republican Parties are each an organized group of people who present the voting public with their candidate(s) for an election.
In America, we almost always have only two major political parties. This is because America has three branches of government (executive, congressional, judicial) rather than just two (congressional and judicial) as in the more common parliamentary governments like Great Britain. Parliamentary governments usually have several main parties and after the election the parties negotiate to “form a government” and select a person to head up that government. 
Why have Parties? Anytime a group of organized people get together to do something, they want their group to work well. And then, some other, nearby group thinks they can do better, and/or they are afraid of the other group’s intentions. To make a long story short, competition naturally arises between groups. Political groups stake out so called “positions,” which could be very general (for example, “In Government Smaller Is Better”). Or a political group’s position might be a specific issue (for example, “No More War”).

Any big and modern society cannot be understood as one whole group of people. Instead it is broken down into useful categories, also called subgroups, based on criteria. Social and economic criteria include such factors as:  
  • General level of health or disability
  • Years of education
  • Married or single
  • Urban or rural
Economic criteria
  • Working or unemployed
  • Income level

In both political science and politics the most frequent and useful subgroups are: lower class, middle class, and upper class. Most American adults know what these terms mean. These subgroups are also called the lower socioeconomic class, middle socioeconomic class, and upper socioeconomic classes. These terms are more descriptive and remind us that a subgroup is defined by meaningful criteria.
So, why are the socioeconomic classes important? It’s because…
Politics is all about deciding who gets the most good stuff from the government
Does everybody get the same percentage of an income tax cut? Should rich citizens pay more for Obama Care to off-set what the indigent don’t pay? At one time in America many workers were protected by labor unions, and unions had power to strike as a means of getting higher hourly pay; but no more, because the government no longer protects some of the labor union’s bargaining methods. Citizens elect politicians to get stuff from the government. The citizens vote for those politicians who will do battle for them in government.
The needs, wants, and problems of the lower and upper social-economic classes are substantially different
So, guess what! The Republican and Democratic Parties each have their own, different policies, beliefs, and recommendations for solving social and economic problems. And this is a good thing. It has worked successfully for a long time.
The two Parties fight it out politically for control to do government their own way. Both Parties are very competitive, send out political messages in slogans, and use vague and confusing words like: conservative, left, right, center, liberal, radical, Tea Party, bleeding heart liberal, on and on. 
Both Parties have put tremendous effort into (1) selecting candidates who might win, govern well and (2), they try to fulfill the standard values and policies of their Party.

I’ve been on a journey to clear up my confusion about such political language. And here’s what I’ve come up with. 
A government for 330 million Americans (which by the way, includes 1.8 million federal government workers) is so complex that political talk has had to evolve. It’s slogan oriented because no one has time for anything more. It uses abstract words like “conservative” and other generalizations to pack a lot of information into a few vague words. I’ve read many definitions and the are ones I’ve settled on as most useful and given below:
From what I have learned, the standard public statements of each of the two Parties are summarized below:
Democratic general statements:
Tending to LIBERAL. The use of government resources and money to cure health and welfare problems to insure all citizens have at least a minimal but acceptable living situation. Examples would be unemployment benefits, food and shelter, and healthcare.
Tending to LEFT-WING. Supporting social equality among people instead of upper versus lower class status. More person-oriented. From what I have seen and studied about the Democratic Party, there’s little that seems racist.

Republican general statements:
Tending to CONSERVATIVE. Using a Wikipedia search phrase of “American political conservatism.” Wikipedia says, “Conservatism in the United States is a political and social philosophy which characteristically prioritizes American traditions, republicanism, and limited federal governmental power in relation to the states, referred to more simply as limited government and states' rights."
Tending to RIGHT-WING. Supporting free market, free enterprise, private ownership, traditional or conventional values. More business oriented than person oriented. From what I’ve seen and read about the Republican Party, racist themes and tainted legislation are common—particularly since 2016.
Both Parties, rightly so, care most about getting their candidate elected. A winning candidate makes everything the Party stands for much easier to implement in the future. But there’s no law saying the winning party must fulfill promises made during the election. Such a law doesn't even sound workable.
Here are some examples of campaign promises fulfilled, unfulfilled, along with some nasty surprises.
  1. Trump campaigned against NATO, against environmental protection, and against politically correct speech.
  2. Once elected he eliminated close to 200 regulations for reducing global warming and pollution. Republican politicians are general climate change deniers and are out of step with the rest of the world.
  3. He frequently spoke out against our involvement with NATO and acted like he wanted to be personal friends with dictators in China, Russia, and North Korea. He implied we were too friendly and too supportive of South Korea (one of our long term allies).
  4. He mismanaged the COIVD-19 response and undermined Dr. Fauci and other medical professionals. He used his presidential authority to recommend sham, not medically recommended, treatments. He gushed misinformation. Eventually, statisticians will calculate the estimated deaths from COVID-19 he likely contributed to. From the onset of COVID-19 he minimized its danger and contradicted and personally attacked nationally respected scientists and medical professionals.
  5. Obama (2009 - 2017) saw the country through the an extremely serious financial crisis. His signature accomplishment was the passing of what’s commonly known as Obama Care, which made many fundamental health industry changes resulting in lowering of costs, coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, and dramatically improving the lives of millions (Krugman, 2021). When fully in effect by 2014, it was still under attack by the Republicans. But Obama Care has survived those attacks and it would now be unthinkable to end it.
  6. George W. Bush (2001 – 2009) in his two campaigns and eight years as president made many, many promises. Some of those promises seemed to lack common-sense. He said it was necessary to “strengthen Social Security” by letting workers contribute their social security taxes to private investments. There was massive resistance to Bush’s plan -- even from his own Republican Party. Bush marketed the idea of significant changes to Social Security as “strengthening,” but what he intended to do was known to have worked poorly in Great Britain and other countries when tried. The Republican Party was weakened during his two terms of office. Bush’s presidency has been given the lowest ratings of any president in recent years. 
  7. Bill Clinton (1993 – 2001) I have presented examples of his significant accomplishments in a previous blog and detailed the intensity of work by both Parties that turned Clinton’s proposals into law.
Part 4: On Money And Corruption in American Politics, There’s Good News
In the last election 14 billion was spent campaigning – that’s a record!
When I googled “corruption in American politics” and other similar phrases, I found nothing. What I did find were freedom from corruption ratings of modern democracies. American comes out in the top 20 corruption free governments.
Part 5: About Our Citizen Voters 
A lot of information is available about the actual casting of votes in America. Voter turnout as a percentage of eligible voters has ranged from 52% to 62% over the past ten years. As many as 10% to 15% of age-eligible voters cannot vote due to such reasons as being non-citizens or felons (which depends on particular state laws).
Rates of voting are higher among wealthier and those with more education.

A concern I have for American citizens is that years of data published in many political science books reveal that:
  • A high percentage of voters have little or no knowledge of the policy positions of those they voted for.
  • Yearly, there are many scientifically performed surveys of what voters know or don’t know about what’s going on in government. The average voter has very little knowledge and often wrong knowledge.
  • The closeness in the popular vote of many presidential elections suggests to me that citizens are casting votes on the basis of global knowledge, vague impressions, and incidental information—not on specific issues.

The political scientist Dr. Eitan Hersh’s book suggests most American citizens know the importance of voting and politics and wish they were doing more. It’s been over six months since I read Dr. Eitan’s book and not a week goes by that I don’t think about his research and valuable recommendations for American citizens on how to give power to their votes.
         WORKS CITED
        For references, see the relevant page on the website.
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